Ed had felt loneliness many times in his life.
The all encompassing feeling that had surrounded and smothered him after his mother's death, tempered only by the constant presence of his younger brother and, eventually, when the grief subsided and his heart was willing to open again, by the warmth of the Rockbell home.
The slow realisation as a child that their father, despite their hopeful attempts at learning the alchemy he seemed absorbed by and their ongoing efforts to keep their mother smiling in his absence, wasn't going to return. The confusion and loss transforming into anger and bitterness.
Those moments filled with pain and anguish when he realised that the bloody remnants of his left leg, burning with an agony that he had never imagined possible, wasn't as frightening as the fact that Alphonse was gone.
Those months before the Promised Day when he had to hide in shadows, keeping away from the ones he loved the most whilst watching one of his friends trapped inside a creature wearing their own body.
But, somehow, he hadn't expected that the excitement of discovery and exploration in the West could be dulled, somewhat, by the realisation that travelling alone was something he found difficult.
The first time he turned to the side and looked up to address Alphonse, he laughed at the instinctive reaction. But when he lost count of how many times he had to stop himself from talking to a brother who wasn't there, he realised that, like a new limb, this would be something he would have to adjust to.
He put pen to paper that very evening and tried not to blush as he imagined Winry's face when she saw the unexpected letter, pages spilling out in neatly formed words before him. Random encounters and fascinating sights described in between awkward sentiments about how much he missed her apple pie and how he hoped her work was going well and how he would be home as soon as he could. He threw out the page where he'd violently crossed out the words he really wanted to write, refusing to let her read them before she heard them. Even if he was sure she already knew.
When he purchased a camera in a small fishing town, the lenses beautifully crafted but more expensive than he could really justify spending, he stayed for several weeks working at the docks and rebuilding some of his funds. But when he imagined showing Al and Winry photos of the places he had been and the people he had met, the smell of fish guts and salt water clinging to his clothes made the cost worthwhile.
When diplomatic efforts between Creta and Amestris resulted in establishing rudimentary phonelines between the two countries, he was relieved when his crackling call to Eastern Command was answered by Hawkeye. Not because of the fact that he was so very fond of the woman but because he realised that it had been long enough since he had heard a familiar voice that he probably would have been happy to have heard Mustang pick up the phone. As it was, when she eventually handed the phone over after a warm conversation summarising their time since they last saw each other, he couldn't even be bothered to fake any animosity towards his former commanding officer. The order, because no longer being in the military was obviously not enough to stop Mustang from treating him like one of his own, to take care of himself didn't even get more than a quip for him to 'take his own advice'.
When he returned to Resembool less than a year after he left, research documents and valuable books dropped carelessly to the floor so that he could catch Winry in his arms and breathe in her scent and feel her warmth and hear her voice welcome him home, he brushed off the surprise of the Station Master to see him back so soon.
Because no matter how much he wanted to see the world and learn all he could to help people, he was still that little boy who missed his mother. Who wanted his father to come home. Who needed his brother.
Who wanted to come home and marry the woman he loved.
When I read that Ed and Winry married a year after the end of the manga epilogue, I kind of wasn't surprised. Because, despite his wanderlust, Ed has always been a lonely boy who needs his family (and the definition of family got looser as he grew up). So I was inspired to write a little drabble on the subject. There are a few 'photos' of Ed's travels in the 3rd Artbook that inspired the camera part. Said photos also show him travelling with Darius, at some point, and on a camel (braving crossing the desert I assume). So marrying Winry isn't the end of his travels, but I imagine that he has many short journeys rather than being able to stay away for too long