25,500km, 12 countries, 3 continents and four and a half months later and finally I’m back in London.
First I spent a few days in Berlin with Ivan and Sabine, two friends of mine. The sun shines, the tree line streets pavements are filled with tables and chairs as cafes make the most of the weather and Berliners sip coffee in the dappled shade. We wander along the canal, buy cake to eat with coffee later in the day and drink a glass of rose in the sun. I meet other friends and we sip Prosecco over celebratory lunches and dinners.
Having lived here for a few months last year, Berlin feels familiar and welcoming and it seems as if I’ve reached the end of my journey. So when I pull on my backpack for the final leg to London, I’ve already lost some of my traveller vibe.
It’s a six hour journey to Brussels and the train breaks down just inside the Belgian border – unbelievable the first real delay of my journey. Then Eurostar speeds me from Brussels to London in just under two hours. It’s early morning. The sun is shining, the sky blue. I try to feel something as I look at the English countryside stream past outside the window but all I experience is a sense of anti-climax.
Then, too soon, we’re at Euston and I stop two French girls and ask them to take my photo. ‘I’ve just finished a journey from Australia,’ I tell them, but they don’t speak English and just smile and nod vaguely. As I pose, for a moment at least, I feel celebratory. ‘I’ve done it,’ I tell myself, a big smile on my face.
A few minutes later I'm negotiating Kings Cross station in rush hour as I head towards the Tube to travel to my friend Valerie’s house in west London. The Piccadilly line isn’t running, people are staring moodily at maps as they make alternative plans. I squeeze on with my oversize bag, pressed against morose commuters, hot and sweaty, changing in busy Victoria, then rattling for half an hour into the London suburbs.
When I emerge from the tube the weather has changed. There’s a cool breeze blowing and dark clouds scudding across the sky. I walk to Valerie’s house, looking forward to seeing her, to a cup of tea, to finishing.
But the walk leaves me feeling disoriented. London feels familiar but it doesn’t feel like home. I feel at once comfortable and a step removed: like looking through a pane of glass or watching a familiar cityscape on a movie screen. I don’t know if I belong here anymore. I’m already wondering what I’ll do next. And moment by moment the magic of the journey, the freedom of travelling, is slipping from my shoulders.