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Destination Doorstep: Same Sun, Different Angle

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Fem Sorcell

It's July 2019 and I am midway through a week off work with my boyfriend, Pete. For the past two years we have spent this part of the year pottering around the continent, but this year is different. This year we stay in Sheffield - due to financial reasons, a degree of disorganisation, and also because, frankly, I prefer being here to anywhere else. It's taken me a long time to admit this to myself, let alone out loud.

There are many things I love about travelling. I love being the wide-eyed Moomin, walking around a bustling new city at a fraction of the pace of everyone else. I love new faces, new flora and fauna, new food. I love laughing ironically with Pete at how we've walked for miles under the baking sun and ended up in another suburban industrial estate in search of another brutalist war relic.

I remember a moment as a 19-year-old student when it came to me - an epiphany - that the only way we can make meaning in this absurd life is to see and do as many things as possible. According to this reasoning, as a child-free 30-year-old with a secure job, it becomes my duty to lose - and then find - myself in the chaotic streets of Palermo, to happen across loggerheads in remote Grecian coves, then dine with the locals in family ran tavernas devoid of other Brits.

My, how we fetishise travel.

Sprinkle a bit of F.O.M.O. on top, mix with the demand to document, share and incite envy in our peers, and racking up the air miles becomes the inevitable response. But affirmations claiming that the world is both 'our oyster' and 'ours for the taking' no longer sit so well with my no-longer 19-year-old self. Such thinking begins to whiff of exploitation, voyeurism and entitlement - and that's before the environmental implications.

maybe a Norfolk Park sunset can be as life-affirming as a Serengeti sunset

Instead, why not apply the same level of intrigue and romance to our own city as we do to distant lands, scratch a little harder at its surface and see what wonder reveals itself. Committing to Sheffield this week with the dedication I would to a hip European city has allowed me to do this. Without the omnipresent loom of work, every day becomes Saturday.

My most vivid memories in life are the ones that are distinct from the everyday blur, given time to take form, develop and bank themselves, boldly and brightly, in a secure place in my mind. Invariably these are the ones conceived when away from home. Such is their clarity that they come to define entire chunks of time, and so with that comes a whole lot of pressure to have the time of your life. The animated conversations Pete and I have over our kitchen table become vague and insignificant in the shadow of a dull dinner and lacklustre chat on holiday. Whereas ordinarily I tear through Sheffield, slowing down has enabled me to imbue interactions and moments with meaning in the hope that they might become period-defining memories.

This week I'm finding that it's more possible to feel connected when sharing appreciation for the wildflower meadow amongst the Sharrow flats with a Lisboan from Gleadless on her way to work than it is to coo over the traditionally-dressed women singing fado on the streets of Alfama. Similarly, that supporting the new Sicilian restaurant on Abbeydale can impact the diversity and interest on our doorsteps in a way that upholds our own international community. And maybe a Norfolk Park sunset can be as life-affirming as a Serengeti sunset. Same sun, different angle.

Travel - please do - just not at the expense of overlooking the extraordinary, alien, magical and global connectivity that Sheffield can offer every day.

Emma Matthews

Next article in issue 137

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