Personally, I go into a form of grieving the exciting places, people, animals and ecosystems I have recently experienced. I miss dining out and resent menial tasks of cooking and cleaning for myself. I miss the simplicity of living out of my very small suitcase and endless opportunities to chase a great photo opportunity. Everything at home seems dull, grey and familiar. I find it hard to get motivated to do anything much beyond sleeping; almost like a form of hibernation; I keep to myself for a while.
Not that my dog or friends will let me fall into a completely reclusive, or vegetative state. Whippet boy, having turned a few "welcome home mummy" summersaults will not let me out of his sight, following at my heels and making it known when its time for walkies and meals. He expects lots of catch up couch time and ball games together. Friends call with dinner invitations wanting to hear of my travels. I oblige with a few stories but explain my photos are yet to be downloaded.
This time around I returned home to discover that mice had enjoyed a seven week invasion of my pantry and laundry cupboard. They enjoyed a seven week party while I was away. It seems as I was enjoying the delights of tropical and subtropical climes, the local mice, anxious to escape the bitter Ballarat winter, took refuge inside my place with a vengence. Now, had I been home, I would have noticed that first sign of mouse droppings and set up traps to instantly exterminate these vermin. As it is the nasty blighters finally broke into the ratsack in my laundry, but I think it was the last food source they discovered!
Some seven weeks after my departure, the mice had managed to eat their way through labels, stain removing soap, and anything in my pantry that was not either behind glass or in a can. Mouse droppings littered the cupboards.There were even a few scats in the bathroom and on the carpet in the hallway and lounge. Apparently there had been a mouse plague in Ballarat this winter and it seems word had got out around the local mouse population that food and lodgings were available at my place. As for a welcome home, it was totally GROSS!
Tonight I joked with a friend about how long it has taken me to work my way through erradicating these critters and cleaning my way through the cupboards.
She happened to know just how much I love cleaning, exactly as much as she does, so we had a good laugh about it, but the invasion of the mice has made for a very taxing and unpleasant home-coming. As my friend pointed out, it could have been worse, her home was once invaded by rats!
Evidence of the mice in my kitchen, was an immediate back to the real world reality check post travels. My life of privilege and being waited on was merely a temporary state and now I am literally back to clean up and deal with the shit again!
Beyond the mice, is the routine days, work, paid and non-paid, domestic drudgery and too cold weather to work in my garden. Thankfully the shortest day of the winter solstice has now passed and daylight hours are beginning to extend.
Maybe I do live a privileged and comfortable existence in comparison with many of the people whose countries I have recently had the honour of visiting?
There is enough money in the coffers to pay the bills and put meals for at least the next week on the table. I do not have to worry about whether I can afford to educate my children, nor account to anyone who believes they are my superior. My shelter is secure and comfortable. Roads around here are generally in fairly good repair and safe. The governments, both state and federal are stable and no one in my family has been tortured or even disappeared under the rule of despotic dictatorships.
Right across the countries I visited in South America, I met many people who shared my love of animals and wild places. I met like minded travellers anxious to experience ecosystems of the Amazon Basin and Galapagos Islands, along with the indigenous people of these places, anxious to preserve such world heritage for future generations.
I guess, arrival home is a natural time to reflect on those incredible long dreamed of places that have now become part of my experience. I look around at my surrounds, that I have worked so hard to turn into a home. It's not so bad. But, I guess it is no surprise that for a while at least, life will continue to feel a little flat. And yes, in many ways I am glad to be home!
Perhaps an explaination for the flatness of my mood and the sense of loss I feel for the places I have most recently visited is that I always feel I leave a little piece of my heart in the destinations. Maybe its the price us travellers pay, for the privilege of experiencing so much of what our destinations have to offer; like falling in love, or even a rapid succession of holiday romances simply with place. I am yet to visit a country I have not fallen in love with. My dreams have come true many times over simply by the privilege of arrival and experience and those long dreamed of destinations have more often than not, exceeded my expectations.
Tonight, I drove along the shores of lake Wendouree and the sun was setting, turning the landscape gold. I stopped to let three swamphens cross at the pedestrian crossing, likely annoying the motorist behind me. Watching these birds gave me pleasure, as I journeyed homeward, having just left the home of a friend, to walk whippet boy before dusk turned into a cold, black winters night. As I turned the corner into my street a lone black swan was flying to its night roost. Glorious!
Tonight the southern cross shines out on both sides of the Pacific and I have been lucky enough to have witnessed it from such far removed places from Australia as Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and over the waters and landscapes of Easter Island and the Galapagos, peeping out in the heady altitudes of the high Andes and glimmering over tributaries of the Amazon. It was a strange thing to see the Southern Cross in the night skies there; an immediate sense of "home".
I may feel a little flat until spring works its magic here in Australia, but, all things considered, life is essentially good!