In the last four years I’ve made three visits back home — once by overland transport, once by hitch-hiking, and finally by bicycle. Last week I arrived back without any plans to leave again — the idea being that Tenny and I will now (at least attempt to) settle here.
I always have mixed feelings when I touch down on British soil, but first amongst them is that I really don’t know anything about this country. Like so many, I’d taken the world I’d known and inhabited — the little drop of experience I’d gleaned during 23 years in small-town English Midlands, combined with a handful of headlines — and extrapolated it to represent the nation, the continent, the planet. Travelling long-term by bicycle brought my error to light. We all know so little about life on this planet, yet so many of us assume so much.
That’s why I can now answer the question I’d flung about derisively, even sneeringly, while I was preparing to leave back in 2007: Why would anyone, having cut all their ties and gone off into the world, choose to return to this place?