Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Home" While Travelling

During my travels, I realized a connecting bridge between "home" and abroad/travel. It is a feeling that seems similar to the eerie warmth you sense when an old song from childhood starts playing on the radio, or when you smell the whiff of your mother's cooking after a long time. It is the feeling that you feel when you are nostalgic. And many times in life, you come across experiences, places and people which make you feel as nostalgic as your first home.

Nostalgia is a wistfully positive feeling. But it draws out a sense of gloom shortly afterwards, when through the absence of youth vanished, innocence eroded, positiveness clouded we are reminded of mortality. The past is irretrievable. And so will this travel experience be- a bittersweet, mortal experience. No matter how delectable each moment is, it will inevitably fade. Like home, it is impossible to clutch its straws. And just like that, home and travel becomes so similar. Both promises to exile us from a warm past.

Within a short span of time while travelling alone, I have realized there is nothing like the sweetness of contrast the endeavor throws upon us. It is a contrast between the complete control over the external self and the absence of the regular levers of control you have at "home". Allow me to explain- we are very much in control of our lives during travelling, in a way that appears quite arcane while immersed in the humdrum of scheduled dailies. We might be on a budget, but we spend on what makes us smile- whether it's a cup of Turkish coffee or a ridiculously expensive entry fee to Petra, Jordan. Yet we cannot run a coffee machine whenever, or frown freely at the annoying landlord, or save transport costs because the directions are still unfamiliar and the local language is still un-mastered. But because of that you begin to grow. Grow in ways that the fuzziness of home disallows, and we all know about that. But realizing this very sweetness of contrast makes the challenge of stepping out of the comfort zone a pleasurable experience.

And that sweetness lies in acknowledging that there are straws to clutch in a potentially discomforting situation.

There's a myriad of ways Murphy's Law can kick in during travels- with or without your local magazine's luminous horoscope predictions. It reminds us of home where we seem to have a better grip over our surroundings. And when we think of "being in control of your life" we tend to associate with a few basic themes that fluctuate depending on the environmental cues available- self-confidence from the freedom of time in the bathroom, the people you can choose to be exposed to, the ability to control where you would go depending on moods (yes, for many people it IS an issue!)- i.e. controlling the harvests of luck. We associate these themes with short to medium term. 

But are we really in control of that much when we lived with our parents in our first home? And is that something that makes our first home taste different than the second "crib" we arranged for our convenience and age?

Somewhere in the cascades of Amman roads, the kindness of my supervisor’s generosity, the warmth of my new friends’ eagerness to help me, the softness of Hajar’s cooking and Arabic lessons- I found the former kind of home in Amman in a most unexpected way. I would not go far enough to say, this is and will be my new home; home is too indefinable and alludes prolonged exposure. But I can define Amman somewhat.

Actually, maybe not.

Perhaps it is simply the place which has taught me how to take a look at the world outside my books, internet, television and conversations with people whether they were expatriates or whether they were locals. I never realized that in Bangladesh, somewhat did USA, found much clarity in Amman.

And the greediness to learn how to learn from places-and-people is finally kicking in. Just like home, my personal evolution harbored here at Amman. It was Amman for me, will be a different place for a different person.