Where the hell has the year gone?

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Foggy nighttime views from Berlin’s new palace

2021 has faded into a tedium of unmemorable sameness thanks to endless lockdowns and restrictions, which at this point have come to feel like helicopter parenting by a nanny state in charge of risk-averse populations determined to repress awareness of our own mortality.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. But there really hasn’t been much to blog about.

I’m still scribbling away, and reading, and trying to stay in hiking shape — or at least some shape which isn’t ‘chair’ — as I gaze with sad nostalgia at the end of my forties.

What a waste the last two years have been. Will we ever recover what we’ve lost? Or is the West doomed to fade out in an ongoing act of self-immolation which is simultaneously embarrassingly narcissistic and bitterly self-loathing?

I’ve just finished reading The Complete Shakespeare, so perhaps I’ve got tragedy — or dark comedy — on my mind.

That was one good use of the pandemic lockdowns, I guess. I decided to read (and in a dozen cases, reread) all of Shakespeare this year. 

I bought a blue hardcover edition from Chancellor Press on a school bus trip to Toronto when I was 17 or 18. (I also bought a copy of Alex Comfort’s classic The Joy of Sex on that trip — which in hindsight was sort of complimentary — but that’s another story and we don’t have time for it now. What can I say? My interests were broad at 17.)

The edition I bought in 1989 or 1990

Over 1,000 pages long, with very small print that seemed easy to read at the time, but which challenged even my book-adapted eyes on dark winter nights in Berlin.

1,117 pages of very small print

Anyway, that was one highlight of the year’s reading.

I’ve been doing a pile of podcast reading, too. I’ll have another conversation for you soon. 

The amount of preparation I put into each one has resulted in longer gaps between episodes than I would have liked, but I place quality far above quantity in my podcast hierarchy of values. I think you’ll be surprised by my next guest.

What else?

I managed a couple trips this year, despite ever-changing testing requirements and travel restrictions.

I wrote about hiking in northern Greece, ancient sites and Byzantine Thessaloniki here on the blog. 

But I don’t think I wrote about a long weekend escape to Paris. That was mostly major museums, graveyards of dead writers, food and wine, and lots and lots of walking. Probably not very interesting to read about.

Paying respects to dead writers in Montparnasse

In this year of endless isolation, my highlight may have been a long overdue trip home. I spent pretty much all of it in my hometown area, hanging out with my old high school friends and a handful of relatives. 

It was a blur of pumpkin pie, high school parties and late night conversations, and it reminded me once again that there are no friends quite like the friends you grew up with. 

Pumpkin pie chez Anne

I’ve known most of them since pre-school, and the others since we were 14. Our lives have taken us in many different directions, but sharing the formative experiences of youth — life’s most vivid adventures, tragedies, loves and successes — has welded us together more firmly than distance or jobs or divergent interests could ever disrupt.

There are no friends quite like old friends

I love living in Europe, but I was a bit sad to get on the plane this time. Old friends are more and more important with the passing of the years.

In the meantime, I’ve finished my Malta book (yet again) and it’s making the endless round of publishers and agents, looking for a home. 

I’ve got another sitting on the corner of my desk about a long journey I took to Mongolia, Tibet and Western China twenty years ago. A sequel to Vagabond Dreams, I guess, since it was the trip I set out on next. That just needs a few finishing touches to wrap it up.

I doubt it’ll be of any commercial interest, given how long ago it all was. Maybe I’ll put it out on kindle, if only to clear my head and move on to other things. 

I’ve got two new projects I’m eager to start, but they’ll have to stay under wraps for now.

In the meantime, I’m planning one more trip before 2021 staggers to a close. I’m determined to get out of here for Xmas — Omicron restrictions be damned. There’s no way I’m sitting here through the holidays listening to the out of control toddler in the flat above running back and forth and hammering on the floor. 

Germans have a remarkable ability to train their dogs — to a point where Ol’ Spot will sit quietly beneath a restaurant table, or walk past other dogs in the park without turning his head. 

Toddlers, on the other hand, are apparently uncontrollable. No discipline of any kind can be imposed on them. The two year old brat in the flat above runs back and forth until 10pm, dictating its own bedtime as it seems to dictate everything else.

But perhaps that’s a topic for another blog. The batteries in my noise-cancelling headphones are about to run out, and coherent thought tends to vanish with them.

About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

2 Comments

  • Nice to catch up on your details from the past year. It’s funny, I have been asking myself the same questions regarding this “new normal” we find ourselves in.

    Appreciate your posts Ryan , always entertaining and insightful. Stay well.

    • Thanks Cary. Hope you’re well. This lunacy’s gone on long enough. I hope to get back on the road as much as possible next year — long hikes, and perhaps even a long journey to mark 50.

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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