There was no escaping it, now it had finally arrived: time to go home. My actual home, not just the latest town and hotel that I had begun referring to as "home" within a few hours of arriving.
On paper you might expect that moving to a new place every 2-4 days would be unsettling. It's not though; you quickly fall into a rhythm that gives you a constant, and sense of familiarity as you move along. Travelling light means even the continual cycle of unpacking and repacking isn't particularly bothersome either.
I'd only brought a 35 litre backpack (half the size of the standard size you see people with). A smaller, lighter (under 10kg) bag makes the travelling days much easier; for obvious reasons the smaller, lighter bag is easier to carry around, pick up (without needing a spotter or to lift it onto a bench before you can hoist it onto your back), and generally manhandle, whilst still remaining pretty nimble. It also means you have less "things" to look after, remember to pack, and worry about breaking or losing.
The less stuff I have with me the happier I am when I'm travelling; I intend to hone my packing ruthlessness so that I can bring even less on future trips.
But anyway, the guesthouse owner in Dubrovnik offered me a lift back to the bus station this morning, which I politely declined. This was my final journey, my final act, and I wanted to do it by myself. Unassisted.
The last three weeks have been a big achievement for me; I was so worried how I would manage all my journeys and getting around cities once I arrived. Yet I did it. Got myself through and around 7 countries. All by myself. Without any tears. Without any disasters. Without ending up in the wrong city (or country!). And it wasn't anywhere near as tough as I thought it might be.
So I walked down to the bus stop under a blue sky and warm sun, and caught the bus to the Old Town. Walked through the eerily empty streets (it was only 8.30am by this point). Got what I think was a telling off from a nun for inadvertently taking a photo with her in it (well don't stand in the middle of the main street on a beautiful morning then). Walked up the many steps back to the cable car station. Caught the airport shuttle bus and settled down to admire the views and reflect on my experiences of the last few weeks.
Arriving at the airport 2 hours before my scheduled departure time I discovered my flight's delayed by an hour - an hour that had become 3 hours by the time we eventually took off for London.
Somehow - I can't think how - I ended up being the very last person to board the plane. Not that any part of me was reluctant to leave or anything.
As it turned out, the universe had better plans for me than my assigned aisle seat on the left hand side of the plane. While I was dawdling on the tarmac outside, an elderly lady had made herself comfortable in "my" seat. Rather than asking her to move, and taking advantage of being the last passenger to board, I slipped instead into a window seat on the right hand side of the plane. Putting me in prime position to look down on Dubrovnik's Old Town once we had taken off, and bid a silent farewell to Croatia as we flew north along its coast and past its islands. The perfect departure.
Once we touched down at Gatwick I got my phone back out, switched back on the wireless, and counted how many weeks until I set back out for Albania: 7 short weeks. No time at all.