I have been very homesick lately. So much so that I have seriously considered just picking up my backpack, my passport and my credit card and heading out to the airport.Being the hopelessly analytical, self-critical (in the good sense), occasionally deeply reflective person that I am, I have carefully considered all the reasons why.
They include that Mongolia is very similar to the rest of Central Asia (duh!) and so not so exciting and new as it might have been if I had not just cruised across the ‘stans, that I have now got an enormous list of things to do this summer (amazing what you come up with when you have some spare time) and want to get started, and that (in line with the first point) I am not getting the energy from travelling that I normally do.
Plus, of course, whenever you are feeling isolated from what you know, everything at home is much brighter, cleaner, tastier and more fun than in reality. Because of course I know that when I get home, travelling will soon become attractive again. I have often thought about going home in a philosophical sense (can you fail at travelling? is going home before you plan some kind of admission of inability, or is it a demonstration of control?) but never really seriously considered doing it.
Normally I get energy from the people that I meet along the way (in fact, given the often disappointing nature of self-appointed “sights”, meeting people is one of the absolute best motivations to travel), from news from home and friends (internet cafes are energy download stations), and from the buzz of travel.
So just now I am getting little buzz from travelling, and lots of energy from friends and family. But most important (and my subject here, although I can understand that you might not have noticed it in the garrulous way I have approached the issue), I have not met so very many high quality people along the road.
Partly this is the language barrier. I can laugh at what Mongolians do, and hold very basic conversations, but what I want to explore is what makes us the same, and how we are different. And without speaking any Mongolian, this is tricky.
But it is also true that I have not met as many people who really inspired or amazed me as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I have met some excellent people and had a great time doing it. But there is a difference between someone that I really enjoy hanging out with and going out with and travelling with, and someone that really makes me think “wow, there are some amazing people in the world”. And they teach me things and make me question whether the way I am doing things is right.
And of course (see paragraph two), I have tried to figure out why this is. Perhaps I am just a hopeless snob and I don’t bother to meet enough people or get to know people well enough. Perhaps there are not so many amazing people around. Perhaps I don’t really know what I am looking for.
Anyway, blah blah blah. Here I was thinking all these thoughts. And then, unexpectedly, I met one. In Ulaan Baatar of all places.
And what made her (for she was a she) so impressive and amazing? Good question. I think it is best summed up in that she just had a tonne of energy. Independence, opinions, laughter, travel plans that seem impossibly unlikely and make me feel like a package tourist), high-quality conversation, experience. All this together with a desire to share it. Cute too.
I wonder if she realises that I was sucking her energy.
Funny that I don’t tell people so often when they are amazing. Neither does anyone much I guess. Some kind of cultural thing (like Mongolians and hand shakes) perhaps? Our society builds recognition of amazingness in some fields into things like jobs and salaries and titles and sinecures. People demonstrate their own achievements by buying nice cars and decent houses and things, I guess too. But seldom do I ever just say to someone “you have impressed me, I admire you”. Perhaps I should try it out?