The most exciting part of travelling is, obviously, the travelling itself. The tales you have to tell, the adventures you’ve had and the people you’ve met – it’s all you want to talk about. Except as every good writer knows there is a beginning, a middle and an end to every story and coming home is the end of the travelling story. Or at the very least the end of a chapter.
Usually there’s this big thing about feeling different after travelling and coming home to find that nothing has changed except you, but I didn’t find this. For the most part things had ticked along relatively the same and normal but there were subtle differences in everybody’s lives that I had to get used to. Even coming home I found I had a sense of the uncanny in my own home; things I didn’t notice straight away but had a sense that something was off when I saw them. New taps in the bathroom. Mum’s bedroom redecorated. The trees along the back wall in the garden have come down. Everything the same but slightly different. The same thing with my friends. One moved in with her boyfriend. Another had all her wedding plans coming together. Almost all of them had either got promotions or were in line for them. Their lives were moving forward, they were on their set paths and skipping along whistling a tune. Meanwhile I had strayed to pick the wild flowers and ended up exploring the woods. It wasn’t a bad thing for either them or me, we had just chosen different routes, but it did make me feel like my life had simply been on pause this whole time.
What didn’t help this feeling was the fact it’s so hard to talk about my trip. How do I begin to sum up five months of travel? Even the things that had happened most recently to me were so different from life back home it was difficult to segue them into conversation. And what about something that happened in the first few weeks of my trip? Forget about it. I mean that literally. By this stage so many events have already been pushed to the back of my mind that it was difficult to recall every detail of the past five months from beginning to end to try and explain what a fantastic time I’d had! You realise very quickly that your experiences just don’t fit into everyday life. I mean, that’s why we travel isn’t it? To break away from the mundane, the monotony of routine, the everyday but just be prepared to know that it doesn’t slot back in so neatly when you come back.
That being said, I’m not trying to be negative. What I’m writing might not sound great but I don’t mean it that way. When you do tell friends about swimming with whale sharks or the time you got rat-arsed on rice whiskey, they’ll love it! You’re guaranteed to have the best stories at any party and you’ll get to see people’s faces light up as they say “Wow, I wish I could do that”. At the end of the day you’ve not only lived your dream but many other people’s and getting to share that with them is amazing. Of course you’ve got to be careful not to do it in a ‘I’m so much more cultured and interesting than you because I’ve travelled’ sort of way because obviously that’s not true, and that’s the whole point I’m trying to make. They might be jealous of me swimming with whale sharks but equally I’m a little jealous of their promotion.
Jobs, the next hard hit of reality you have to face back home. Currently I’m hunting for my first proper full-time adult graduate job and I’m feeling restless. As much as I love staying in my pyjamas all day (I mean come on, we all know that’s the real reason I want to be a writer) and catching up on five months worth of TV, my eyes might literally turn into squares if I don’t find something more productive to do. Because, let’s be honest, whenever we have free time to do all the chores we’ve been meaning to do for ages what we’ll actually do is find a hundred reasons to put them off until tomorrow. And the next day. Then the next day. And the next day. And the next… you get the picture. While travelling I found I had the opposite problem, if I wanted to stay in my hostel and watch Netflix (because for the first time in two months I had found wifi decent enough to stream on) then I had to battle the feeling of guilt that I was in some amazing place and not going out to explore it. I had to learn when to give myself days off, which is important because travelling is tiring, and when to ignore the hangover or the sleep deprived headache and make the most of where I was.
Not everyone gets this though, people will assume you have just been on an extended holiday. Luckily most of my friends and family have done enough travelling themselves that they know it’s not all sunning yourself on a beach. A lot of the time it’s early starts, long bus journeys, organising flights, figuring out where you are going to sleep that night and what transport will get you to the next place or the activity you’re doing that day. That’s all part of travelling and it’s great, it’s worth it for the experiences but it’s also exhausting after a while. I found I had barely been back over a week or so before people were asking me whether I had got a job yet. When I explained that I was taking some time to enjoy being at home first there was the inevitable “a holiday from your holiday” joke but, seriously, when in the time between flying home, getting over the jet lag and meeting up with people I hadn’t seen in months was I supposed to have written CV’s and applications, had an interview and secured a job. I appreciate that I was in a fortunate enough position that I didn’t have to do all that straightaway but it still surprised me how keen everyone else seemed to see me employed the second I got home.
I’m glad I’ve taken some time to readjust though. Instead of feeling rushed off my feet I feel more relaxed and content than I have in a long time. Something I tried to take away from travelling was to not try to be perfect all the time. To know when to give myself a break and when to give myself a kick up the backside. I feel like a lot of young people struggle with this. We see the seemingly perfect lives of others on social media and constantly berate ourselves for not being prettier, smarter, richer or more successful. The simple fact of the matter is that these things take time. The more I take one day as it comes, applying for jobs as I see them, ones I think I’d be well suited for rather than mass panic applying, the less stressed I am. The moment I start wishing over a specific job or worrying they will all reject me is when I can’t sleep at night. It will come. I know myself, I know I work hard and that I won’t give up at the first hurdle. So what if a job rejects me? So what if ten jobs reject me! It’s just an experience to learn from and adapt. I’m not perfect and I probably won’t get my dream job overnight (is there even such a thing as professional slob?) but I remind myself every day that travelling wasn’t always perfect. Flights were delayed, opportunities were missed and things were lost (including myself… many times) but when I look back it’s not all the failures I remember but all the successes.
As sweet as home is, it’s may be sickly sweet at times. I think the best way to describe it is like running for a train that’s already pulled out of the station. You know you can run fast enough to catch it up, you know that your hand will clamp around the railing and pull yourself up into the plush carriage awaiting you but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be out of breath when you get there and it certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look back down the tracks to where you’ve come from. Home will quickly pull you back into it’s folds and as cosy as that is, don’t forget why you went travelling in the first place or what you learnt from being there and definitely don’t feel like your experiences should be left on the road.
p.s. Speaking of being on the road, I have a little announcement. I’ve only been back just over a month and I already have itchy feet so, this weekend, I’m off to Edinburgh! It’s just a long weekend with my boyfriend but I’m so excited to be out and about and exploring again. Keep an eye out for the article next week!