After 17 months and 14 days of being away exactly, I flew home on 23rd February. I had travelled the banana pancake route in South East Asia, I had lived in a van in New Zealand, and I had spent the best year of my life living and working in Australia. And now, for the first time in a long time, I am home. I am reunited with family and friends, and of course, all the home comforts I had once taken for granted.
Anyone who has been away for a long stretch of time will tell you that coming home can often be a difficult and odd experience, which brings up a mixture of strong emotions. We might feel ready to go home, and excited to see everyone, but we’ve become used and accustomed to a different and way more exciting way of life, and how will it be to no longer be living the life of a backpacker?
Before I arrived home, above anything, I was nervous. I was nervous because I did not know what to expect. Ironically, I was scared for the same reasons I was before I left home to go travelling. I was scared of the unknown. Whilst at one point in my life I was scared to leave home because it was all I knew, I was now at a point where I was scared to arrive back home, because the life I had come to lead had nothing to do with the life I once lead at home at all.
I was also scared of ‘regressing’. I felt that this past year and a half has taught me more than I could have ever anticipated and has allowed me to grow in ways that could not have happened if I had not travelled. I had become a more open hearted, conscious, person. I had become less materialistic, less petty. The key fabric of my person had not changed of course, I was still the same person but I had grown. As we get older and go through life we are supposed to grow, but nothing will quite accelerate this and teach you what you really need to learn quite like throwing yourself out of your comfort zone, and travel is one of the most effective ways you can do this. I was worried that by going home, back to the same town, the same bed, the same surroundings I had had before I went away, I would regress back to a person who was not as conscious. I would regress back to a person who cares more about ‘things’ and ‘stuff’. Of course, these worries are pretty ridiculous, when you’ve learnt and grown so much, you can’t just go back in time. But that doesn’t mean new, or should I say old, influences and pressures can’t creep in.
Now I have been home for nearly 3 weeks, and this has included an awesome little ski trip to the French Alps, so I have to say I’ve been quite lucky and this trip definitely eased me back in to being at home. When I first arrived home, a lot of my fears and worries were instantly quenched simply by being back in old, familiar surroundings – by my mothers embrace, by my dog bounding toward me, by walking on the field next to my house, by being in a house that is your actual home. Because when you travel, even if you stay in a share house, or in the nicest hostel, or are invited into someones actual home, nothing will compare to your own home. It’s just, home. It’s the place you can truly relax without any fear of judgement. Where you can walk around like you own the place, be your own person, do what you like. You can indulge in all the home comforts like food in the fridge and a nice hot bath and the comfiest of sofas without feeling any sense of guilt. Being home is safe and warm and welcoming, and whilst it’s important to get out of that safe and warm embrace once in a while, it’s ok to go back to it, it’s ok that it’s there. Home is easy, maybe too easy at times.
I say maybe too easy, because after 3 weeks, as much as I enjoy and appreciate home and everything it brings, I’m getting itchy feet again, that desire to go and do something exciting and challenging. A lot of this is because I am literally living with my parents again. I love my parents dearly, but I have been living away since I was 18 and I’m now nearly 23. I also live in a very small village with absolutely nothing going on, and most of my friends are living somewhere else in the country or are travelling globally themselves, so I am super excited to move out. I’m planning on moving to Bristol soon and whilst I definitely still want to travel and see the world, I’m excited to live in a new, vibrant city. Instead of seeing it as part of the daily grind of moving home, I’m seeing moving to Bristol as a new and exciting adventure. Being at home is allowing me to sort things out like jobs, taxes, and of course, giving me time to write, but it wears thin quite quickly. I get restless. There’s nothing for me here in this little village. It’s a place I can relax but it’s not a place I can stay in long term.
Like I mentioned, my biggest worry about coming home was regressing back to the person I was before I left, but even though it’s only been a few weeks, I actually think the hardest thing has been quite the opposite – settling in at home is something that is so far removed from the life I have come to live. Home comforts are lovely, and I don’t think I will ever take a bubble bath filled with Lush products or a memory foam mattress for granted again, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can compare to the feelings that travel brings. Despite the home comforts, nothing can compare to living out of a van, camping in a mountain range, looking up at a million glistening stars. Nothing can compare to camping on the sand dunes of Fraser Island in a canvas tent, listening to the dingos howl at the full moon. Nothing can compare to no sleep from a sleeper train in Vietnam, to swimming in the ocean with phosphoresce in Cambodia. Nothing can compare to moving to a new city that you’ve never been to before, just because your heart is pulled to it, and realising it was the best decision you ever made, as you move in to a converted warehouse and make the best friends who you can’t believe are really in your life. Nothing can compare to sitting by the beach in Byron Bay as the sun sets, watching people dance with fire and make the most organic, heart felt music you’ve ever heard. Nothing can compare to this because it’s so raw. It scratches way beyond the surface. It’s the feeling you get when you really, truly live life. Sometimes it’s heavenly and sometimes it’s hard but it’s always raw. It’s never just ok, never just comfortably content. And thats the thing, home is comfortable, and home means you can be content. But I want more than contentment, now that I know what that feels like. I want ecstatic happiness, extreme feelings, extreme activities, I want real rawness, I want to feel and be on the precipice of life.
Coming home is ordinary and it’s all the things we already know, and thats why its so scary, and hard to deal with. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I don’t have to regress back to a person I used to be just to fit in at home, and I don’t have to run away just because I’m sad that I can no longer drive to the beach to escape the heat on a 40 degree day. I can take the lessons I’ve learnt over the past year and a half and apply them to home. I won’t sit idly or comfortably. I will allow every day to still be incredible, I will find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I will carry on looking for exciting opportunity in every new day. Travel has taught me that that is what life is all about, and you can seek out the opportunity in life no matter where you are in the world.
I’m not home for good. I will move to Bristol, and I will continue to travel to new places, and I won’t allow being at home to scare me, or to make me jaded. Being at home does not mean I am done with the person that travel has taught me to be, but it does not mean it has to be a bad or scary thing either.
Have you had a similar experience after coming home from a long trip? How did you settle back in at home?