Are all explorers lost and is Scotland the best?
on Phnom Penh Pal (Cambodia), 30/May/2014 06:06, 34 days ago
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When a friend of mine left Scotland to work in France, I was envious of him as I imagined what it would be like to live in France with red wine, croissants and cheese. I found it hard to understand why he continued to insist that Scotland was still the best country in the world. My incomprehension was not resolved by his inability to explain why. Finding it difficult to capture the right words, or even identifiable things that makes Scotland the best, he had to settle for telling me that it was the best because it just is. I was left puzzled and doubtful.As a child, a day after arriving at our holiday destination, I would ask my parents when we could go back home. Maybe I felt that I I would miss a great game of football with friends or that it was the perfect season to be playing golf. Or something else that a ten-year old’s life may revolve around. It was not that I did not like these places or struggled being away from home, I guess it was just that home was where my life was.It seems to me that the desire to explore is at odds with the desire to be where your life is, unless your life is only what is with you at that particular moment in time. For most people, life is much more than what is in that instant as it contains the people and places that have become woven into our lives over long periods of time. When attempting to fulfill a desire to explore, it can be very difficult to take your entire life with you and I sometimes wonder whether constant explorers are those without much life behind them.Before coming to Cambodia, an acquaintance approached me at the end of a meeting and shook my hand. He had previously spent four years in Brazil and had done other travelling. A warm, light hearted man, he looked at me seriously, carefully even, and told me“don’t get lost”.Immediately, I knew what those words meant. They had the same meaning as the fear that was inside of me as a child when I wanted to go back home as soon as I had arrived on holiday. They had the same meaning as the fear that propelled me to go through all of my classmates names during the long summer holiday. It was not that I was scared of getting lost - I remember sometimes dreaming of being alone in a far off country, sitting drinking a beer and reading a book - more specifically, I was scared that I would be lost to others. The further you explore, the harder it is to reach those behind.Claire has spoken about the feeling that some people have when doing VSO of feeling like they have pushed the pause button on their life. As if when they leave home, everything in their life stops but in a not-quite-real-life parallel universe, they fulfill their desire to explore and seek new experiences, only hitting the play button on their real life when they return. For me, I find that not only is life paused but my identity of who I am is also suspended a little as in this not-quite-real-life-parallel universe my identify forms with different people and events shaping it.For me a special time in Cambodia is between 4:30pm and 6:30pm when the sun begins and finishes its descent. I sit on our roof, looking into the distance, breathing in the experience of Cambodia. There is a magical light that fills me with happiness, but I have realized that part of this happiness is because the light makes me think of those long, summer, Scottish evenings. They make me think of home. They make me think of my life there and the people in it.A lot of things, a lot of wonders, go into making a country what it is. Unweaving this wonderscape to explain exactly why Scotland is the best place in the world is as hard as unweaving a rainbow. I write this blog in Guangzhou airport on my way back to Scotland having finished my time as a VSO volunteer, but maybe not having finished my time exploring. I want to see my friend and tell him that now I understand what he means and why it was difficult to explain. But most importantly, I want to ask him to make sure that even if I keep exploring, I am never lost. Gordon