Monday, December 7, 2015

A Sentimental Journey

A couple of weeks ago, I made a slightly weird trip to America, to my home state of Georgia. It wasn’t exactly an impromptu trip, but it was unexpected in some ways, even extraordinary.

In the past, I usually traveled to my native land with my family during the summer, when the kids were out of school, back before they were all grown up. This time I went alone, and this time it was in autumn, a season in which I have found myself in America only once in the past quarter-century.

As odd as the timing was, the route I took was also unusual. It was convoluted, you might even say highly impractical and in some small way adventurous. I hope to share some impressions from that trip in later posts, hopefully before they fade. We’ll see.

Ever since my father died in 2006, I have had some unfinished family business back in Georgia that I’ve kept putting off, especially as my visits back there became less frequent. I am even now a bit shocked to realize I have been to Georgia only twice in the past ten years, and the last time was over five years ago. I guess that’s how things go.

Anyway, feeling that I finally couldn’t put off making a short trip to Georgia any longer, I jumped at the chance when I saw that SAS was offering super cheap flights to the States this autumn. Only, none of these flights was to Atlanta. The closest destination was, in fact, Washington, D.C.

Still, I convinced myself that Washington, on the edge of Dixie, is not that far from North Georgia. And, I’m always certainly up for doing a little road trip, although doing one solo was a completely new experience for me.

Anyway, that’s how I found myself in the States, road tripping on my own some 500 miles (800 km) to Georgia, not exactly on holiday, but driven by a need – a need tinged with profoundly bittersweet expectations – to wrap up some personal affairs.

One item on that agenda was the bringing back to Finland of an heirloom, my father’s guitar. That was a small challenge in itself, considering how we are long past the golden age of passenger-friendly air travel when you could bring all manner of luggage onto planes without incurring extra charges.

I was also acutely aware that wrapping up things, finally, at the old homestead meant I might not be coming back again for some time. Or maybe I will. Who knows? In any event, when you leave any place there is never a guarantee that you will ever return. 

So, my quick trip Stateside had all the makings for a very sentimental journey, and it was. 

I was able to re-connect with some places from my previous life. I was able to spend time with close relatives I don’t often see, though sadly only a few, so short was the time. And I was able to get some superficial feeling for what’s going on now in that part of America – on the ground, as they say.

It seems I should be able, after such a trip, to sit down and reflect on all the places I went and all the things I did, process it all and then discover one or two gems of understanding, of revelation, of self-awareness that sums up the whole experience. If there are such "gems" to discover, that is.

The best I can come up with is this:  We should try as hard as we can to hang onto family, no matter how distant and different we might be. The passage of time is relentless. It can be a brutal reality to face. The past really is past – sometimes a hard, but necessary, truth to grapple with. And the landscape of my own past life, still familiar from so many memories, is moving on without me, making me feel less and less a part of it. 

With each long-delayed visit back there, America seems increasingly to me to be a weird place in some ways. More than ever, the country I grew up (especially the South) and I seem to be diverging, moving further apart. Traveling to my hometown, I felt more than ever like a mere visitor there, a foreigner. I guess that's natural after so long. 

To quote the writer Thomas Wolfe, whose own hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, I paid a quick visit to during this trip: “You can’t go home again.”

Tell me about it. 

Selfie somewhere deep in the woods of North Georgia. 
I do miss the sunshine.


  1. Nice, heartfelt, and brief. It reflect, I reckon, your trip.

  2. I think I know how you feel; it's the same for me when I go back to Yorkshire and that's not often. Now I only have a grave to visit there and a house that is no longer ours. Even so Yorkshire is a part of me I will not give up on. The English call it "God's own country" so I will be going back again and again and the memories remain. You're right about how cruel time can be. Loved this post.

    1. Thanks Masha, that's nice to hear! You know what I'm talking about. Those of us who have moved far from our beginnings, know all too well how bittersweet stepping back into that world can be. It's home, but not anymore.