Expectations can be a killer. I should know; I think I might just have a black belt. But strangely enough I started this adventure with surprisingly few expectations. Sure I expected to travel to these destinations and stay in these places, but apart from that I had unusually few plans (for me at least). And of course, at the beginning of the year, as I was planning the North American trip, I had absolutely no expectation of also heading to London to see Kate Bush.
If anything, as the trips got closer, my expectations became more and more centred around what might go wrong; Icelandic volcanoes, conflict in Europe over the Ukraine, terrorists, Hong Kong unrest, Ebola … I know it's very narcissistic of me to focus these potential tragedies on my little life, but at more than one stage I was close to convinced that the bottom was about to drop out of one or the other of the trips. I don't think I let go of the last of these fears until I boarded the train from Washington DC to New York. The fact that I made it through is a lesson I must hold on to.
So, in that light, how do I feel now that I'm back home? I feel utterly satisfied and hugely fortunate. Of the entire experience I can only think of one thing I would definitely do differently: I would have spent an extra day in Washington DC rather than Toronto. There are other things I had considered, like fitting in some night life or making more effort to be social, but I'm comfortable acknowledging my limitations and accepting that I always did what I wanted or felt capable of doing at the time.
I did have some doubt midway through though. In Toronto I briefly wondered if taking this trip on my own had been a mistake. All practicalities aside, once or twice I could even have happily just come home. Luckily those thoughts disappeared when I reached DC and they never surfaced again.
It was weird waiting in Hong Kong airport to come home. As I ate my ramen and sipped my frozen beer (yes, the head was actually intentionally partly frozen), I reflected on how differently I felt between the trip out and the trip back. I remember feeling a lot more anxious before; I was scared of the unknown and, to be completely honest, not even 100% sure the trip was still such a good idea. I feel much more relaxed, certain and fulfilled now. And sitting in the same spot 4 weeks later it would be easy to dismiss the intervening time as a dream. But what I learnt from going to Europe back in 2010 is that travel leaves a lasting impression and a lasting legacy. Now the last 2 months have become part of those impressions and that legacy. One thing's for sure, after spending most of 2014 either planning or looking forward to these adventures, it's going to be strange not having them on my horizon anymore.
And now it's over what have been the highlights of the last 2 months? Without doubt New York was the standout of the North American trip and easily justified making the journey all on its own. And then of course there's Kate Bush … well anyone should know how I feel about that one.
But just to be specific I've compiled my top 10 for my travel adventures this year, in no particular order:
- Seeing Kate Bush live, from the 2nd row
- The Empire State Building by day
- The Empire State Building by night
- Stanley Park, Vancouver
- The Canadian, Vancouver to Toronto and all the amazing landscape in between
- The Guggenheim, New York
- Circumnavigating Manhattan by boat
- The 9/11 Memorial
- Waking up to the New York skyline 12 mornings in a row
- Being able to spend some more time in London, STILL my favourite city
I know some people have been following this blog. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it, but at the end of the day this blog has been for me. My way of sharing these moments with the Ian of the future, when recollection of the smaller details gets harder and how I actually felt at the time begins to fade.
This will be the final post for this blog. But I do have another ongoing blog on the futurismgrey website; I had plenty of time to reflect while away and have a mountain of material that's bound to inspire something sooner or later. And when it does, that's where I'll post it.