I’ve been holed up in a house in the eastern part of the Netherlands for a week now. Writing all day, every day, but not for La Viajera, as it’s clear to see. I’ve been avoiding it. First came schoolwork, then freelance stuff, then writing that I won’t get paid for but that still seemed more urgent than this.
Maybe I’m avoiding it because Africa already seems so far away.
It always shocks me how little time it takes before routine conquers my life again and the memories of a vacation settle in the cluttered drawers of my mind. How it only takes a few days before the last sand of the Namib desert washes out of my hair; before the flush of the Middle Eastern heat leaves my skin; and before the taste of a Stellenbosch pinotage disappears from my palate.
Life goes on.
I’ve realized that when I am already abroad, I’m more likely to make irrational decisions. Travel feeds the idea of more travel. While in South Africa, I almost book a trip to Iceland, Israel, and New York in the same week.
But now I am faced with a rational world, a country that runs on efficiency, work, and routine. It’s a place both foreign and all too familiar for me.
This week, I’m staying at a relative’s, while she and her husband are off traveling. It’s a small city, away from the bustle of touristy Amsterdam. The night before my relatives leave, we sit at a café together, sipping mint tea. Mint sprigs,
nothing packaged. A man leans against a stone fountain in the centre of the square, strumming Jason Mraz on his guitar. I stare up at the strings of white lights that dangle between trees, between buildings that predate my entire country. 1200 years of history in this small city. Here, ducks parade along the riverbank by day, and prostitutes stand in the red-lit windows by night.
Holland blurs the memories of Africa. Yet the sights and sounds and smells of this city won’t fade with the next plane I board.
So many visits that the sensations of this country have worked their way into me. So many visits that when I arrive with my bags and boxes and my work visa, I don’t really believe that I’ve even moved.
I feel like I’ve returned home. But is a home away from home ever a home?
On Monday, I move to Amsterdam.
Once I’m there, I promise to stop avoiding things, to tell the stories you’ve been waiting for.