The death knell of the holiday begins as the taxi from the airport takes the exit ramp on to Bell street.
Leaving the airport there is still a sense of going somewhere, the possibility of adventure as the straight-up and down of the Melbourne skyline looms up in the distance. To draw on a cliche (because travel writing does that to you) it’s like the shimmering towers of Camelot, familiar yet undiscovered.
Photo Isha Mistry
It’s a far cry driving from Rome Fiumicino airport through the outer suburbs and suddenly you catch a glimpse of the outline of the Coliseum. It’s a thrill driving in a taxi down Pitt Street in Sydney and getting a glimpse of the Harbour Bridge. Or glimpsing the silhouette of Pauls Cathedral as you approach central London.
I know every turn of the freeway, but because I am in travelling mode I can spot the strange and the quirky. My senses are still on high alert although the home-run is something I have done many times before. Things look the same yet different as they bounce into my line of vision. The Welcome to Melbourne sign as I leave the airport; DFO and the neverending freeway roadworks mean that I’m home.
This coming home bit can be just as painful if you’re returning from a one week trip or returning as an expat after ten years away.
The signs and symbols of that other life, the life you’d left behind are both comforting, and confronting. You’re not sure if you want to just accept them and get on with the business of living. You feel you should move on, settle down and be the responsible adult.Part of you wants to turn around and get back on a plane and hit the tarmac at Bangkok at 3am and smell the sweet tropical air.
It’s a rite of passage to travel; to seek out new experiences, to go off on a whim, to learn and live out the long-held dream of seeing the sunrise over the Andes, sailing the Greek islands or visiting Errol Flynn’s grave in Los Angeles.(on my list). But the re-entry process is a little talked about side effect of travel. The coming home can be just as painful as the departure as realities set in.
I know I’m close when the long flat line of weatherboard houses unfolds into fast food outlets, the long-closed aquarium shop and the tram terminus at Melville Road.
We all have our own versions of Bell street. Do we choose to enter or exit? We can choose to be the same or reinvent. We all want to be somewhere else.