Travelling for a long period you ask yourself, and are asked by the circumstances you face, who am I? People who travel to find themselves might ask, when and where did I get lost, rather than ending up in a strange country and unfamiliar culture trying to fathom out who am I. I strongly suspect that those travelling to find themselves end up even more lost.
My problem is not who I am. Travelling has been a pleasure and one of rediscovery of what my likes are and where my boundaries sit. I don't like humid conditions. Miami in August was a pain in the ass and Thailand, while filled with lovely people and great street food, times lacking in variety, is humid. It just takes the edge off, for me. I also like meeting new people, its just I don't want them to be around all the time. Solitude is a strength, or in my case is strength giving. So you travel and you reappraise what suits you. I am who I am. Its a pretty well perfected script. Travelling is not going to re-write the book of Dean. Maybe a few interesting chapters can be added but the plot continues as ever. Or does it?
Exiting Australia became quite interesting (see Rachel's blog for an account). Not for the first time in my life I was asked the question "are you really Dean Repper?" Having failed the facial recognition software I was led aside. The passport had my name and a photo. I was in possession of the passport and I was also in possession of Deans memories. I have to be him surely?
As some close friends will know the issue of whether I am Dean Repper has arisen before. On one occasion I overcame it, having convinced my father that we had shared memories. So while we had not seen each other in about 10 years, I was still the child of his loins. I assume we reached some agreement as he invited me in for cake.
The other occasion was more perplexing. It led me to believe that what we socially construct as 'us' can be fragile, if those in on the conspiracy abandon belief. My best friend from primary school (from about age 8-10) failed to recognise me as Dean Repper. Again, years had passed by. It was a neglected relationship, one left hovering or suspended in a memory for over 12 years, maybe longer. I could put it down to the structural changes our faces can make in the teenage years. However, Gary, my childhood friend, remembered Dean. I like to think he said it fondly. As my feelings at that time, of our friendship and adventures are fondly held. But he was adamant, as I stood on his doorstep, that I was not him. So I thought I was that Dean but he could not accept that proposition.
So had the Australian Border control stumbled upon something? That while I had all these recent memories, experiences with loved ones, shared moments with strangers and a passport with Dean Repper in it, I had been tumbled by a piece of software. That this futuristic piece of AI had seen through the masquerade of the last 56 years. I was not him.
At this point, you have to stay calm. You might say to yourself " fuck if I am not Dean Repper, who am I and how did I get all his memories?". Why did the people around me allow me to continue in this deceit.
Now the Australian Border control did have a slight problem. They pondered this for sometime. If they accepted the AI decision they would have to go through a process to determine who was I. That would mean detaining me. They could send off for dental records and maybe finger prints, as they are on record some where from when I was 14. So they could discover that when I was 14 I was the Dean Repper, standing here. That might help then, but the thought was not so reassuring for me. My childhood friend Gary I left abruptly at 10 years old, not of my choosing, but family events dictated a swift move from Suffolk to London. So, could I prove to the Australians that I was the same Dean Repper that existed at 14, or at least that I had his finger prints at the end of my hands? If I could I could go free, or at least leave Australia. It though does not solve the problem for Gary. Somewhere between 10 and 14 the Dean Repper he could so fondly recall, vanished.
So if we do travel to find ourselves. We need to know when, and maybe where, we got lost. If that was my goal, then I thank the Australian Border control. I think it was between 10 and 14 that I got lost.
I retired about 5 years ago. I had been in the Mental health industry for my whole working life. I put my spare time into art, writing and photography with mixed success. I found that I had a great capacity to be idle and I would love to teach this to other people. The opportunity to spend this amount of time together as family in these modern times is rare. I will miss my older kids and Buddy and my close friends.