I was looking through my phone earlier today, and realised I had more international numbers than local ones. That is to say, according to my phonebook, I know more people overseas than I do here, at “home”.
Whilst this is nothing new for me, I do have to admit it was a shock to realise that I had nobody to call in the city of my birth. No old friends, no acquaintances, not even old bosses to ring up for much needed work. On the other hand, if I needed something to do on any given nights in Berlin, Madrid, Tokyo, Wellington, Christchurch, Melbourne, Brisbane, or even Bali, I could very easily ring up a long list of people and be out of the door within the hour.
Travelling makes the world your home, which can sometimes end up as your home becoming foreign.
Before you feel sorry for me, I have to admit that the reason I have nobody to call in Paris is because I cut ties with everyone here a very, very long time ago. I moved around a lot, travelled, studied, worked and explored the world; giving me, arguably, the best life possible, but definitely not setting me up for the situation I find myself in, namely, being back in Paris for an undetermined amount of time.
Saying that Paris is home is actually a lie, as London is home, has been for all of my adult life, and I do have a lot of friends there, most of whom are asking me to come back ASAP. But since I am in Paris, I figured it would be nice to meet up with people. Only to realise I have no one to meet up with.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have French numbers on my phone. One of which is my mum. The rest is made up of my mum’s friends, the bank, doctors I haven’t seen since I was a toddler, family notary and for some inexplicable reason, bars I used to go to when I was a teenager. In other words, not people I can suitably call for a chat and/or an offer to go for a drink because I’m bored.
Home is supposed to be where your friends and family are. In my case, that would be scattered all over the place. And yes, I do know a lot of people in Paris. I just don’t have their numbers because we lost touch, as I am never around. And whilst we will always be very happy to bump into each other on the street or on the Metro, after a couple of minutes of reminiscing about a time long gone by, I have an itch to just get the hell out. It’s awkward, and I tend to try not to do awkward.
This is just it: awkward is never an option when travelling. As an extension, it never is something I feel when chatting with people I met throughout my trips. I can easily have a long conversation with people I‘ve “lived with” for two days months later, and never feel out of place. I have more in common with them than with old school friends from primary school.
This might be one of the reason I have never liked Paris: too familiar to be a foreign place I could see as a spot on my “trip”, and too remote and far remove from my present life to be home.
And even though I have said goodbye to the friends I have scattered all over the world months, if not years ago, they will always be closer to me than the people I had things to talk about with when I was a kid. It might be a symptom of travelling, or simply of growing up. To me, it has always been the same thing.