As my teeth sink into a pear and stilton sandwich and beautiful English countryside passes by the window next to me I lean back and relax to a soundtrack of my choosing on my iPod. I’m on a train from London, heading home to Liverpool for what will be the final time.
In little more than two weeks I will leave my apartment, surrender the keys to the landlady and say goodbye to the place I’ve called home for so long. After nearly eleven years there I’m moving on, but if home is where the heart is then a little piece of my heart will remain at my old apartment, with its quirky kitchen, living room that looks out onto an large maple tree, and red bedroom with the sloping ceiling. Leaving will be hard because I’ve very much enjoyed living there, but it’s time for a change, for a new adventure, a new chapter in the ongoing story that I otherwise know as my every day life.
The next chapter will begin some eleven thousand miles away in Melbourne, Australia. After a brief visit to Singapore I’ll touch down on the other side of the world on December 9th at the start of what I hope will be a glorious southern hemisphere summer. I’m not emigrating, merely relocating for a year or so, trying out life from a different angle, like taking a walk in a new pair of shoes.
I’ll grant you, this is far from the usual way of moving home. It’s not the ordinary and responsible route that’s well lit and complete with good signage and safety nets. It is a little crazy, and maybe even slightly daring and absurd in equal measure too. But what were my options? Find another place not far from where I live now, somewhere a little bigger perhaps, with more room for stuff that I don’t really need?
I could have stayed at the apartment, after all the rent was cheap and there really was no pressing need to move. But in my heart I felt it was time for a change. The routine was comfortable, but in that comfort time began to fly by almost unnoticed, just like the scenery passing me by right now on this train as it hurries to Liverpool reducing towns and villages to little more than a blur.
When I’m on trains I like to look out of the window and enjoy the ride. I have the same outlook in life too. But you know how it is, sometimes things get in the way and you become so busy going though life that you forget to pay attention and enjoy it, to sit back and take a moment to savour the wonder, beauty, and sheer madness of it all.
On the whole I think I do a pretty good job of savoring the moments, of looking out of the window and enjoying the ride. Like everyone though, my days are often carved out of routine and familiarities, things that ordinarily pass me by. But as much as we all need it to some extent, routine can lull us into a false sense of security while it robs us of the only diminishing commodity we’re all heavily invested in.. time.
So I’m taking a chance, giving up my apartment, throwing the routine to the wind and heading into the unknown. From December 6th the road ahead is completely uncharted and utterly unknown. That’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time, and as my days now fill up with ‘lasts’ that often feel a little sad, I know that ahead of me there will be many exciting ‘firsts.’
In preparation for the move I’ve been slowly clearing out my apartment, delving into the back of cupboards and evaluating what to give up and what to keep. That’s been an interesting process and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to look at everything around me and assess the value of things that otherwise had no reason to be questioned in their place.
Why do I have so many coffee mugs, so many disposable razors, old T-shirts, paper clips, and USB cables? Did I really need all those herbs and spices that I never used? And while my whisky collection is small, what’s the point of collecting these bottles only to never open them? I’m saving them for special occasions I tell myself, but really, how drunk do I need to be when those occasions come?
It’s been an education in moderation, in needs verses desire, worth verses want, and useful verses useless. Strip away the Ikea furniture, the plants and the plug-in entertainment, and what do I have left? What do any of us?
In this process each item now has to earn its place in a box that will be stored. It has to answer a simple question; what purpose does this serve? Maybe it’s practical, maybe it’s sentimental, either way it has to assert its place in my life and my future.
So why Australia, and why now? The answer is simple. It’s all about timing. Things are good right now, in fact they’re great. But the truth is I’m so happy and so comfortable that there was a danger that I might sit down in this comfort and never get back up.
I can easily afford my life, my travels, and everything I enjoy. There is essentially no challenge, and while that might be good in many respects, the fact is we only grow when we’re challenged, and I need a new challenge.
Australia seems like a fun place, it’s interesting and it’s been somewhere I’ve wanted to get to know for years. Yes, it’s possible that moving there for a year might be a terrible idea. I could theoretically burn through my savings and seriously damage my business by going ‘virtual’ with my customers. That’s a risk, but it’s surely a risk worth taking?
Maybe I sound like I’m trying to convince myself, and in some respects I suppose I might be, after all I’m happy and comfortable right now so the rational thing to do would be to stay in this place where everything is safe.
However, for me at least, life is about the stories along the way, and there are no great stories to be found in beating the same rhythm on the same drum until you’re too old to beat it anymore. I know it’s a cliche, but life really is about the journey, not the destination.
I’m not far from Liverpool now as the train pulls into Runcorn station. We’re right on schedule as commuters step on and off the carriages. There was a time when I would make this journey on a regular basis, bridging the gap between my old life in the South of England with my then new life in the North West. Since then I’ve taken to using the car more, electing instead for the convenience of my own timetable rather than that of any rail operator. Today has been a treat though, a last train ride home, and one I wanted to appreciate.
The sun is setting outside as the train slowly pulls into Liverpool. It’s the end of the line here so I need to pack up my things and catch another train. For the moment thought I’m still sitting in my seat just looking out of the window as we approach the city which looks quite beautiful in silhouette against the autumn evening sky.
It’s been an enjoyable ride, but this part of my journey is coming to and end.