All things come to an end. All things must begin. Nothing stands still.
As I cast glances back over the last 16 months it's interesting to see what comes bubbling up from recall first. Inevitably, it's people. I've never really understood the 'bomb around the world fast as you can ticking off sights' type of travelling. Temples are buildings, stones neatly arranged, often stunning, always symbolic with stories that go back far and inevitably have some interesting or disturbing aspects to them, but no matter how striking their sunset silhouettes, no matter how compelling their symbols and stories might be, there's no actual life in them; they don't look back at you. They don't question or challenge or reach out to you the way a person does.
So what do I see in those first flash images of remembering? I see Charles and the staff of the Atlanta gathered on the street to wave me off. I see my friend Arvind splayed out asleep on the floor, taking a break from his own wild party, Mayoor harmonising with me on Across the Universe, my friend 'Satan' rolling his eyes.
Bee and Om leaning lazily on Baby Rasta'a counters. Hari's character transforming as the first glass of rice wine hits his belly. Sipping outrageously expensive red wine with Sigi in the Garden of Dreams or tucking into yet another Red Snapper with the American lad who wanted me to help him overcome his fear of fish.
Martin and Tara diving deeper than I ever could do to get the scuba mask I let fall into the tropical waters. Being smashed against the rocks with Linnea. The BCF-ers, cocktails in hand, dancing madly to 'Firework' in Mark's living room. The buzz of the couple of hours spent playing with a band in Thimphu. Ashley laughing, Iman, laughing, Reidi, laughing, Martha making weird noises (rest in peace you beautiful and funny soul).
Gold-panners in Burma showing off their haul, the kids shouting out A for Apple at the top of their voices, drowned out by all the other classes crammed into the 1-room school. The mysterious Snow telling me she loves me and me not believing her (!). Ayurveda acolytes assaulting me with endless reductions to vata-pitta-kapha. Noorin's surprise birthday jollies. Late night narrative structure conversations with screenwriters on the streets of Bangkok. Devouring Chinese New Year fish with Zoe.
Epic snooker-a-thons with New Yorkers in backrooms of Burmese bars. The walk to the waterfall that wasn't there. Strangers approaching with probably menace through the late-night haze of Kathmandu. Desperate runs through Bangalore to save friends in trouble, policemen like robots, impervious to my rage. Paranoid Cumbrian climbers. Endless games of chess. Paul and his big planets, trying to sell me his shoes! The way Robyn giggled at every one.
The way my crazy Russian friend sang 'Start Wearing Purple' as he prepared the infamous Russian Smoking Machine that I never tried (his disappointment at my polite refusals). Riding through the jungle in the exhaust fumes of people I hardly knew, no clear idea where we were going. The monk who saved me when I was lost in the jungles of Myanmar (3am) and the music festival stumbled upon prior to my addled walk into nowhere. The kid with the tattoo tears who killed a man in prison and taught me some moves. French-gypsy guitar madness in the reggae bar.
Ahsley throwing her arms around me and planting a smacker as i took my final taxi to my final plane home...
...the list could go on and will never be complete. Thanks to everybody who made this latest adventure more sparkly than it might have otherwise been. You're all fabulous. I hope to see you all again.
What drew me home? Family. Friends. My new nephew!!! And the next grand adventure of life, whatever it may be...