There’s a quote from the book Danziger’s Travel that has sat with me since I returned from my travels in the early 1990s. Danziger’s words spoke to how I felt on returning to my home country, Britain. I was feeling lost and his words told me that I was not alone.
Nick Danziger had returned from an extraordinary journey, traveling through Afghanistan during the war with Russia, crossing the Kunjerab Pass between Pakistan and China before it was open to foreigners, making his way into Tibet when that country as well was closed to foreigners, and after finally arriving in Beijing he found a boat to take him back to the UK.
Back in his parent’s house in rural southern England, Nick is reflecting on his trip. He writes in his book (I paraphrase here as I no longer have a copy of the book),
I feel a stranger to the worlds that I have traveled through, and yet a stranger to the world to which I have returned.
I read the book before I set off on my travels. Danziger’s journey had a huge influence on my travels and the route that I chose. I picked it up again when I returned and this quote stood out to me. Something had shifted in me. I felt a connection with the places that I traveled through and peoples who lived there and who I met along the way…but I was not one of them. And at the same time I felt a stranger to the country that I called home, where I was born and had grown up. To put it another way, I felt more culture shock in returning to England than traveling to Central Asia.
Time has allowed me to integrate these feelings, and yet sometimes I can still find myself caught with the feelings that I am in the wrong place or don’t belong.
At some point I gave the book away, or sold it to a second hand bookshop…I did something with it such that it is no longer in my life. But with my 60th birthday around the corner, I find myself reflecting on it, on the journey that Nick took, how his travels influenced me and that quote remains omnipresent in my life.
A couple of days ago I went looking online for a copy of Danziger’s Travels. It is out of print, but second hand copies are available. I purchased one from a bookshop in southern England and had it delivered to my mother’s home. It has now arrived there. I will be visiting her soon and look forward to holding a copy in my hands again. I always have some trepidation when revisiting the old. Will it have the same impact on me? Maybe yes, maybe no. Either way, that cannot take away the effect that the book had on the direction that I took in my life, and the affirmation that Danziger left with me on my return.
And there is an added bonus. The book is a signed copy.