For so long, I resisted travel. My closest friends who had travelled internationally spoke to me of its educational and practical experience qualities. And my less close friends spoke to me of: “Oh my God, like, travelling is so much fun! Like!” Or something to that effect. To the former I would sometimes reply that through the very act of living and being an adult and studying at university (twice) and experiencing the occasional horror and less regular pleasure of share-house living, one can gain all the education and experience one might need in their own society and country. And to the latter I probably concealed a slightly contemptuous sneer and said something like: “Great. Glad you had a good time. Catch ya later. . . .” What I’m pretty sure I said to my two closest friends, in reply to their promotion of travel abroad as holistically positive for the individual, was that I thought in the context of a world in which countless millions struggled to afford food – let alone absorb other cultures by plane – that travel was simply an indulgence. An act that served in my mind at least from a touristic perspective only to waste money, embitter contemporaries less financially capable and show disrespect and disregard for the starving masses. And the thing is, since travelling, I still see it as an indulgence. But not only.
Kind of ironically, my closest friends were right and travel is something that can be infinitely enriching. And my not-so-close friends were wrong. I mean, I’m sure they’re genuine when they speak of having had a good time, but it won’t last. If you only travel on an atavistic agenda, even if it at least serves to blow off some day job steam, at some point in your life you will come across situations in which your life could have been bettered if you had bothered learning from the cultures through which you journeyed, instead of just using said cultures to have some good times. If you’re going to spend thousands of dollars travelling, you’ve got to appreciate and fulfil the many other ways such an experience can potentially enrich your life. That said, it is nowadays so much more easy and cheap to see the other side of the world and everything in-between, assuming enough domestic sacrifices have been made, than it was for our parents. I guess my point is that, whatever existential benefits you derive from travel, it will always carry an element of superficiality. It will always be a gamble; in a literal sense because travel is risky to your well-being and abstractly because it might never serve any real practical purpose in future life.
Pragmatism and cold philosophy aside, travel is to be loved. With the whole heart. I think that may have been something which held me back with the beautiful Emma. I was so blissed-out by the mere fact that it was possible for me to be sitting beside a gorgeous girl outside a pub on the other side of the world, let alone that I actually was, that I guess I lost sight of the smaller picture: a focus of emotional energy on her. It’s so bittersweet. Who knows what might have happened had I got my courting of her right. I might still be in Brighton, returning after a day’s work doing God-knows-what to enjoy a meal with her. Or I could after a romantic interlude with her have ended up with another girl over there. I do know that retention long-term of the attentions of women to whom I’m enamoured is not something that’s happened to me very often, whether overseas or down at my local pub. I love all women, not to mention respect them and find them to be the most intriguing, sometimes baffling and always beautiful creatures on the face of the planet. But if I’m able to elicit the same posture from any one of them, I wish she’d more explicitly let me know.
This present morning, I believe it was a Tuesday, I told Emma through a Facebook message that I was that day off to Dublin then Edinburgh, and that if she’d had a change of heart I would be on the next plane then train back to London then Brighton and into her arms. Can’t blame a guy for trying, but can remind him of his failure – if that is you’re a soulless torturer. I had to get up at 7.30am, and I never sleep well before a flight. It’s not from fear of death. It’s fear of being marched like a sheep through the check-in/security/gate-adjacent shopping areas/boarding process. Not to mention the de-humanising customs ordeal upon arrival. Both are factors that really distastefully sandwich the romance of air travel with feelings of, at best, dejection. But I managed anyway to summon enough motivation to get out the door on time with Jim and hugged her goodbye before she caught an earlier train to the city. Not sure why I didn’t go with her.
According to the notes I penned a few days later in Dublin I “had a smoke and took my last look at Blackheath. The problem was the airport (Southend) was on London’s extreme north-east side. In fact I’m not even sure it was still in London. Just a couple of (train) changes. Because I had to leave with Jim (I) got there with plenty of time to spare – but not too much. Had some time to read the Metro paper. Pretty interesting, even for (me as) a tourist. Guess they figure some of their readers would be tourists. God knows London had enough of them – taking photos of every bloody thing.” The only way I could describe Southend airport is: cute. Only one small runway, situated to the north of Southend-on-Sea and just south of Rochford; it looked very new. And was surrounded by deep green grass from which grew pretty little homes. I discovered before sipping a quick pre-flight gin and tonic that the bar chick was extremely flirty. And my flight was delayed. Which gave me the chance to enjoy more of her sexy sarcasm. And read. And more sexy sarcasm. And more reading. And wondering. Where the hell the fucking plane was. But that’s the Irish for you. It was an Aer Lingus flight. Satirically, of course, I must have stood on a four-leaf clover for the flight to have landed safely in Dublin a couple of hours later after finally boarding, and instantly enjoying the air-hostesses’ accents.