Partir pour mieux revenir.
I left home in August 2011 without once looking back, striving for something new. What exactly, I couldn’t tell, but I needed air. Ironically, I felt trapped
between the great metal bridges of my island; Montreal seemed to have nothing to offer, nothing that would make me feel I was doing something special or remotely important, nothing that would make me matter. Like an ant in a giant nest, I was following a path that had been designed for someone else. Therefore, when I was offered an opportunity to work abroad, I leapt at the chance, not knowing if I’d ever come back.
When I first arrived in Europe, I felt dizzy, drunk with all the opportunities that it offered. The closeness of Berlin, London, Prague and Istambul gave me chills; I wanted to see everything at once. Looking back today, it indeed feels like I lived 3 years over the course of a single one. During my stays in The Hague (the Netherlands) and London (UK), I met people from all around the globe leading lives I would have never suspected; Egyptian revolutionaries, war refugees, undercover forensics agents, ambassadors and diplomats, all of whom were equally curious of my embarrassingly plain background as I was of theirs.
Whenever I could, I would travel, visiting Sweden, Hungary, Belgium and Czech Republic, rediscovering France and learning about countless other countries through my friends’ stories. I loved the rush, the constant novelty, the challenge to adapt, the urge never to miss anything. The fact that I could never quite establish a total comfort zone made me more daring, more enterprising. Everything felt so breathtakingly limitless. I could rebuild everything I had worked for, if I wanted to. Yet, at times, this absence of borders felt like a free fall. I missed things to connect to.
I first missed autumn. I missed the colors, the tipped sunlight and my dog’s comical habit to roll in the dead leaves until only his snout would stick out. Then, I missed the distinctive smell that would mark every new season. The 3am bagels with garlic cream cheese you knew you’d regret the next morning, but stuffed your face with anyway, sitting on the sidewalk, burning your fingers on the scolding hot bread. I missed great spaces and friendly people. The sting of the cold winter winds. Then I missed my own. The people who knew me most for exactly who I was and not whom I was trying to be. The simplicity of unquestionable friendships. I missed speaking French, my French. Quebec vernacular is a comical jargon to most and even to me, it sounds at times aberrantly uneducated and rough. Yet, it’s the language I speak with my heart and tripes, the one whose words sound truest in my mouth.
All these things I missed, I found again with a renewed delight when I came back. I learned to cherish things I loved. The coffee at the Club Social, my favorite café at the heart of the Mile End; the buzzing activity of the street festivals, contrasting so violently with the stillness of the warm summer nights; the smell of my dog’s paws, so close to that of basmati rice… I banked on all these fleeting moments of quiet joys that I knew I would be chasing in my memory over lonelier days.
Nevertheless, I still feel the call for new horizons. That pang in my stomach when I hear of something new never really let go of me. To this day, I live my life one month at the time, not knowing for sure where I’ll be next, always leaving space for new opportunities. I have yet to see Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Algeria, visit Nepal, Tibet, Cambodge, Viet Nam, Laos and Japan, walk through the Mongolian steppes, the great mountains of Patagonia and Bolivia’s salt flats. I still don’t know exactly what home is, but I guess I never knew and have yet to learn.
I am still restless, but differently. In the end, along with the fantastic new friendships, the constant discoveries, the culture shocks, and the thirst for new places that punctuated my journey, there’s one thing I brought back with me, one thing I am most grateful for: it is my travelling that made me able to reconnect with the town I am from. To see Montreal with the eyes of a stranger. To travel in my own city, whose mysteries and beauty were once lost to me.
Therefore, to all those eternal nomads, whether assumed or closeted, I wish good luck. Because I believe that although you will have to give in to that screaming need to be on the move, to never stop exploring, there will come a time when you will also have to find the passion to stay.