I wonder how many others pay attention to last things. Mostly they are irrelevancies; small things that flash through my mind when I’m preparing for a trip and make me feel a tiny bit sad for a second. The last Monday in this apartment. The last hug with a friend. The last time that I brush my teeth in England.
These are the kind of things that I note in the passing, as if they didn’t matter, and they make me feel nostalgic even before I’ve left. I’d like to think that my ability to notice these things is due to a tendency to live in the moment; but just as likely, if not more, is that I have trouble letting go.
It’s funny, really. I’ve spent so much of my life either travelling or planning my next travels, very rarely paying any mind to the people and places I leave behind, the favourite dresses that I have to sell to make room in my backpack, the responsibilities and chances I’ve abandoned that await those that stay still… But still I can’t help but feel a little bit sad whenever I’m moving on, as if I’d forgotten a part of me in there.
I believe every traveller is familiar with that feeling of longing for a place they’ve just started to know. When I leave, I glance back over my shoulder even if it only makes parting worse; I can’t help but wonder whether it has been the last time I will see the place in years, or maybe ever. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m second-guessing leaving; it only adds to my bittersweet collection of last things: the last glance before moving on.
I counted last things before I left on my first trip almost four years ago. Last snow, last party, last Tuesday at my parents’ house. Back then they were little but markers on the road that I sped past gladly, impatient to get to where I wanted to. Nowadays I see last things and they make me a little bit anxious. The difference is that I have more to miss this time. The difference is that for the first time maybe ever I am nervous.
Just a few nights ago we sat huddled together on a bed – he, his sister and me. We mapped out the whole world before us and spoke of the future that we craved to build. It was a plan that followed blurry lines on maps, trailing paths and highways in faraway countries until we found a place to rest our feet to gather strength just to go again. I can’t remember when was the last time I dreamed like that – apologetically, bravely, perhaps a little bit madly.
Going is hard; staying is harder.
An elderly couple sat next to me on the plane. The way they giggled and teased each other reminded me of him. Even when it made the pain of parting harder, I had to smile – not all last things are permanent, they are only the last times before the next one. After the plane landed, the Portuguese families around me erupted into loud cheers. Somebody started singing and it seemed like everyone else joined as well. Despite my prolific studies with Duolingo, I couldn’t decipher the words, but in all absurdness the rhythm was familiar: Happy birthday to you. Outside the air was chilly but it bore the unmistakable smell of South – rich and warm, reminiscent of warm wood and sun screen.
I had to smile a little. The truth is that the weigh of the last things is not that heavy on my shoulders when I remember all the first things that the road ahead has got in store for me.
Hey guys, what’s up? I’m back on the road! For the next ten days I’ll be travelling Portugal before travelling onwards to Brazil, and even though I’m leaving behind familiar places and people I love, I am super freaking excited. Let me know in the comments what you want to read about Portugal!
As to the post, am I really the only one that notes ‘last things’?
Ps. The pictures in this post were taken at God’s Own Junkyard in London. It’s free to visit and if you’ve got some free time while you’re in the city, I highly recommend visiting!