What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?Returning home means that “strangeness” is more in the unfamiliar than in the bizarre. Having been on the road for the past eight months, returning home presented a lot of familiar sights which masked themselves in the unfamiliar. Even before I left, Toronto had been undergoing one of the single greatest physical transformations of any city in North America. Condos were going up left, right and center. On my return, there were some neighborhoods where I used to live that had made some remarkable changes even in just the eight months that I had been away. Walking along King street west for example, I find I can only vaguely remember half of the buildings that now occupy the sky. The city has grown up so much since I last saw it.
Describe a typical day:
Again, having been away for 8 months, my daily life has been mostly filled with going to dinner with friends, spending time with the family, getting a new passport (mine actually filled up completely), uploading photos to share and doing some refueling for the second leg of the trip. On one recent evening, I managed to get out onto the ice and played some summer hockey. You can’t get more Canadian than that – even in the summer. A nearly daily experience, especially in the summer, is that of the bbq dinner. Fish, steak, potato, veggies. Everything can and does get cooked on the bbq during the summer and walking down any random street in Toronto during the summer is bound to provide a melody of bbq cooking smells and sounds.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
Most of my conversations have tended to revolve around my experience on the trip. Mostly, the conversations follow a predictable pattern of “where did you go?/What did you like best?/Did you have anything stolen?”. In one particular conversation, we dove deeper and talked at length about how disorienting (in a good way) long term travel can be and how it changes your “life taste buds” and in some ways creates a bit of a distance between you and the friends and family that you left behind. In some ways, the conversations I have had have been frustrating; despite my best efforts, I can’t properly express the depth of the experiences and personal changes I have felt over the course of the last eight months.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
Besides the obvious (I like Toronto because my family and close friends are here), I am reminded about Toronto’s other strengths. It’s very safe, clean and full of friendly if conservative people. It’s an intensely diverse city and offers visitors the chance to tour the world by walking it’s streets.
On the negative side, for obvious and personal reasons, it has the disadvantage of familiarity. Also, and this doesn’t particularly affect me as I have access to a vehicle here, but Toronto transit is lacking. To really get around the city takes a lot of time (it’s a big place) and patience (the public transit is slow and lacking).
Describe a challenge you faced:
Any challenges I have had since being back in Toronto are mostly emotional. Our travels are not over – we will be traveling for at least another 5 months – and returning home has meant a welcome reunion with family and friends. But it also means another goodbye and one that is very close to the initial “hello”. The other challenge I’ve faced, as mentioned above, is in the growing divide that separates you, as a long term traveler, from your friends and family. Returning home for a short while really reminds you of how your paths have diverged in some ways while you have been traveling.
What new lesson did you learn?
I’ve accepted that, no matter how much I try, a lot of stories that have shaped me and changed me while traveling, are either not interesting to others or really don’t translate well and that this is not a bad thing. Just because one can’t communicate the impact of travel moments doesn’t lessen the original experience in any way. Don’t hit others over the head with your travel tales or new life outlook; tell them as well as you can and anticipate that a lot of the shine may not come through in the re-telling.
We’re are off to South America, landing in Bogota, Colombia.