Reasons To Get Writing Part 3
Having had a very protective childhood, the moment I turned 17 I ached to see more of the world. My parents had always worried for me, far too much in my enclosed opinion and so my curiosity for the unknown was so strong that I could smell it. The scent of discovery wafted to me from across the sea.
I wanted to be away from house and home.
So one Monday morning in my 17th year, I packed my school bag, wrote a quick good-bye note and placed it on my un-made bed's pillow for Mum to find, and caught a train to Dover. From Dover to France, and from France I travelled the continent, where I slept on the streets, worked in small hotels for bed and board and when I could find a shore, I would falling asleep on the beach curled up like driftwood, with the gentle snore of the sea as a lullaby.
Of course, it wasn't as romantic as it sounds. I was raped, beaten and people don't look too kindly on beggars. Not even ones who have a home that they can go back to, a home that I did not think of calling once. For that security and safety and the four walls of my bedroom and school had scared me far more than any street canvassed in shadow. You could forget you were alive back home, but here....here you could never forget.
And I was collecting momentoes along the way, filling my school bag as I went. Little cards, tickets, shells off the beach, stolen hotel ashtrays and towels, and I was happy. I had bought a red journal from a Spanish train station, and had begun to write about my dreams of yesterday and the dreams I chased now. I wrote that I wanted to go on, I wasn't satisfied. I still hadn't found the source of that smell which had wafted in through my front door all those years ago.
I had even begun to pick up a kind of weird European lingo, a strange cauldron of vocabulary from different languages. At least wherever I went, I could communicate to a point.
And then, one morning, I decided to go back home.
During the night, while asleep on some Italian shore, someone had decided to steal my bag. When I awoke to a dirt-red caked sunrise, I realised that I had no possessions left at all. I was upset at first. All my collected momentoes gone. All my money that I had diligently saved had been taken. My journal, with all my writings about my trek had gone, too.
I had nothing. I sat down on the sand, and watched the sun rise higher and listened to the advice of the sea. And suddenly, I felt liberated. Realising that I no longer had my possessions, that I had nothing but me, seemed to make me feel lighter than I had ever felt before. I no longer felt suffocated, and I had found the scent I craved for.
I thought of my parents, then, and felt guilty at my selfishness. What must I have put them through! In losing my baggage I had found something. I realised it was time to go back home.
But going back home and as time went on, I collected more baggage in my life. As I got married, had children, lost loved ones and created new ones, I realised that whenever the scent came too strong for me to bear, I needed to find a way of losing my baggage again. I didn't want to lose that feeling I had captured on the beach. But as a 50 year old man now, running away is highly impracticable.
Still, I learnt two important things when I was 17. Firstly, I found that writing could become a channel to allow me to let go of life impediments and to emulate that time on the beach and secondly, it is no surprise to learn that the word for 'baggage' in Latin is impedimenta.