“How was Australia? I bet you’re disappointed to be home!”
“Your trip in Africa looked amazing, I’d never come home after something like that”
“Don’t come back here, nothing’s changed”
“How can you find a job like this rewarding when you’ve done something like that in Fiji?”
These are just a few of the comments about my return home, some from friends and family, one from an interviewer, but pretty much everybody says the same thing. They’re right.
Twelve months ago, the idea of returning home filled me with dread. As I went about my days in New Zealand, edging dangerously closer to the end of another visa, another deadline to pack up and leave, I filled my days with plans for a new adventure, excitement, new places, new faces, new experiences. Anything but home.
Diving head first into my fourth year of travelling, I’d reached my furthest point from home, the exact opposite side of the Earth (actually, I was curious so I checked, and the EXACT opposite side of the Earth from South Wales is about 500k to the east of Campbell Island, a tiny island in the South Pacific Ocean belonging to New Zealand, about 800k to the south of the mainland. Anyway, I digress…).
When I first left my job, my family and my friends in Wales, I was going to Africa for a once in a lifetime trip, and taking the long way home via Australia and some parts of Asia, bringing me home in about 18 months, 7 months if I couldn’t find a source of income in Australia. Three years later, I had at least three more once in a lifetime trips under my belt and several more planned, and I still hadn’t been home.
At that point, I knew it was time to head back for a visit, but ONLY a visit. Because why would I ever want to go back for longer?
The thoughts that filled my head were along the lines of “How can I go back to that old life now?” “The weather is going to make me so miserable” “I’m going to have to see people I’ve left in the past” “I’ll never be happy there, knowing how great it is here” “I’ll never settle knowing how much more world is out there to be seen”
I discussed the issue with several travelling companions, like-minded people who all had similar feelings, coming to the conclusion through those discussions that the issue was a broadened mind.
You see, travel opens your mind in ways you could never imagine. It opens you up to new possibilities, new places, all of these things you like now that you’d never have expected to enjoy, new foods, new experiences, new personalities, yours and other peoples’. So home, all of a sudden, is just… tiny.
When you know so much more than you did before and you go back to that old life with those same people who have absolutely no concept of the things you’ve seen and done – It can be daunting to feel that you might then spend the rest of your life trapped in the memories of something you just don’t have anymore, with nobody to share it with, because they just won’t get it.
How can I go home without going crazy?
I’ll never be okay…
I’ll tell you a secret right now, one that I doubt is revolutionary, but I know that it’s something I didn’t realise a year ago.
Are you ready?
We get to decide what OKAY looks like – nobody else defines that for you.
The only thing making going home so scary, is you.
BOOM, there it is, I said it.
You can take those memories, those experiences and that open mind and you OWN IT. Bring it all home with you and apply that new attitude to the world and to everything in it to your own home. Why is my little town in Wales any different to that little suburb of Auckland or Perth. The only difference is that I think I already know it too well.
Well I was wrong. I knew nothing. To come home with this desire for adventure is to see your old space with new fresh eyes. I went hiking in other countries, why can’t I do that here? I signed up for random meet ups in other countries, why can’t I do that here? I stayed in backpackers all around the world, why can’t I do that here? I can. I can be a tourist in my own country, and it’s SO rewarding. Take away your judgements of your own home town, get your camera out, take a road trip, compare the scenery here to somewhere else if that’s your thing, find somewhere playing live music and spend every bar visit converting the drinks prices (if you happen to be returning to the UK from Aus or NZ then bar prices are a biggy in favour of home), get to know the history of the area the same way you would have in a small town on the other side of the world. What does your home have that many other places don’t? For me, it’s history, the UK is full of it!
Let your travel side loose in your home town and feel the difference. You never know, your new attitude might even rub off on a few of your old friends.
Coming home does not have to be the same as it always was for you, you have learned so much while you’ve been gone, now learn how to just be. It’s not about learning how to live, it’s about learning to live with yourself.
Living fully means accepting suffering, and there will be tough times, you will have memories that leave a pang of pain in your heart and a lump in your throat – embrace that. LOVE the fact that you have experienced that and that the memory belongs to just you. Love the fact that you feel so strongly about anything at all, not everybody will ever have the opportunity to feel anything so deeply.
Of course you have left parts of your heart elsewhere, but doesn’t home deserve the biggest chunk? Nothing is forever, you knew that when you started out, so don’t plan too far ahead, just take each day as it comes and enjoy it for what it is now. You don’t have to stay still and never leave again, but home deserves to meet the new you.
And if you’ve read this far thinking, “Pah, what a load of rubbish, I thought I was going to get some actual advice” – This is it my friend, there is no easy fix that makes home sunnier or less ‘same as before’, the only answer is your own attitude to it.
This can be your ‘OKAY’… If you choose to be okay here. Better than that, it could be amazing.
Now, wherever it is I’m headed, bring me that horizon.