At the start of every journey, physical or otherwise, we start as one person and end as someone entirely different.
My latest journey, which encompassed the end of 2011 and the start of 2012, was to have a profound effect on me.
I left Wales as one person and returned quite another.
With just days before setting off on this journey of the spirit. The ferry was cancelled.
This called for some last minute adjustments to our plans. With some insight into driving through France and Spain, albeit on a motorbike and not a nice comfortable car, I stared longingly at the map at all of the places I had previously visited. I knew given the schedule that there wouldn’t be time to stop and become re-acquainted.
As we drove off the channel tunnel train and made our way along the top of France in some disgusting weather, my mind opened like a whirlpool and dozens of memories rushed to the surface.
The shock of thoughts, pictures and feelings engulfed me, I felt like I was drowning in another lifetime. It was of course another lifetime, several, in fact.
Names of towns, cities and grape varieties came and went. Inside my head I twisted and turned with each fleeting jolt. A great wine here, a missed turn there, rolling into town to find a carnival and only 1 room free, drunken fights, half sober bike journeys, missing friends and finding them days later, camping in the wet, eating in a flood filled restaurant, sparrows joining me for breakfast in my tent, 24 hours of bikes racing on tracks, hands and feet too cold to mention, worn out old roads, leading through ramshackle towns, windows like sleepy eyes, still coming into focus, and not quite with it, endless motorways, hot clammy nights, thunderstorms, wind, sun. An endless passage of times, long passed, careered thoughtlessly and uninvited through memoir lanes and awakened a longing of things that could have been, but weren’t.
As France disappeared, Spain revealed itself and a great sense of excitement emerged. In the car, my partner and dog. With them I was off to create a new home. What would it be like? Who would be there? Would our Spanish enable us to be understood? Could we live in the house?
3 days of travelling we turned off the main road and crept up the 11k of mountain road. It was like an excitement I could only recall from childhood. The anticipation of pass the parcel, of wanting to be the one who got the gift, or the one that didn’t lose the chair when the music stopped. Then around the final bend, the Los Morillas sign balanced in its wobbly concrete feet, almost home.
One step inside the musty, dusty 3-story building and Wales was far away and long forgotten.
No bed, water, gas or electric, just biting cold. Silly smiles all around as we set about building a den for the night. Our swag consisted of quilts from home, one of us and one for the pooch, plus a variety of course country blankets procured from the Oriental Bazaar, now a common sight on many a Spanish street and still not enough to ward off the icy air.
As each day passed, a new triumph, one day a bed, then water, another day gas, a serviced boiler, hot showers, electric and wires to conduct it, slowly a home to share with new friends.
Then as quickly as it started, chaos sorted, it was time to go home. Neither of us wanting to make the journey back to reality. Here our spirits will remain, until next time and the next adventure.
The outer journey, on show for all to see, looks just that a holiday, fun in the sun, a romp. The inner journey, hidden from view twisted and turned through the highways of my core. My quest to do a bit of building and have fun, turned unbidden into journey of the spirit.
It turned out, as you know, of 4 weeks of few creature comforts, but as each service was enabled, a new sense of gratitude engulfed me. I wondered how I would survive without the Internet, electricity, gas or running water, in the end the lack of these things were blessings. I no longer cared about violence and destruction I was helpless to stop, the euro, corporate greed, fat cat payments or my tax return. Instead I gazed at the raw beauty around me, fell in love with the stars, drank in the simplicity of life in the hills, explored the rambla, looked for the real Spain, listened to the birds and bees making music, awoke to cocks crowing, lived in dirty clothes and didn’t shave my legs.
I arrived at a junction, found a way to spend time paying attention, listening, instead of rushing, pushing and striving. I spent time with me, nothing extraordinary, no magic or miracles and I liked it.
On my journey of the spirit I started out as me and came back as me, changed, different and altered forever.
If you look back over your journeys, travels, sojourns, trips, which of these changed you forever, which moved you from what you thought you were to an altogether different person? On the outside what did people see, on the inside what happened?
If your journey of the spirit had never materialized, where would you be now?