It’s the end of ‘How did this person afford another trip to Europe?’ season and on-trend, I’ve bitten fresh oranges outside Trattorias and grumbled on delayed Italo trains. I’ve bought a Maradona t-shirt in Naples, broken my vegetarianism for clam linguine; I’ve dangled my salty penne under a Neapolitan bridge after the urge to be submerged and yelled ‘Andy-ammo!’ at bike riding tourists. As I wrote this, I sat in a cosy ‘Italian’ café in Perth City, Western Australia. As I edit, I’m sitting in Moca at the Blackheath standard. I’m evidently obsessed. I can’t fly 15,000 kilometres or walk for 5 mins at home without dipping my greedy lingua into espresso art. It seems that with just one flight, I hopelessly empty my bank account into the card readers of Italians worldwide. I’ve come to name this dreamy nostalgia for getting-in-touch-with-self(ish) decisions Travel-logic. It feels ironic, confused, privileged, and near unbearable. However, even as I’ve run Apple-Pay-first into this vermilion hot summer, I’ve yet to seriously ask myself what’s next. Yet to really decide if the ‘next’ matters.
About 3 years ago, 2 close friends and I took a trip that can unfortunately only be described as an Interrail. Like 3 burnt and bunless bacon rashers we anglicized our way across Europe, complaining about stag weekends with our bum bags. On one especially saturated night, we visited Karlovy Lázně, a silly nightclub overlooking the Charles Bridge in Prague. In the smoking area, I received a call from one of my travel companions, let’s call him Tim. (it’s Teo)
Seb: I’m in the smoking area, where u?
Seb: Where are u?!
Tim: We’re in Oldies
Tim: Oldies! We’re in Oldies!
The signal was bad, but I was energetic. A prickly drunk. Alright! I shouted, going to Aldi. I hung up and shot towards the end of the corridor. Blue cobbles behind bouncers. I marched out. Then quickly received another call.
Tim: Oldies Seb! Oldies.
Seb: I thought you said… Aldi!
Tim: There aren’t Aldis in Prague Seb
I turned towards a club exit most accurately described as a ‘man-wall’. Appendages like industrial piping. Stark, shining baldness. But I was shitfaced, unfazed. I begged for a second. Then promptly gave up. Tim was calling but I was glancing into the mustard yellow bustle of the club. If I just got to the crowd, I must have thought, I could disappear! The rush of idiocy reached my legs long before it reached my head. I bolted. Right through the man barricade. I made it about 3 meters. In one swift movement, 4 separate men took me by my extremities. They taught me how to fly. Right through the exit, out into the cool Czech Republican night, with the ease of airing a bedsheet.
I’m not one to desire the life of a club fugitive. Nor do I seek unwinnable fights with 20 men. Every day of that trip I’d willed myself to think less and less. I wanted us to be train-hopping plankton with loud anecdotes. At one stage, in a tired, emotional outburst, I raged at my friend for his advice. I blamed him for many of my teenage insecurities. The talk had been coming but my union of Pilsner Urquell and angry man tears chose the steps of Szimpla Kert to air my dirty self-talk. I’d just finished my A-levels after retaking and was tired of blaming myself, so I blamed someone else.
While on my recent holiday to Italy, I didn’t look to blame anyone for my final grade. Even excessive drinking took a back seat, and the arguments were never bigger than a lover’s quarrel. Instead, Travel-logic had turned serious. Multiple people were writing diaries. Sometimes it was in the same room. I had to constantly resist the urge to steal them, flipbook through. Run in circles bird-calling. Not because I thought it was pretentious or useless. I was being motorboated by anxiety as I realized my degree was over. I wanted us all to acknowledge it together, or at least create a satisfying sense of conclusion. Neither was forthcoming. Instead, I wrote down conversations. Tried to be sophisticated. It had always been disarming to me when I viewed the privilege of university study as a time to mull over the future. A period in which to become lost. I assumed the intention was to therefore discover an onset purpose. Only as my third year ended did I find the real indulgence was the confusion when my expectations failed me. Being more knowledgeable and accumulating the reasons for your doubt does not make you more stable, or more importantly, happier.
This may sound dramatic, a typical renunciation of higher education as I leave with my gown tailing between my legs. But degrees are dramatic. Graduations are even more so. My final year pureed my nerves. Someone in 2nd year actually said to me, “I’ve gone home and I might have to go back to Tesco’s, don’t graduate Seb, don’t ever do it.” That’s dramatic! Sensational reason to procrastinate. I could have joined the circus trying to unicycle that load of shit around my head as I poured over my dissertation. On our first night in Palermo, I was smashed and eating something pasta based when my partner elegantly but forcefully demonstrated she thought the simple tomato and pasta dish I’d ordered her was far below standard. It was one of the few orders free of animal stuff with the option to be cheese-less. The waiter was horrified at her insignificant eating but swiftly took it away. This presented me with a chance to use a phrase I’d learned, ‘Mia moglie e incinta!’ I lauded, gawking a huge grin, squid ink lining my teeth like a caveman eating an ink pen. My wife was pregnant, what a thrill! As we all laughed about it after, tapping our cards in the tourist traps, I was a proud father, teary-eyed, red wine drunk. Absolutely anything was possible. I might never have to go home. I could irrigate wine, gain a paunch, smoke cigarillos, buy a small wooden chair and a flat cap and drive my daughter to the shopping centre at the weekend. ‘Where is glue?’ I’d ask a week later in a Bolognian stationary shop, ‘Dove la Cazzla?’ I said, smiling…… I’d asked the poor man ‘Where is cock?’ My time had come to return to the island.
Things look to have one more twist in their tail for me as I pack to go to Paris and see my partner in her new home tomorrow. I hoped in writing this to blur the line between delusions we permit ourselves when we feel most free, and the seemingly unchanging realities of our lives at home. To express gratitude for how much of the world I’ve seen this year and for the people I love who I’ve been able to do it with. This is also a signing-off for AFlatWhite. Although this blog has been used little in the last few years, I wanted to formally say goodbye. This blog was never supposed to be regular. It was always a place to do and say and post whatever I wanted. That’s the way it will stay as I begin something new. I’ve found that the main result of asking myself what’s ‘next’ is that I’m more certain of what cannot come with me than what can. It’s time to declare some irrational certainties, start a new project, and try not to become a Corpo pawn as I begin the first year of my life outside of education since I was 5. I wish you the best for the future. I hope you get horribly lost. You and me both.