It astounds me to realise that we’ve spent a whole season in a different part of the world. We arrived about 12 weeks ago to days that were getting warmer and were already much, much longer than we are used to. Sunset at 22:30 took some getting used to!
These days it’s dark by 20:30. The leaves are starting to turn and today in a park I noticed how many had been shed already. The crowds are also thinning. Literally overnight, here in Lucca, there are noticeably less people in the medieval streets and under the restaurant umbrellas on the piazzas. The last weekend in August is proving to be as significant as we’d been told almost from the start of our trip. August is the busiest holiday month in Europe, people said, but from the 20th onwards, holidaymakers start returning to work and schools reopen. We can see it happening here, and it drives home the realisation that as summer is ending, so too our trip is drawing to a close.
It is a complex thought to deal with. The past 84 days feel like both a lifetime and the blink of an eye. When I let my thoughts wander through everything we’ve experienced, the incredible richness of it all is almost too much to comprehend. But it has gone quickly too.
As the time approaches to pack our suitcases one final time, I am increasingly grateful that we are not going home in the sense of returning to the place where we used to live. I feel too much of a different person to simply fall back into the life I’ve had before. The fact that we get to choose a new home, is a tremendous gift at the end of this experience. We’ve started looking at rental properties currently available, and there are a number that, at least on paper, could fit our bill. That’s exciting; a whole new adventure on which to embark. Having packed up everything and left once before, has also freed us from the mental shackles that often add weight to the decision on where to live. We know it is not the biggest decision we will ever make. This place won’t be forever; we can change our minds again if we want, and that is hugely liberating.
On a more personal note, I’m evolving towards a new hairstyle. That sounds odd, I know. My last cut-and-colour was on the day we left South Africa (31 May). In the meantime, my hair has grown long enough to be clipped into a “bun” behind my head – quick, easy and out of my face. My natural colour is also clearly visible for the first time in years. There’s more grey than I would have liked, but over the past number of weeks I’ve come to accept that, and am now rather curious to see what I will look like without the highlights that have been part of my life for about two decades. I’m being reintroduced to my own hair… It feels significant, hence I’m not feeling the need to dash off to the hairdresser as soon as we land. In fact, I’ve just about decided that a new hairdresser would be a good move too.
On a practical level, I’m planning to leave behind some of the clothes I brought. I’ve done so already with a pair of boots and a pair of jeans left behind in Dublin. By this time next week a pair of shorts and possibly two tops and a scarf will also be history. And almost definitely one pair of Sketchers shoes. The summer clothes I brought have served their purpose; they’ve been worn and washed many times. I’m ready to dress my new life differently.
I don’t know yet what that new life will be like once we’re back in Johannesburg. But as the season changes around me in many ways, big and small, I feel ready to find out. Most importantly, I am determined to not squander this moment by stepping back into the ways that once were.