10 Years in 2 Days

13 09 08
I hug my family at Heathrow, say goodbye, and nobody cries. Well, my mom cries, obviously. A mixture of feelings ripple through my body as I walk to meet Teresa and Tally. Anxiety, apprehension, imagined future regrets, a general sense of ‘oh fuck what am I doing?’, and excitement...I think.

For the next 9 hours, I sit on the plane and think about the last 4 years. I think about becoming the kind of person who decides to quit their job out of the blue, sell all of their possessions, and travel around the world for a year. I realise that I have always been that person, and that I finally feel like myself, for the first time in forever.

We land in Delhi and meet our driver. He will take us to Agra, where the group we were supposed to meet in Delhi yesterday are now. For the next 4 hours, I sit in the car and think about the next 12 months. I try to imagine the whole year, but I can’t even imagine the first day. I don't even really know where we’re going. I suddenly feel ill prepared.

We pull up at a shack to eat and I get chicken, I think. Ten minutes later, we're back in the car and something explodes in my stomach. It burns. The burning sensation radiates outwards through my whole body. When it reaches my head I feel like I’m going to be sick, from everywhere.

I turn to the driver to ask him to pull over, and he’s asleep. Literally. I prod him and he jolts to life. Is okay, he tells me, is okay. It doesn’t feel okay. I forget about pulling over. My job now is to watch the driver and prod him at regular intervals, whenever he falls asleep. I think about offering to drive. Out of nowhere a cow runs in front of the car. We swerve and almost hit something resembling a tractor. We weave forwards, between honking trucks, as the driver looks back, shouting at the cow. I don't offer to drive.

In Agra, we meet the rest of the group on the roof of our hotel. There’s excitement, and beer, and food. I sit on a stool in the corner and concentrate. It feels like I have to concentrate or my body will explode. A guy called Gary comes over to introduce himself. I smile, and try to pull a face that says ‘I’m not being anti-social I promise, it’s just that if I stop concentrating my insides will become my outsides.’ Gary looks confused and says 'Do you want something to eat?'. He holds his plate up to my face.

I see the chicken, and run.

13 09 18
I sit at my desk, in my office, in our apartment, in Berlin. I spin around on my chair. I look at the pile of books by the window. Half of them have my name on the spine. I feel something. I look through the final proof of what will be my fifth book, Get Lost! A Travel Guide for Anywhere. I need some air.

I head outside and start walking. I think about that flight to India a decade ago, and how it was the first step on a path to...everything. To my dream job, that I’d forgotten (and still forget) was my dream job. To being here in Berlin, walking along Planufer next to the canal. To being in love, and being loved.

Something inside my shoe stabs the side of my foot. I try to wiggle it free as I walk, but it just kind of scratches around my foot until it gets trapped under the centre of my heel. I take a seat on the grass to take off my shoe, and see a pebble rattling around inside. Around me, a woman sits alone reading a book, smoking. Two kids chase each other around and around in front of their parents. A young couple feed bread to the swans.

I throw the pebble into the water, and watch the ripples.

travelLee Crutchley