When I attended university in Toronto, I wasn’t a very happy guy. I didn’t like what I was studying, I didn’t like my living arrangements, and I was lonely. A good number of my best friends lived in Montreal at the time and from a distance, their experiences at McGill seemed so much more fun and satisfying and exciting in just about every way. They had lots of friends, some had girlfriends, they liked their campus (when they went to class) and it was where I wanted to be. So at every opportunity, I’d head to the bus station in Chinatown and hop on a Greyhound for a six hour ride down the 401. It was a long ride but I was always so excited to make the trip that it didn’t seem like any sort of hardship. I’d spend three or four days with my pals, meet new friends, play pool in cool bars and hang out with some stylish and pretty young women.
That was one way and one distance. On the Sunday or Monday, when I boarded the return bus to Toronto, where I had little to look forward to but the sadness and loneliness I’d left behind only a few days earlier, that same distance on that same bus seemed like an entirely different journey. Sometimes it really isn’t the journey and it really is the destination that stays with you.
It can work both ways. A flight to a vacation spot carries excitement while the same flight home might elicit relief. Getting into a dentist’s chair takes the same energy as getting out of one but no one prefers the former more than the latter. I feel that way about haircuts too. When the cape comes off, I’m a six year old boy unleashed to the freedoms of outdoor play.
I recently went somewhere I dreaded going to. It was only a ten minute drive from my home but in those ten minutes, it turned my stomach into knots. It may as well have been the unpleasant version of the six hour bus ride back to loneliness. But when I left to return home, it was not at all the same travel. It was sunny and cool and I walked the four kilometres home. Savouring every step. Because I knew that where I was going was infinitely better than where I was coming from and I was lucky to have the destination that I did. I even took a longer detour through the autumn leaves to appreciate the journey just a little bit longer.
And unlike my excited travels to Montreal over thirty years ago, when I wanted to get where I was going as quickly as possible, this time I wanted to take my time because it’s an irreplaceable feeling knowing you are headed to where you belong.