going home: some thoughts

I love the anticipation of traveling.

The giddiness and excitement in the days (even weeks) that precede a trip, especially the one in which I go back home to see my city and the people I love the most. The messages and quick reminders of the trip that I exchange with people, the questions they ask me and the casual conversations we have about it, which constantly brings the trip back to my mind – and to theirs. The preparations for said trip – packing bags, making sure I have all my tickets, setting aside my passport, my documents, recharging all electronics, making lists, crossing things off of the aforementioned lists. Carefully wrapping the presents that I will be taking home with me, simple objects that carry so much meaning within them – hopefully, at least. Making sure I have everything I need before I leave. Locking both locks of the door of the apartment because no one will be home for the next two weeks. Dragging my bags all the way to the Caltrain station and hoping I’ll get there on time, otherwise the next train will only arrive in an hour. Checking the bags in, going through security, enduring that long and boring process with the outstanding (and not normal) patience of someone who feels so secure about her destination, her plans for the next days.

I just flew 11 hours – the longest flight I have experienced so far – over Canada, the Arctic, Greenland. It was pitch black outside other than the every-once-in-a-while visible stars – as it was during the night, I couldn’t see anything out the window for most of my trip. It suddenly dawned on me, about halfway through the flight, that I had never been so far North before. I smiled and thought about the symbolism of that (if there even is any) – maybe it’s just me, but I’m always looking for some sort of poetry in the little coincidences in life.

I’m currently sitting at the busy departures lounge at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3. I’ve been listening to the same classical music for about 3 hours now, in a constant loop, but I can’t really figure out where it’s coming from. I’m surrounded by fellow travellers – weary, exhausted, anxious to get home or to their holiday destination. In front of me, a little boy is crying to his father because he has lost his favourite toy (a stuffed dog named Fred and, quoting the boy, he was his “best friend) somewhere in the airport; the patient father takes the little boy’s hand and offers to go look for it with him, knowing that it is pointless, but it’s still hard to break a child’s heart. For a second, the boy shyly looks at me, perhaps seeking for encouragement – I smile, in that kind of awkward yet honest way that I smile at children, attempting to reassure him that even if he did not find Fred (and I too have lost a couple of best stuffed animal friends in my years), it would all be okay, eventually. A young man is sleeping next to me, his bags carelessly spread out over the floor, while people occasionally trip on his luggage and send him dirty looks that he will never know about; he’s not snoring, but breathing heavily, and even within the cacophony of the terminal I can still hear him. On the other side, an old lady has her eyes glued on her iPhone, as she’s probably busy posting some photos of her past trip on social networks (and I can’t say I don’t understand her – I have been an incredibly active user of social media lately). Crowds come and go, some people run by (probably late for their flights), the sound and yelling is overpowering but creates this symphony of a place – I’m thinking this could make an interesting film. And I’m almost running out of battery on my laptop and I don’t have a UK adaptor to charge it. I should probably wrap this up.

I’ll be back in Lisbon in just a couple of hours now, and it feels strange that I’m back in this time zone, but it almost feels natural. Maybe I’m just really good at dealing with jetlag. I’ll probably sleep for 12 hours tonight, though.

I’m happy I’m going back, even if for just two weeks. Going home is important if only just to remind you of the reason you left in the first place – you eventually forget it with time, and your motivations become blurry, and you can’t make sense of your choices anymore. For these past three and a half months, life has been tough but rewarding, even if in a not-always incredibly positive way. It feels good be able to get away from it and I know that I’ll always have my place somewhere else – but I’ll be going back to America stronger and better than ever.

Goodbye for now, California. See you in 2018!

– Inês

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