Over the past year and a bit, my job has taken me to and from Manchester on a regular basis. I've grown rather used to the sight of Euston station at 7am and standing around waiting for the shops and the lounge to open so I can grab a cup of coffee to rid me of my slumber before falling onto the train and shaking myself to life before I get to Stockport and need to give directions to the cab driver.
I've spent time in Manchester before. A previous job used to bring me to Birchwood, taking a taxi from Warrington Bank Quay, on many an occassion. This time, it's been a cab picking me up from Stockport and taking me over to Ashton Under Lyne. But it feels the same.
In both cases, I would repeatedly switch between staying at a hotel close to the office, and a hotel in the centre of town. I'd stay close to the office, and then be sitting in the hotel thinking to myself "this is boring" and so next time I'd get myself booked into a hotel in the centre of Manchester. A week or so later, I'd be sitting in that hotel in the centre of Manchester thinking to myself "I'm still just sitting in my hotel room, why on earth don't I stay closer to the office?". So next time I'd stay closer to the office again, and think "this is boring" - you get the drift...
Staying in a city centre on your own is, in some respects, more lonely than staying in a hotel just outside a city on your own. At least in the latter case you can blame your boring evening on the location rather than looking out the window at an exciting city centre of which you don't feel part.
The life of business travel sounds exotic. The places I've been with my career over the year sound exciting and conjure up images of wonderful sights and interesting foods. Beijing. Tokyo. Stockholm. Ronneby(!). But in reality, they are all pretty much the same when you just go from the airport to the hotel and back again with just a few hours in the office to distract you from the humdrum.
Of course, going back to these places as a tourist adds a whole new aspect, but when you're travelling on business, it's all the same no matter where you are in the world.
I'm not a natural traveller. I like places which feel homely - and the most homely place of all is home. I enjoy restful places where I can relax and feel comfortable, but there's still a part of me which feels even more relaxed when I'm back home. No matter how exciting the views, or how fantastic the company in a far-flung location, I can always feel the desire to go home tugging at me and pulling me back towards London.
London is home for me nowadays. It's not where I was born, and it may not be where I grow old and die, but for now it's certainly home. It's never made sense to say "going home" when I return to visit my childhood back on The Wirral, as that really doesn't feel like home anymore. Since my Dad died last year, the house where I grew up is no longer somewhere I can go, and so whilst there are places and people from my childhood, the last remaining reason for me to call it "home" has disappeared.
When my Dad was ill, I spent a lot of time up there, but still I felt the tug back to London. It was hard to leave him and come home, but home was the only place I could relax and take in what was happening. It meant a lot of time spent on the train to and from Euston, but at least I got to spend time at home.
For me, home is a special place. I can go there and shut the door and the world is outside. I love to see things, and I love to visit places. But most of all I love coming home. And fortunately, I'm about an hour away now and heading back down to Euston...