Moments of Clarity
Have you ever found yourself acutely aware of the moment: the fact that from here on in everything will be different or a sudden realisation of your feelings or your place in the world?
I’m speaking in the context of travel – these moments can happen anytime of course, not just when you are away yet there is something about being far from home that heightens your perceptions: maybe it’s the unknown, the excited fear, the awe of your surroundings.
Moments of Clarity.
The reason I’m musing about this is because of a conversation I had with a friend a week or so back.
He had just read my post about Helsinki, where I’d described standing on the earthen ramparts of Suomenlinna, gazing back at the low skyline of this Finnish city and suddenly realising I was overwhelmingly happy.
It was piercingly clear in my head, as I turned towards the sea my heart sank as I remembered I would be leaving, sailing across the Baltic Sea to Germany just a couple of days later.
I’ve thought about this moment a lot, not so much the aching thought of leaving, more the awareness of my happiness. That soaring feeling, my place in the world and the journey that had brought me ultimately to Helsinki.
When my friend – who coincidentally had been the catalyst to me visiting Finland in the first place – read the post he messaged me to tell me it had ignited his urge to travel, it was that moment of clarity, it made him think of his moment.
An overnight arrival by train into a far off Russian city, the disorientation of night and unfamiliar empty streets. A neon 24/7 sign blinking invitingly in the icy darkness. Coffee. Walking up the centre of a deserted six-lane highway, hands wrapped around the steaming cup.
My moment was the culmination of a journey, his was the wide-eyed realisation at the beginning of one, that feeling that anything could happen.
A week into the already amazing holiday we took a whale watching trip out from Tofino on Vancouver Island. It was a misty morning, we were bobbing around the inlets in a zodiac and as the sky cleared we were treated to a breaching gray whale just in front of the inflatable boat.
The magnificent whale was so near I could see the barnacles encrusting it.
Our guide was a young guy and he threw the zodiac about with (controlled) abandon, we bumped over waves and turned tight corners with mighty fringes of spray. It was so much fun, my heart was pounding with both the thrill of the ride and the sight of the whale.
It suddenly dawned on me, this was what life is about: experiences like this. I was feeling intense joy and the exquisite realisation that my life was going to be far more exiting from this point onward. I was going to damn well make sure of it!
Just over three years later I was walking down a long platform at the Haydapaşa Railway station in Istanbul. We had crossed the Bosphorus on the first ferry of the day. Istanbul had never looked so beautiful: a light January mist veiled the city yet the rising sun pierced it and gilded the ancient domes and minarets.
Our train – the Toros Ekspresi – was waiting further along the platform, we strolled past the end carriages looking for the sleeper car.
This train was going to take us across Turkey to Aleppo in northern Syria, a train that in the past had been a continuation of the Orient Express taking passengers to Baghdad. For us it was the beginning of a year travelling around the world.
This train was the stepping stone to my new life. And I was acutely aware of it.
The warm welcome of the train staff who showed us our compartment, their thick black moustaches and big smiles. Shuffling along the narrow corridor past veiled women seated on their beds, luggage being bundled in, doors closing.
As I gazed around the compartment, my home for the next 34 hours (it wasn’t supposed to take quite that long!), I felt like my life was just about to begin, I had no idea how life would unfold from here.
And it felt amazing!
They were pivotal moments that I’ve never forgotten, just thinking about them makes me want to travel, to have more moments like these.
Helsinki: The Thought Of Leaving Was Unbearable I left a piece of my heart here.
Overland Istanbul to Cairo. Part 1: Istanbul a snowy week in this ancient city.
Going Home. Post Travel Depression How to beat the going-home blues – I’ve gone through it a few times now.
From Russia With Love, Red Square Moscow I couldn’t stop wandering back to this iconic square.
There Are No Roadsigns in the Gobi Desert. Part 1 another moment of clarity, sleeping in a ger with a nomadic family in Mongolia.
Do you have a moment of clarity from your travels? Share it in the comments below, I’d love to hear it!