How I (Honestly) Feel About Coming Home After Travelling

16 October 2019

Yesterday, the 15th October, marked one year since Will and I left the UK for 9 months. If you were to hop in Dr. Emmett Brown's DeLorean and travel 365 days to the past, you'd find us: weary with jetlag but delirious with excitement, in a noodle bar in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong, talking about how "the trip has finally begun!"

Get Doc (and Marty, if you're lucky - what an 80s dish he was) to bring you back to present day, and you'll find me: in my old office in sleepy Norfolk, house/cat-sitting for my parents whilst they're in Crete, thinking about how "the trip has been over for ages."

This post has been an idea that has sat, drumming its fingers in my mind, waiting for something to set it in motion and get written. That something turned out to be someone - Beth Sandland, one of my favourite travel bloggers. In her most recent Instagram story she talked about heading home next month after 11 months of backpacking, how "it's really, really hard to accept that it's coming to an end" and being unsure whether to post a blog post about those feelings for fear of looking ungrateful. I haven't read Beth's post yet as I didn't want this one to end up a carbon copy, but I know it's likely that when I do (this afternoon with a cup of tea, naturally!) I'll find it just as relatable as today's stories.

We flew home at the end of June, just in time for Will's brother's wedding, and the idiom 'in limbo' sums up how I've been feeling ever since. Life, in the 2 hours and 50 minutes it took to fly from Reykjavík airport to London Heathrow, changed dramatically. In incredibly good ways, mostly - I got to hug my family and friends who I missed sometimes so much it hurt, everything familiar that I longed for was right where I left it and I've always thought about how fortunate we are to have a life that we couldn't wait to come back to.

In other ways however, it was bittersweet. There's a Kacey Musgraves song where she sings "happy and sad at the same time, you got me smiling with tears in my eyes"... that.

Everyone always asks "where was your favourite place?" and automatically every time, I launch into "some islands in the Philippines are completely untouched", "we ended up living in one spot in northern Thailand for a month", "I've never been anywhere as breathtaking as New Zealand." It was only a question, asked in a pub garden by my best friend Josh, that prompted a answer that was just as truthful but much more personal.

"You must miss travelling so much, mustn't you?"
"I've actually been really depressed."
"I could tell."
"How could you tell, we haven't spoken about it!"
"I could just tell."

Before we went backpacking, I felt like this pretty much every day. At the time of filming that video there was only a few weeks left before we'd be getting on the first of many planes, so it was easy to think: 'I'm not happy right now, but when we're away I will be.'

And I was! It's easy to be carefree when all that's on the daily agenda is which beach in Bali to visit or how many kangaroos you can spot from your camper in Australia. It was the coming back to reality and realising that travelling didn't solve my problems (like I secretly, naïvely hoped it might) that didn't sting, but ached.

It's at this point in the post where I've been letting thoughts spill out with reckless abandon - love that I've just used the phrase 'reckless abandon' as I'm sat here in the Norfolk countryside in my fluffy slippers with my cup of English Breakfast - that I pause.

I pause because I've started to fret that everything I've written so far is too negative. Why can't you just look back on the trip with fond memories and leave it at that? Lots of people would love to go away for that length of time and they probably wouldn't be feeling sad right now. They'll think you thankless, unappreciative, spoilt, just stop moaning. Hit 'delete', or 'close', anything that means 'do not save'. Delete to protect yourself from judgement, or to erase the feeling so that it never even happened.

As you can probably see, it isn't long before my frustratingly overthinking mind spirals and before I know it, I'm in a weird headspace where I'm thinking less about how amazing the trip was and more about the empty, hollow feeling its end created within me.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who struggles to challenge their negative thoughts, and whilst it's daunting to share - here are some that have been threatening to dull the shine of the trip and a few words from my more rational, less worrisome self.

  • "I can't even edit our travelling vlogs as it reminds me of how little I'm doing with my days now." Of course snorkelling off a tiny tropical island with wild sea turtles was better than doing your taxes with drizzle at the window today. But that doesn't make it bad or boring, you just got used to having an adventure literally every single day for months, and magic exists in 'normal life' too. Instead of wishing for that time back, appreciate the little things you missed that you've now got again. Mainly a proper cup of tea. Remember that (slightly overused) "she designed a life she loved" quote and know that life can still be an adventure even if you know where you'll be sleeping every night. Oh, and Meg? Edit the damn vlogs.

  • "You could've put deposits on three different houses with the amount of money you spent." Yeah, this one eats you up a bit, doesn't it? You spent a fortune. But that was your choice, and what were you saying before you went away? 'I've saved up way more than I think I'll need because I want to stay in nice hotels if I don't like hostels', 'I'm taking this much as I want to be able to say yes to anything', 'it's a safety net for my chronic illness.' For the most part, you weren't really backpacking; you were on holiday for 9 months. And that sh*t's expensive. You gave yourself the chance to say 'we might never come here again, let's just splash out and book it.' You're pretty broke at the moment (you say 'f*ck me' more times than JaackMaate did in the new Sidemen roast video whenever you look at your bank statements) but you're earning the money back again and are rich in other ways now.

  • "It's tough being away from Will after spending 24 hours a day together for 9 months." Well yeah, of course it is - it's a huge change to go from waking up to the same lovely face for that long to going to sleep alone sometimes. You've cried in his arms at the kitchen table as you don't want to say goodbye and get on the train and you've wondered 'do I need to google what separation anxiety is?' You both miss each other, naturally, but it's never more than a few days before you're stuck at the hip again and the time will come when you're settled in a new flat or you've decided to go on another trip - you never know and that's thrilling in itself!

  • "I haven't uploaded properly for the best part of a year and the industry has moved on so much." But you've still got the most wonderful audience in the world, haven't you - who've stuck by you and not minded when you've taken time off? In fact, you just hit the 85k subscriber milestone on YouTube despite giving yourself the Most Inconsistent award and beating yourself up about it. Although it's a fast-moving industry, you're still working and the passion you've got for it all never went away. I know you're worrying that you didn't get enough ~content~ whilst you were away (with extra worry due to how expensive it was) but that's pishykaka. Nobody says 'I wish I'd uploaded more Instagram stories' on their deathbed.

4 worries down, 8450 to go. Only joking (kind of). I've established that my brain is an anxious one and if yours is too, try what I've just done for yourself - write down something you're worrying about then put on your Rational Pants and tell yourself what you'd tell a friend. I've had these thoughts swirling around my brain for months and it's a relief to break them down and realise that they're not as terrifying as they seem.

So, that's how I honestly feel about coming home after travelling. Grateful to have experienced it, scared about the things I've got to work through in order to feel as free as I did when we were away. Happy and sad at the same time, smiling with tears in my eyes.

I think it's normal to mourn the end of something that was pure magic. It was the adventure of a lifetime with my best friend and the happiest time of my life. How lucky we are to have experienced something so good that we'd do every second of it again in a heartbeat. <3

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