The title is part of the poem spoken by Bilbo Baggins at the end of “The Hobbit” by J.R.R Tolkein, as he sees his home from afar on his return. However he did not finally settle there, moving to Rivendel before the events of “The Lord of the Rings”. Eventually he and others, including Frodo and Gandalf sailed off to the West and out of the knowledge of the people of Middle Earth.
This poem came to mind as we returned to New Zealand from England, having visited relatives in England, Wales and Ireland. We had a great time and it was sad to leave, but when we touched down in Auckland I have never previously felt so deeply that we had arrived home. And we still had the leg to Wellington to complete!
The leg from Auckland to Wellington was brilliant! The air was so clear, although with some cloud, so the mountains poked their snowy heads through the white blanket. Even the lower peaks of some of the hills showed snow cover, as New Zealand had just emerged from a cold snap.
As we closed on Wellington I could see Kapiti Island from the window. Unfortunately my cell phone had run out of power so I could not take any pictures. To add insult to injury we turned left and passed south of Kapiti Island before passing to the west of Titahi Bay Porirua Harbour.
Just before Porirua city the clouds closed in, hiding the city itself and the northern suburbs of Wellington. The cloud cleared a little further south but not in time for me to spot our roof from the air!
As we passed over Wellington Harbour I got a good view of the lower Hutt Valley, including Petone and its wharf, close to where I used to work. Then it was all stations go for landing.
My own experiences led me to consider travels in general. As you do. We were excited to leave, since were going to see our relatives and have interesting times. Bilbo Baggins set out excitedly and with trepidation. In his case he knew very little about what was going to happen to him, and had he known, his cautious streak may well have impeded his going.
As with Bilbo’s travels, our travels had their excitements and their tedious aspects. As with Bilbo, the first sight of home came as an immense relief and the experiences of our travels became things to tell other about, to share with them. We however met no dragons though we saw many representations of them in Wales.
This seems to me to be a common pattern. Even to blasé businessman travellers there must be some slight anticipation of events of the day or days ahead. When returning home, even the businessman would probably be looking forward to sleeping in his own bed. Even a simple commute to work embodies this pattern of anticipation, experiencing and relief on return to home.
Frodo reports that Bilbo warned of the dangers of going on a journey.
“He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'”.
While neither Bilbo (in “The Hobbit”) or Frodo (in “The Lord of the Rings”) left home completely willingly, Bilbo being chivvied into it by Gandalf, and Frodo out of duty, many people completely willingly step into the “great river” that starts at every doorstep. There appears to be a conflict between the desire to remain comfortable at home and to experience new things.
We were extremely tired by our journey which took a mere month or so. I can’t imagine how people such as Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo spent so long travelling. Marco Polo was away for 24 years!
Interestingly many travellers returned with truly amazing tales, of tribes of people with no heads, their faces in their torsos. Of people who consisted of large feet with eyes and mouths, presumably divided into left-footed and right-footed tribes. Where are these strange tribes today?
Today of course we can travel round the earth in a day, and to places in between in a few days or so. It is apparent to us that those fanciful peoples could never have existed, so where did they spring from?
Well, a traveller would know that his tall tales would be next to unverifiable. He may well have been travelling for months and would know that it was unlikely that anyone would go and check his reports. It may be that his communications with local inhabitants was limited and that he misunderstood the locals and then reported what he thought they had told him as his own experiences.
Maybe the traveller would be trying to source funds to go back again, maybe to bring back one of these mysterious people. I can report that all the people that I met and saw were built to the standard pattern!
One thing that Columbus and Polo would not have had to cope with is jet lag. This condition is a consequence of moving to fast between time zones. At the rate that Polo was travelling that would be the least of his problems. I’ve not read his history but I can guess that he did not so much as travel slowly as move his home steadily to the east and then to the west as the commercial opportunities arose. While Columbus travelled faster, his rate of travel through the time zones probably caused him few problems.
So, glad as I am to get home, I find jet lag debilitating. I’m fine when I get up, and fine during the day, but for some reason, when 7pm or 8pm rolls around my eyes start to droop. They say that jet lag lasts for a few days, so I should be over it in a day or so.
(This blog has returned to normal. I hope someone out there enjoys my maunderings.)