Post-trip melancholy

Last Friday, as my trip to Italy was coming to an end, I wrote the following text as an attempt to capture this very special moment that always comes at the end of holidays, trying to put words on my thoughts and describing what this post-trip melancholy felt like. I’m now back at home but still in the same state of mind, so I decided to share it with you even if it’s quite personal. I hope you’ll like it!

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I’m trying to write these lines as soon as possible, in the heat of the moment, before the feelings that obsess me vanish, feelings that are as evanescent as the moments of happiness of these last days. I would have liked to draw them out, again and again, as much as possible, to catch in the palm of my hand this essence of joy to feed on. But nothing lasts forever, and that would only strip these short-lived instants of their substance: it’s actually because they are so rare, so carefree, so light-hearted, that they appear to be so beautiful and strong. Hoping to relive them over and over again is just one of the countless contradictions of my mind.

It’s Friday night and it’s my last day in Italy. Tomorrow, I’ll head towards Switzerland and then back home to France on Sunday. I’m coming to the end of my two weeks’ holidays, but for me it’s like the adventure has been over since this morning as I left Como in the rain, with a bittersweet mix of unbearable sadness and fabulous memories. Since I left, I’ve been playing on a loop a song which is also particularly melancholic and which I happened to come across just the night before: Big Scary – The Opposite Of Us.

There were two distinct parts in this trip. A first “classical” part, during which I either stayed in Airbnbs or hotels. The first week was all fabulous landscapes and wonderful cities: Pisa, the Cinque Terre, Venice, the Dolomites… And then a second part way more unexpected, from Verona to Como, this time in youth hostels, with slightly less discoveries but exceptional intensity. It’s this part that I’d like to talk about here.

I voluntarily chose to avoid hostels at the beginning of my trip because of Covid. Apart from the health effects and the human drama that hit so many families, this virus has a unique capacity to rob us of everything we love, to destroy everything that makes life so enjoyable: gathering with others, living together in society, sharing festive moments, simply meeting people. I don’t really know why halfway through my trip I decided to change my plans and spend the next few nights in youth hostels, but I can only be happy about this choice that transformed my holidays, making them even more outstanding and memorable.

It was my first solo trip for more than a year and a half. I think that over the last months, I  had forgotten how much I loved it. I had forgotten the unique atmosphere of youth hostels, that amazing feeling that anything is possible, how easy it is to meet people, the intensity of the links that are created sometimes for a few hours only, without ever thinking of tomorrow that somehow never comes. It was almost like a rebirth: I found these emotions buried deep inside me, and I couldn’t imagine ever feeling them again. I hadn’t felt that way since those few days in San Francisco in May 2018. Two and a half years ago already!

When I arrived in this tiny hostel close to the centre of Verona on Sunday night, I met James and Dominic, English and Irish, with whom I was going to hike at Lake Garda two days later; Rachel, also English who was leaving for Milan the next day; and three young Germans, Franz, Lili and Valentin as well as another English girl, Sian, who after Verona were all heading to Como, where we’d meet in the same hostel again (and even in the same dorm!). I only saw them for a few hours in total, we only spent two or three nights together and I’ll probably never see them again, but it was enough for these moments to become unforgettable, just as the moments with Hugues, Mathilde and Valentin in Quebec City, with Théo and Khalia in Prague, with my Banana Friends in Hawaii… and so many others (if you’re wondering: no, I don’t remember the names of all the people I meet, but the faces and the moments lived together are never forgotten!).

lake-garda-malcesine-view

As I left Como this morning, I easily recognised that bittersweet feeling that I had already experienced so many times before: when I came back from Australia in July 2017, at the airport of San Francisco one year later, when I left Melbourne for good in February 2019, even if that time I went back home for different reasons. It’s the post-trip melancholy, these magical moments you try to hold on to as long as possible but which vanish as quickly as they appear, these memories which bring life to the gallery of places, moments and faces deep inside my mind. I don’t want these moments to stop, but even the best things have to end, and it’s because they do end that they are so intense.

Lake Maggiore, beach

Post-trip melancholy: an allegory

There’s only one solution left: leave again, start anew, travel once more and find this very unique taste, this incredible happiness that will always go hand in hand with this deep melancholy. When will it happen to me again?

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