After a seven week odyssey through Europe I am home at last to my own house, my own bed and my favourite stretch of perfect beach, which is currently being caressed by a warm turquoise sea. Of course this being reliably – unreliable Turkey I still arrived to a power-cut and an unnecessary deactivation of my internet account, but a candle lit cold beer and a very pleased to see my Kitten, quickly lanced any frustration. Then just for a moment Paulo Coelho’s seminal work The Alchemist popped into my head. Spoiler alert! For those who want to try this book stop reading now and skip to the third paragraph!
In The Alchemist the protagonist goes on a very long journey throughout Europe and the Africa of the middle ages, searching for adventure and some meaning only to discover that he was too blind to see that it had always existed all along in the very town from where he began his journey years earlier.
Photo by Steve Koukoulas
Sometimes you just need to leave a place, a situation, a problem behind in order to look at it later with fresh, un-blinkered eyes to see it for what it really was. Although I left with frustrations in my personal life the main driver for my departure was a gradual falling out with Turkey and all of the inherent problems and daily challenges that living here entails. Looking back it was like a car-crash in slow motion that began towards the end of last year, after a very close friend took responsibility for a dozen, un-house-trained street dogs (an impulsive, yet unnecessary act – as the animals could have been reasonably well cared for elsewhere). Although I did my best to help with the all consuming chaos this caused, it eventually became the catalyst that wrecked her long standing relationship. Some health and legal problems arrived with the New Year, while others soon followed on the back of the turmoil triggered by Turkey’s Spring Elections, until everything was ultimately eclipsed by the untimely death of my oldest friend in May.
So I set out in July, with a suitcase full of frustrations, perceived betrayals and residual grief on a quest to find a new temporary base, should I ever need one. I was looking for a place where I could eventually move permanently, if I failed to stifle my growing feelings of detachment from the place I called home, or if things took a turn for the worst in this polarized country, whose political leaders, despite Turkey being secular, continue their slow tango towards more religious influence coming to bear upon the state, its laws and institutions. And yet, I stupidly forgot the first law of emotional escape: you can never totally leave behind your anger, your frustrations, or things like grief or relationship break-ups because the demons, we all carry within our overactive imaginations, relish nothing more than a long journey into the unknown to magnify those issues or beat you up over the problems or situations you thought you had left behind.
Photo by This Year’s Love
Depending on our individual stories, you don’t need to run away to escape the all consuming flux or funk in your brain because, whether it is slow or quick to clear, clear it will. Until one day you wake up and realise that things seem OK, indeed are OK now… at least for today. I have also found that the interactions of others, friends, family and indeed strangers often helps towards this resolution or ‘closure,’ if closure is needed. So try not to travel alone for too long, if you are in a fragile frame of mind. But if you do at least be open to the friendship of strangers or fellow travellers, when they reach out to you. Because if you do take that chance, you may well be rewarded by some cathartic relief, especially if you are brave enough to trade difficult stories because you believe you are unlikely to ever see these people again, who knows. Although there have also been countless lifelong friendships and indeed romantic entanglements born in just this way, over a beer, a sunset margarita or simply sitting on a bench waiting for a long delayed train to arrive. So yes by all means protect yourself, your heart and your soul but never, ever, close yourself off completely.
So now I am back, perhaps still tired in body but thankfully rested in mind and soul. I was also amazed to discover that it is not only my mind that is lighter, but also my body – a full 10 kilo’s lighter than when I first set off! And so yes my insights may not be as powerful as those within The Alchemist, as this is just a modest blog not a blockbuster, but do try and remember what I said for next time you have a difficulty you want to escape from, or are grieving – perhaps with yet another broken heart. As for me, right now: It is time to relax and chill out with a good swim and more importantly, it is also time for me to simply enjoy the summer sunshine, perhaps for the very first time this year?!