Everyone loves a holiday. Even if you don’t go anywhere, if it’s just a break from the normal routine. Doing something different has a powerful effect on the mind. It forces you to pay attention. No more arriving at the office without quite being able to remember the journey in. The difference could be as simple as taking a new route in to work. Change is a good thing, despite the fear you feel on the first encounter. The fear is your brain saying “This isn’t familiar. Wake up, pay attention!” Being fully attentive is one of the reasons so many people find travel attractive.
Being in a new country, surrounded by unfamiliar names and places provides the perfect opportunity for a more constant heightened awareness. It lingers a little longer, even the journey to the office remains refreshing long after you’ve settled in. When I lived in Southbank my journey to work was fantastic. I crossed the river, approached the city, every time in awe of where I was. This is Melbourne. The world’s most liveable city. Months later, catching the train home from Canterbury, I loved arriving in Richmond at sunset. A golden glow illuminated the skyline. Part of me still couldn’t quite believe I was here. I was looking at everything, breathing in everything the city had to offer me.
After almost two years I’ve settled into the city, it’s my home. I get frustrated with the tourists who stop in the middle of a busy street to take a photograph. I’ve seen the view before, there’s no rush to see it again. It wasn’t long ago when I would have done the same. Now I know shortcuts, I know which streets to avoid at what time of day. I have somewhere to be. There’s nothing worse than Swanston Street in peak hour pedestrian traffic. The towering skyscrapers of the CBD don’t strike me as being tall. It’s hard to forget the first day back in the city having been in the country. I was in shock at how high some of the buildings stand. I’m not excited walking through the city anymore. Melbourne hasn’t lost it’s charm, I’ve lost my new eyes.
The Internet is a landfill of inspirational quotes pasted on top of glorious sunsets. I’m a sucker for one of them, but then aren’t we all? As much as I love walking without intent, Tolkien’s prophetic poem about Aragorn isn’t for me. I like to think of myself as more of a pseudo-intellectual. Marcel Proust is my man. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” This is a variation of his words, they’re the ones I’m familiar with. You see, I’m not as big a pseudo-intellectual as I like to think. I’ve only read Swann’s Way, part one of his master work, In Search of Lost Time. The full text appears in the fifth part. It’s going to be some time before I read it in full.
“The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.” – Marcel Proust
The glorious quote is even better in it’s original form. For me, it doesn’t speak only to the wanderer who is definitely not lost. It’s unavoidable for me now, my return home is on the horizon. I can look forward to everything that became familiar being different. It’s strange to think that there’ll be moments when I feel uncomfortable in the town I grew up in. Maybe I won’t. I’m being dramatic, part of me knows everything will fall back into place almost immediately. After a day or two, it will feel like I’ve never been away from home. At least for now I can pretend I’ve had enough time away to be excited about the prospect of waking up in Basingstoke.
No doubt Proust knew as well as we do, it’s not that easy to get a new pair of eyes. A disruption of our reality is about as close as we can come. Step out the front door, if you normally turn left, turn right. Make an effort to go somewhere new. Expose your senses to the unfamiliar. Trust me, your brain will thank you for it.