January crossed into February. The snows were joined by ice and fog and a coldness clung to the city, to my heart and the hostel cleared out, at times completely. Lifeless for days on end. Mostly, in these quiet days, I just sat in the dark reception, huddled next to an electric heater for hours, running the hostel single handedly whilst the owner, Ali, covered errands. The excitement that came with travelers faded for a while, as I churned away on my photography and convinced myself that I was progressing, writing and creating. But, I was just delaying, looking into a glowing screen for hours or out of the windows onto a grey and damp world. Reflecting on what had been. Imagining a future yet lived.
When February crossed into March, when the first pink petals burst from the trees and into the world, I knew that, after three months, I had stumbled into a routine, that I was locked, that, when presented with the opportunity to withdraw from life, I still took it. The arrival of spring was something I should have experienced by bicycle and I was growing irritable because of it. Some days, during the snows of February, I would never leave the hostel, moving from reception to my room, restless when too many arrivals came at once, disrupting the balance of the world I was now in charge of, frustrated by the lack of privacy. This had happened before, in a place that seemed so long ago, a small office at the top of cramped london building.
It was still an incredible time. Required, simply, to be friends with everyone, to talk to guests, make them feel welcome, learn about them, from them, make them happy whether they were escaping their ordinary lives for just a week or an entire gap year. This was my job. In fact, it was perhaps the most relaxed job I’d ever had, at least the most instantly rewarding and more so for knowing that my journey could continue again at any time, that there was so much more to come, that there was a beautiful future for me beyond Turkey whatever road I chose. With this in my mind, I was happy. The large scale advertising campaigns I had worked on months earlier in London seemed insignificant and unimportant in comparison. I saw joy on the faces of travellers and holiday-goers, excited to be in such an exciting city. We laughed. Listened. Shared. Inspired and I became a part of their own beautiful journey.
More time in the Guesthouse should have meant only new travellers and more connectivity. But, it was an addictive, easy and unchallenging lifestyle, a static one, which made me grow more restless by the day. To go from four months of absolute momentum to total immobility is not good for anyones mind. In time, the question I was always asked by new guests, ‘what are you doing here?’ felt awkward in the answering. There was no bike to be seen, I was putting on weight and the journey across Europe I had taken was slipping into memory the longer I sat in reception. The answer, ‘I am cycling around the world,’ felt like a strange reply.