4 min

The home stretch

Things we are finding it increasingly difficult to live without

THE RAIN IN SPAIN. Falls mostly in Barcelona, where Abi is currently experiencing a bout of homesickness. Credit: Megan Richards

Blah blah blah Europe. Blah blah blah lucky. Blah blah blah adventure. Blah blah blah charming. Blah blah blah relaxation. Blah blah blah napping. Blah blah blah simplify. Blah blah blah….

We are in the home stretch. In three months and two days we will be home. Canada. Toronto. Parkdale. We will land three days after my 37th birthday, two days before Christmas and 350 days after we first touched down across the Atlantic at London Gatwick Airport and started our year away.

In the 11.5 months that we will have spent in Europe we will have been to more than 25 cities in England, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Austria. We will have visited the Notre Dame in Paris, the Duomo in Milan, St Peter’s Cathedral in London, the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral in Barcelona and countless other Christian places of worship. We will have walked the streets of at least five “old Jewish quarters,” been to the Centre Pompidou, the Tate Modern and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (our own houses of the holy) and had our feet in the Mediterranean more times than we have digits to count on.

By the time we touch down on Canadian soil we will have forgotten several of the amazing places we ate, things we saw and possibly even addresses we called home for however short a time. There will be weeks we don’t remember and events that we only recall when prompted by looking at the more than 1,200 pictures my wife has already taken. It will have been a whirlwind tour. A year travelling Europe as an adult — armed with the confidence of maturity and self-sufficiency. And something that, despite language barriers and occasional disorientation, we will certainly miss.

The one thing we won’t miss? Homesickness.

In the planning and discussing and list-making stage of the adventure we were never naïve enough to think we wouldn’t miss home. We have it good there. We have great friends, a solid community and a full social calendar. We have good jobs and an apartment that despite our need for “new” we have managed to hold onto for close to five years. And although Toronto was never going to be the forever place, right now it’s where the heart is and thusly home.

It’s hard to explain sometimes why we’re homesick to friends, family and coworkers who would rather be anywhere than heading to the laundromat or on the 504 streetcar along King St on their way to work. And I do know that it sounds a lot like whining when we talk about how our sublet doesn’t have a nonstick frying pan, a garlic press, full-sized refrigerator, toilet-roll holder or bedroom door. But there are creature comforts of our very own that we have invested in over the 13 years we have been together and in the years before we met.

Our comforts are simple — nothing extravagant like Veuve Clicquot at breakfast or a masseuse who lives in the guesthouse… or a guesthouse. Some of them are things that we can buy on the cheap when we move into a new place (like a cheese grater or Windex) but there are others that don’t come so easy.

If anyone has any ideas about where we can pick up any of the following, feel free to let us know.

Things We Are Finding it Increasingly Hard to Live Without in no Particular Order

1. A bath. Okay, so maybe a bit of a luxury, but bathtubs around these parts are not east to come by. Not only is there limited space in bathrooms, but even if you are inventive and make a space (we did go see an apartment to sublet in Berlin where a full-sized tub pulled out from under the kitchen sink like a giant drawer) there is no guarantee that you will be able to secure enough hot water to fill said bathtub leaving you with nothing but heartache.

2. Our BFF couple. It all began at the birthday party for a mutual vegetarian friend. Sitting at a long dining table my wife, and one half of the couple who are now our travelling partners, dinner companions and confidantes, started talking about their love of meat. The bloodier the better. The gamier the better. The more you have to gnaw at it like animals the better. And as the conversation grew to a fever pitch it was clear to me that this was the start of something. What I didn’t know was that hearing their voice through the little speaker on our MacBook every few weeks would be just enough to make us almost feel like they were across town. A shoddy, but passable facsimile for too many cocktails and a lot of laughs, real live and in person.

3. Brown sugar. Not raw sugar. Not something sweet and granular that is beige-ish in colour. But honest to G-d brown sugar. The sticky kind. The kind that tastes like molasses and makes chocolate chip cookies and Trinidad pelau taste like it should. Rich, layered and smooth. Nothing else can “do in a pinch” and we have found nothing like it on the shelves of any grocery stores, high-end or run-of-the-mill, so far in the past 8.5 months.

4. Our “the boys.” I’m quite certain that they are not exclusively our boys, with lesbians vying for their undivided attention at every turn, but to refer to them as anything less would ignore the fact that a) one of said boys has been part of my wife’s life since David Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour and b) I’ve shared a bed with the second boy. Snuggled even. They know that I like to eat at odd times of the night (preferably crackers), that my wife can be trusted to push you through to the finish line of any project big or small and we know of their love of Kate Bush and unshakable drive to have a fabulous time and nothing less. We have met some amazing boys here, and spent some time with other lovely boys we know from our life back home don’t get me wrong. But when you know not only the names but birthdays and biggest fears of someone’s siblings, it’s a whole other level.

5. English language newspapers. At home we don’t have a regular subscription to the newspaper. Sure, we’ve toyed with the Toronto Star, and The Globe and Mail, but it’s never been anything serious. Saturday mornings (and Sunday mornings if we’re feeling rich and splurge for The Sunday New York Times) are not the same without newsprint fingers and several cups of coffee before facing the world. The International Herald Tribune or the international issue of The Guardian can stand-in if you can find them, but they have no heft. Sections do not break into the double digits and the arts coverage is nonexistent. We have resorted to reading the news on the internet (when we can connect) but it’s not the same. It is not tactile. It has no smell. And when you read something you find horrifying, banal or offensive, you can’t ball it up and throw it across the room.

Who knew the homestretch would be so long.