I recently moved into a flat in Montreal with two guys in their early twenties. We set up a camera one night while prepping for dinner, setting the timer to take a photo every two seconds. The photos tell a simple story, but shows a glimpse of contemporary life of three twenty-somethings, documentary-style. The dynamics and personalities of the house can be universally understood without captions, from troublemaker Çuk, to Julien, whom you barely see in the frame because he's on his feet, busy making dinner.
It's been a long journey, but I'm finally on my way home. I went to 14 countries in a little less than three months. I bathed in a geothermal spring with mountains in the background and also travelled by camel in the Sahara Desert. It's been a great three months of meeting new and interesting people, learning from them and expanding my viewpoints. I've also been extremely blessed to see so many beautiful sights and experience so many new things. On the flipside, I realized I also miss home a lot. I miss things usually taken for granted like a home-cooked meal or being able to sleep in your own bed without having to pack everything up again the next day.
Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing new towns and cities these past couple of months but it's also taught me the simple joys of knowing you have a place to sleep at night and it's definitely made me appreciate small things like being able to walk around my bathroom with bare feet because my bathroom at home has clean floors, unlike some of the hostels I stayed at. Another thing I used to take for granted was being able to make tea at home and at work so easily. Hot water is not always available at hostels because sometimes the kitchen is closed.
Maybe in the next few weeks I will get wanderlust again but for now I'm quite happy to be somewhere familiar, as cold as Toronto is. I have all my friends around and I know the city better than the back of my hand. I am relieved to be back home because it means I can rest and recuperate, and get ready for the next chapter of my life, wherever it may lead.
Sometimes I still can't believe I'm back in Toronto. I can still see scenes in Australia so clearly in my mind, it's like I'm there and not here.
I can still feel the sand between my toes at Whitsundays, or the cold breeze which blew my hair around my face when I was sailing the Sydney Harbour. I see orange-gold sunsets over the South Pacific all the time and can still hear the steady crash of the rolling waves along the Australian shores.
Sometimes in my daydreams, I am walking at night with a friend down the cobblestone path along the Harbour bridge. The street lamps are lit and they provide an eerie glow to the dark night, setting a mysterious mood. The cityscape is so clear from where I'm standing. As I gaze across the water, I realize standing in that exact spot is where I want to be right here and right now.
I open my eyes and I realize I've fallen asleep in a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway car. The familiar, automated voice calls out "Arriving at Davisville Station". I'm in commute on my way home. Usually from work, or sailing or the climbing gym.
My life in Toronto has picked up again really quickly. Though things have changed enough to keep me mentally and physically stimulated, the routine is still frustratingly similar to where I left off.
I've discovered I need to constantly experience new things to keep me happy and out of my comfort zone- which is why I've taken up swing dancing. It's no Australia or Indonesia or even Montreal, but it will do for now.
Since being here for the last two weeks, I've fallen back to the rhythm of my hometown. The first day back, I wasn't quite sure what to do on the TTC. I had just walked from an event at Harbourfront and was standing at Union station, waiting for a train to take me back home. As the train rolled into the station, I stood at the side of the door, waiting to get in. There was a crowd of about 10 people near each subway door, and there weren't that many people occupying seats.
Usually when a the subway door opens, it's a race between everyone to get to a seat. (It's even more spectacular to observe when the subway door opens and everyone rushes to get to the escalator.)
As I was standing there, not knowing what to do, eventually indecision of which seat to take led me to having no seat at all.
This didn't happen to me in Sydney because I rarely took the train, and when I did, there were always available seats; which is why the first few days I was back in Toronto, I just ended up seatless from being out of practice in the art of seat-grabbing.
Toronto as a city is generally more aggressive than the laid-back pattern of Sydney. I find that people in Sydney seemed friendlier and a little more considerate of other people. I'm not saying it's better to be from Sydney or it's better to live in Sydney because people are nicer. Aggressiveness and going for what you want is a useful life skill too. The two cities are just different in personality.
And maybe that is the point of living in different cities- being offered the chance to take in the best of what each city offers and choosing to learn and enjoy its distinctive characteristics.
One of my favourite writers, Paulo Coelho is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a place I once briefly visited many moons ago. I only remember the scorchingly hot weather (33 C!), the dark, leathery skin of the locals who frequented the Copacabana, and of course the gorgeous waterline of the beach itself.
I wonder though- would the population think similarly to Coelho's sometimes unconventional philosophies? Do all people there follow their passions more so than people in North America where we are trained to go to university, get good grades, then get "good jobs" and eventually retire?
I would like to know all these things and more.
It doesn't look like I'll be staying in Toronto for long...