When my children were small, I used to covet time away from them. Not, as you might think, seeking relief from their constant presence, but rather because I treasured those brief moments on returning when I actually saw them – how they were growing and changing – with an awareness I could never sustain in the day-to-day.
For the same reason, I love to travel away from home: it offers an opportunity to return to one’s life and see it anew – from the outside. The window only exists briefly, but while it’s open there is an awareness you will lose once you re-inhabit your environs: the particular smell of your home, the slant of light in a room, the texture of a carpet underfoot and countless subtle nuances specific to your own space. Driving in the countryside yesterday, I was also acutely aware of a broader definition of ‘home’.
The Turkish landscape is beautiful and varied, but it’s an austere beauty. Everywhere the bones of her geology jut out of the heat-blasted vegetation, exposed and severe even in the greener parts of the coastal areas. It’s an older, sculpted beauty – an apt setting for ancient walls and statuary. The contours of my native landscape are softer -draped in robes of trees and grasses, embroidered in a thousand shades of green, (now) shading to bronze and copper, the roadsides adorned with swathes of purple asters and bright goldenrod – more appropriate attire for a younger country.
Even so, there are shared vistas – dictates of landform and vegetation common to both nations. Crossing the central Anatolian plateau, I was reminded constantly of the Saskatchewan prairie. Parts of the Euphrates valley and Capadoccia recalled the Alberta badlands. Cruising the Mediterranean coastline I was awash in memories of sailing the North Channel off Manitoulin Island.
The Turquoise coast is lovely and our two days aboard the Myra were a highlight of the tour – for all of us, I dare to say. We anchored to swim in the clear, salt waters again and again, paddling into a sea cave, floating in sheltered coves, scrambling onto a cobbled beach. We gawked at ancient artefacts strewn on the sea floor, wound our labyrinthine way through a remote fishing village to admire a Lycian tomb, climbed to a medieval castle at sunset. There was an on-board dinner of freshly prepared fish, and wine and raki and laughter long into the night. At the last, we curled into warm blankets under the stars as the boat rocked gently beneath us. I lay awake wondering at the bright swipe of the Milky Way, mindful of a long-ago night: the warmth of my husband beside me, the security of children and friends asleep in their cabins below us, this same sensation of peaceful isolation and happiness. Ten shooting stars sparked in the Turkish sky before I slept.
Some years ago I wrote in my journal on the return from Turkey that every journey is ultimately a journey into yourself. It’s true for me, at least. Travel takes you away to the unfamiliar, the new and novel, the strange – and then brings you home to allow you a glimpse of the familiar become new and fresh and strange.
Travel – eventually – brings you home.