Ocean Shores. Tuesday, 4.12pm:
It's a bit bouncy in the back of the Subaru.
I don't entirely blame the bumpy road. Lord knows with the amount of government money poured into projects that support the fossil fuel industry, the multi-lane highway here is quite comfy - except for the dips and folds in the bitumen created by B-doubles carrying freight. Trains just don't use enough fuel.
But with three big blokes, a big young fella stretching towards his teens, a small woman at the wheel and some seriously heavy luggage for some seriously serious travelling, there's a fair bit of weight wallowing up and down those bitumen folds in the highway.
And it's just a wee bit squashy, too.
The iPad is bumping up and down on my knees as I try to write this. I wish there was a suspension app that would have it floating above my lap like an iCloud rather than bucking like a bronco. I'd call it iLevel and make a million bucks and become one of the whinging rich.
The rock and roll makes typing a bit tricky. I have to do a lot of correcting. (If I didn't, it wool d lokok lke thidd.)
I'm squashed up against my nephew. He's reading this as I type it. That's why I'm announcing to the world the name of his girlfriend. It's -
"Ow!" He has quite a punch.
"I'm glad you're off on your holiday," he says.
"I don't do holidays," I say.
"Yeah right," he says.
"It's just a continuation of my life," I say. "Holidays define a life unnaturally split between work and leisure. My life isn't like that. I've matured past those sorts of simplistic definitions."
"Holiday," he says.
The small woman shakes her head and then speaks.
"You're just running away."
No, I'm not. I'm running towards. I would have bolted ages ago if I thought my life needed escaping. I'm one of the lucky people. I'm not hungry. (I have a belly-full of samosas.) I have a place to live. I don't have to escape falling bombs made by the whinging rich and risk everything in a leaky boat only to be treated like a criminal.
The road is wet and a light rain spatters the windscreen. A filament of sunlight lights the valley an incandescent yellow. A semi-trailer, which at this speed would take about 15 car lengths to stop, follows the Subaru so closely a wet cigarette paper would have trouble slipping between us.
Frustrated by the speed limit, it pulls out and passes us sending a welter of water bullets at the windscreen. We swerve against the suck of the truck. The sway makes me nauseous - probably not helped by typing on my bucking iPad or those delicious but never-quite-hot-enough samosas from Bexhill.
Yes, I'm leaving the tribal turf for a while, swapping the winter sun for a monsoonal summer one; the neat quietness of Australia for the untidy noise of Asia. I'm going where the potholes are bigger, the transport drops manure, and luminous smiles line the roads like halogen streetlamps.
Travelling is a meditation. It strips you to your core. With everything you need on your back, your excess baggage ditched and the dramas of your life left mouthing goodbye, travelling gives you the space - the licence - to focus on the here and now. To see what you have, to bless your luck; to witness the impoverishment of wealth, the generosity of the poor.
Travelling shines a light on the here and now: ridiculous highways, loving family and samosa flatulence in a cramped Subaru.
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