Tonight is the last night. I can scarcely believe it. I know that I have said in previous posts that I was ready to come home, but it seems we have barely arrived in Buenos Aires and now it is already time to leave. This time tomorrow, all going well, we will be on board a British Airways flight to London, and with a connecting Aer Lingus flight we'll be in Cork at about 11am on Wednesday morning. The level of anticipation, and disbelief that the moment is here, is almost equivalent to that of our first flight, almost 8 months ago, to Beijing.
If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please stay tuned as I will be posting for a few weeks to come. I have memories of Cusco, Lima and BA that are still to be recorded, and of course even the homecoming itself and the effect it will have on all of us is a subject that might interest you. Especially if you are thinking of doing something similar yourself.
About halfway though our trip, when we got to New Zealand, it started to dawn on me that 8 months isn't very long at all. Time is the enemy, marching imperiously on without a backward glance upon the destruction it leaves behind. We did this trip now, as opposed to being sensible and waiting until the kids were older, because we had no idea of how long this life, this planet, or our freedom to travel around in it, might last. It's a cliche, but a fine one, that the right time to do something that you need to do is probably right now (adding on a year or two for planning!). While stocks last. But now our stock of eight months has been used up.
Time always wins.
But in two ways, we might have pulled the wool over its eyes for a while. Firstly, the memories of this trip will last me and Letizia for the rest of our lives. I hope that the same is true for Nina and Sara. And more: I hope that what they have experienced over the last 8 months will serve them forever. Not just to give them a taste for travel, but so that they might always remain certain that whatever life shows them, there is always something else out there. That they should never feel that they have seen everything. That they should not assume that what they see around them is the only way to live. That they should never feel trapped by illusary limits.
Secondly, even if time is the enemy, the greatest gift we had during these 8 months was the time we spent together. It is unlikely (though not impossible) that the four of us will ever share quarters in quite so intense a fashion as during this trip. I spent about 3 years worth of free time with my children, when compared to the time that I would normally have had with them at home. While this has been challenging at times - above all for Nina and Sara - it has also helped me to understand a little better who they are and what I need to do to be a better parent. The trip hasn't been about seeing the world as much as it has been about living a more intense family life, with China and much of the Southern Hemisphere as the backdrop. I should be clear about this: I am no better a father now than I was when we started. In many ways Nina and Sara got to see some aspects of my character that they might have been better off shielded from. (For example, I swear a lot. I normally offload my daily dose of profanity in the office, and I'm ueber-careful at home. Not on the road, though.) But I think we understand each other a little better, and even if that doesn't automatically lead to a better relationship, it can pave the way. We simply wouldn't have had this time together, and this opportunity to see more of each others' personalities, if it weren't for the trip.
A number of readers have suggested that there is a book in this blog. I'm inclined to agree, if for no other reasons than a vanity on my part to think I might be able to write one, but also for the fact that the experience can be best understood and appreciated in retrospect, as a whole, rather than in this diary form. Writing the blog has helped me digest our experiences as we've travelled along, to untangle at least in an initial way, the many threads that were spun each day. To write a book, to see the entire 8 months from the more stable platform of so-called normal life, would be a way of securing the memories, and of giving the trip some enduring meaning for my family. Writing is one thing, and publishing another entirely. If anyone out there knows of or can recommend either a publisher or a literary agent that would be willing to take us on, please let me know.
Tonight over dinner in the beautiful and big-hearted city of Buenos Aires, the four of us toasted our trip and our return home. To those of you who have followed, once or regularly, especially to those who have commented or emailed; to those of you who helped make this trip possible with help or understanding; and to those of you who showed us hospitality along the way; I raise my glass and drink to your health.
(Picture taken in Lima, but as you might tell from my big red face, plenty of Pisco Sours were drunk to many healths).