A wise man once said that the whole point of travel is not to set foot on foreign land, it is to at last set foot on one’s own country as if it were foreign land. After a couple of years of living in Pakistan, together with a couple of trips back to my home country, that feels about right.
We enjoy being in Pakistan, but we look forward to going back to the UK for a break. We think that it will be familiar, comprehensible, somehow easier. We look forward to coffee shops and country pubs and not being stared at when we go outside. And those things are nice. But what I didn’t expect is that the UK doesn’t really feel like home any more. Wandering around my home town it felt odd that people didn’t greet each other politely like they do in Pakistan. They seemed too busy rushing from place to place, towing their children behind them like suitcases. The weather felt odd, the roads felt odd, people seemed to behave oddly. Nobody honked their horns, nobody argued, nobody waved at us across the street and shouted “salaam aleikum!”.
Then we came back to Pakistan, and it doesn’t really feel like home either. It’s dusty and noisy and everyone looks different from us and, despite our best efforts, our Urdu is still not good enough to make ourselves understood perfectly. People here are friendly and polite and welcoming, but it’s still foreign.
Everywhere’s foreign now. If that’s the point of travelling, then we’ve achieved it. Great. But we still feel like aliens. Maybe that’s a good thing for a Christian. After all, everywhere on earth is a temporary residence for a Christian. Perhaps we won’t ever feel truly at home until we get there.