The prospect of home is a welcoming and refreshing proposition after spending a fair amount of time on the road. If I were to be honest, not every aspect of travelling is pleasurable; and brutally honest with myself, there were bouts of time I wished I was back in the comfort and familiarity of home than “breaking-ice” at a hostel. Coming home does spell the end of some of these less glamorous back-end bits of travelling – I do not have to worry where I will be spending my night or the time of sunsets at the very least. Travelling – or backpacking – can be quite a puzzling hobby. You fly off to a remote piece of land, eagerly abandoning everything you have back home, and then expend vast qualities of time, and money sometimes, in a largely futile effort to recapture the essence and comfort that you would not have lost if you had not left in the first place.
But it is these futile efforts that I find myself inclined towards. When I travel, I go through a whirlpool of changes – in terms of mannerisms, habits, workout routines, meal patterns, sleeping arrangements, and the list never ends… An infinity of combinations is possible when innumerable and diverse elements are brought together. The world can be so full of varieties that my ways of doing essential things, like eating and drinking, furniture placement, crossing the roads change. Adapting to new cultures and ways of living are non-issues for me. I had long harboured the desire to experience what life is like in every remote corner of the globe; to make each journey feels like stepping out of the doors for the first time. As those days turn into weeks, and at time months, the novelty of my new life fades, and it becomes my reality. The same pattern of adaptation repeating over and over again. The human mind loses itself and becomes fatigued by such a labyrinth of possibilities; I started to crave the comfort of home where every movement is almost commonsensical; a muscle memory. Where every movement does not need much calculation.
Seven weeks is not a long time at all but it changes your worldview, especially when your mind lives on a different temporality. Little did I expect the flight home to be one of the most intimidating adventures of this journey. When it comes to the time to get reacquainted with the world I thought I knew, it can either put you in a spot or throw you out of place. After a month-odd of transient encounters with peoples and places, I am back to where I started – back in my single-sized bed: bored, nervous and jittery. I may be officially (back) in Singapore, but I am new here. What’s changed since I left?
The physical home itself feels just the same, it has the same pulse as it did before. I still love my family, my friends and the city I grew up in but I did not fit in anymore – my thoughts did not. Those days where I would save my last penny to spend the night out with my friends, or wait till the weekends to check out a new eating place; much of these discourses no longer excite or entertain me. In fact, it bores me and comes off as obligations.
As the excitement of coming home wears off with my actual living in it, I wondered what is next. I became restless because I could not keep up. The people I thought I knew, the places I assumed I explored far too many times, they only live in my head. Because when I return to a place I once call home, it is never quite the same. My idea of coming home, my perception of a safe haven, of being my automated self – they had changed. Amidst the fluxes I went through, I had forgotten that home is, too, a changing reality on its own. It is never static; it is never quite the same.
Once again, I needed to learn the colours of tropicality, the smell of humidity, and the touch of my own precipitation. Do I look left, or do I look right now before I cross the road? Do I still cross it at all? People have moved on; I’ve been struck off invitation lists; conversations have progressed and I can never be part of; and even the road that leads to home is under construction. Because if I think I am the only that have grown and changed, or changed and grown, then I am compelled to think again.
My behaviour baffles me. Over the past few weeks, I have had this horrible feeling that I am incapable of complete comprehension. I was left in a strange place. I wanted to call it an awful reality, but in fact, like most things, it was a mere paradoxical asylum. The realisation that the comforts of home and the essence of familiarity is yet another transient encounter and could so easily slip away from my grasp. The truth is, unless you move along together, unless you let go, unless you accept that home is a subjective place of reference, you cannot move forward. Control is impossible, and instead you get drawn into the realm of control.
Precisely this omnipresence of transiency makes coming home so adventurous, so fearsome.