And just like that, this year’s journey is at an end. We drop the motorhome off for storage until 2018. I’m always a little envious of its view. It beats the hell out of my office window – patchworked green fields and distant ocean trump urban jungle every time.
The trek to Heathrow takes most of the day. Cornwall gives way to Devon, then the Midlands and finally, the chorus line of hotels that line the way to the airport. Squiz and I have time to reflect on what’s been a mixed bag of a journey, marred by the demand of repairs.
There are a few things different this year: we’ve not yet decided on which countries we’ll visit next year, or therefore bought the guide books to pour over, usually a good antidote to the pressures of oncoming busy season. Timing of next year’s trip is a topic of much debate. After five years of travels through European summers, it’s time perhaps to rethink.
Despite these uncertainties, a few things remain the same. No matter how lightly we travel on arrival, bags are groaning on return.
I don’t think that will ever change. This year, after building a wardrobe for all weathers over the past five years, I’m culling in deference to space. The joyless task of cleaning and packing is another stayer. Oh goody, more cleaning, said no-one, ever.
And so, as I do at the end of these journeys, it’s time to reflect: what have I learnt? I don’t like having my plans hijacked, that’s for sure. I’ve learnt that a temper unpacked after many years of disuse can be rather hard to pack away fully in a wholly efficient manner. It’s a bit of a lurker. I’ll need to work on that.
But they’re the only negatives. I’ve learnt to appreciate the pace of a slower life. Northern Spain has this honed to an expert level. In a country marred by economic challenges that would see most on a steady diet of Prozac, life revolves around sun, good food, good wine and spending time with family and friends. The French too, are leaders in the quest for quality of life. I’ve learnt that very little seems bad after a blissful and proper break for lunch. We learnt this morning that a scientific study has proved that cheese can be as addictive as hard drugs. I could have saved them a fortune. We’ve absorbed thousands of years of history, eaten our body weight in cheese and drunk vats of wine. No grumbles there. I’ve learnt when it comes to travel, more is never enough.
And so after a night in the Hyatt, it’s time to board and start the journey home. It’s fair to say that I’m nowhere near ready. I can’t wait for 2018.