It sucks alright, it completely sucks. And I know given what is currently happening in the world, so many of my fellow travellers are now returning home unexpectedly, and I’m guessing probably with just as bad grace as I did in December.
For me coming home this time was beyond hard, because I just didn’t want to go. The last five weeks I spent in New Zealand I was so sublimely happy. Heck the entire time I spent there was magical. But the few weeks post ski season kicking around in a shitty white van, with some of the best people I know, meeting up with some more of the best people along the way and exploring this stunning country were, I’m going to put it out there, some of the best weeks of my life. And when they came to an end, and all too quickly I found myself back in Auckland checking in for my flight home, I just wasn’t ready to leave.
Yes there was the excitement and giddiness of seeing my family and friends again, especially being home for Christmas. I wanted to eat all my favourite much missed foods (mainly my Grans spaghetti bolognaise, Jaffa Cakes and Marmite!), I wanted to have a room (and a bed) to myself, and I wanted to go visit all my favourite places. But in reality it was a massive crash back into a life that was no longer mine.
The level of homesickness for my home away from home, Slalom Lodge was insane. I missed all its inhabitants so badly at times it was a physical pain. I missed my family from the first season, and my longing to see Luke’s ridiculous dance moves and sit through Owen playing the Backstreet Boys yet again, to hear the broad Scottish voice of my best friend yelling “I’m bored” was unreal. And I desperately missed the chaotic dysfunctional party crew of the second season. All I really wanted when I was back home in my grandparents clean organised house with a bedroom to myself was to be back lying on the floor of my dorm surrounded by mess and my friends.
Although Slalom formed such a huge part of my adventure it wasn’t all that I missed. I missed the freedom, figuring it out one step at a time. I missed discovering new places. I missed my independence. When I got home, I felt like I was just existing. Everyone around me was getting on with their lives, getting married, having kids, buying houses, got a career, and I was just chilling. The thing is when I’m travelling that doesn’t matter because what I’m doing is wringing every drop of joy I can out of life, growing as a person and learning who I want to be.
I had changed. Maybe not completely, but I definitely wasn’t the same person who left England nearly two years previously. Returning to London was unsettling, whilst I was beyond excited to be back in my favourite city, I also didn’t like it. It was too busy, too grey, too overwhelming. I had gotten used to the wild and the rural, and yes I still loved the city and maybe one day I will return but for now it’s not the place for me. Similarly it was so good to see all my friends again. To see my oldest friends and drink wine with them and catch up on all the insane life events, but they had changed too. They had different lives from when I left, and whilst there will always be an unbreakable bond between my oldest and closest friends, and we will always be able to fall back into being with each other as if no time has passed, I wasn’t an everyday part of their lives anymore, I didn’t fit in.
I left because I wasn’t happy, and returning nothing about my situation back home was very different to when I had left. I hadn’t gone back for anything or anyone, there was no real reason or purpose for my return. I didn’t have a job or an idea of one I wanted, I didn’t have my own home ( I was back staying with my grandparents) and let’s not even go into my love life. I just felt strangely detached from everything and everyone. Simply put I was miserable.
At the end of Lord of the Rings Frodo asks “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back.” I turn to these movies and books constantly for comfort, but I have never related to Frodo more than in this instant. I may not have fought orcs or carried a dark ring across Mordor but I did go on an adventure and when I returned I wasn’t the same. Because travelling changes us unalterably. You experience new cultures and meet new people with different world views to you. You face challenges you didn’t expect and get yourself out of problems, you learn all the time and you grow up and into a different person than the one you were when you left.
And after a lot of moping and overthinking you know what this has taught me? That life is a series of chapters. You can’t go back to how it was because it goes on. So what can you do? Well I guess just lean into the next chapter. Yes you can wallow for a while, lord knows I did for perhaps a little too long, and you can miss your travel life and the life you had before you left. But whatever you do don’t try to put the old life back on because it won’t fit, instead go and create a new slightly different one. Whether that be staying at home or planning to take off again. And if you do find yourself back home for a little while longer than you want and a little lost, just remember the world is still out there waiting for you. Ok you’re not able to go adventure now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to again. But this in between time is also part of the limited life we have, it’s also a chapter, so however hard it is, and believe me I know, try to enjoy it. Take advantage of the home comforts and the food and the proximity of family and friends, even if they do drive you mad living with them 24/7. Stay in touch with the wonderful friends you made on your adventure and treasure all the amazing memories, but most importantly go and make some more. Wherever you may make them or whatever they may be, even if it’s just chilling at home and discovering a new book with your cat. Yeah it may not be globetrotting but hey it’s a damn good way to spend a day or two or three…