On Friday, I sat back at my old desk, in my old office, back doing the job I was doing before my whole adventure began. For a split second I could have easily been fooled into thinking the last 18 months never actually happened, that it was just my overactive imagination daydreaming about abseiling down waterfalls, sunset romances and sandy beaches. I wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea for me to return to my old job when I headed back to the UK – sure it was convenient and in my actual industry. But it could also have been so easy to slide back into the rut I was in before I left – that painful, stressful and lonely place I was in. It wasn’t all down to the job, but a lot had changed in my office and combined with the break-up of my nine-year relationship, life became pretty miserable. I found myself at my lowest point, but even when I was frantically climbing the walls in an attempt to stop from being buried under the remnants of my old life, I still couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was only when I hit breaking point that I could finally see a way out, losing so much so quick helped make things seem incredibly clear – it was time to go.
So after such an abrupt decision to leave in such a rocky state of mind, you can imagine how strange it felt to be back among the stacks of newspapers after two years away. But sitting back at that computer, I couldn’t have felt any more different to how I did two years ago, it was like my whole perspective had shifted. Back then I was a workaholic who was driving herself into the ground working five jobs and stressing about giving 110% to each, now I’ve realised how that goes and it doesn’t end well. This time I’m in control of the situation, I’m working the hours that I want to work and working freelance means not taking on a ridiculous workload that will leave me overwhelmed. I’m not going to lie, I’m still a workaholic and get called that all the time by friends and family, but I like to think I’ve learnt my limits. It was so refreshing to be able to work in the office and feel happy, to truly enjoy journalism and the construction of a story instead of worrying about covering 100 stories at once. Just like it was refreshing to come back to this town without stressing over a relationship that had run its course. I’m back to basics now, just focusing on me and doing the job I loved – just the way it should be.Travelling is incredible in so many ways, but what is really invaluable is what it leaves you with days, months or even years after you have stepped off the plane. Perspective, knowledge and an understanding of the way you want to live your life – not the way anyone else thinks you should be living it. I came back with all three of these and it made me determined that I would not get caught up in work while I was back, it is important for me to earn money for my trip around Europe and my return to Australia, but it is more important for me to enjoy my time here and to make the most of the opportunity to see all the people I have missed so much over the last 18 months. It can be so hard to come home after travelling – I had read about it so many times and spoken to friends just after their return, but you never understand unless you experience it. I now understand the struggle, the heartbreak that comes with leaving so many memories and amazing people behind you, the pangs when you’ve left a piece of your heart on the other side of the planet. The difficulty in adjusting to the life you left behind, to the friends, the family who have moved on and yet stay entirely the same, unchanged. That moment when you step back into your time capsule of a bedroom to be met by the unblinking eyes of the past staring down at you from the photos on your wall.
It’s not easy to fit into a life that has moved on without you and yet stays strangely, and even irritatingly, familiar. But we do it because deep down, this is home. It doesn’t matter how far we travel or how many amazing things we see, a part of us is always here in this funny little town filled with charity shops and old age pensioners. I didn’t have to come back, I came back because I wanted to and because I missed my family, my friends and my home. So many can mistake travellers coming home and finding it difficult to readjust for them not actually not wanting to be here, that’s not it at all, it’s just a culture shock and we need time to adjust. That first intense burst of excitement of seeing everyone can soon fade as reality hits and between job-hunting and bad weather it can soon feel like a bit of an anti-climax to be here. For me, I feel like I never even had a chance to really enjoy that first moment of seeing everyone again because I was ill for the first two weeks of being home and couldn’t really make the most of it, only now am I starting to feel a bit more settled.But what needs to be understood by the traveller returning home is that it is okay not to feel at home in the place that you once couldn’t imagine a life outside of. It’s okay to always feel a sense that you shouldn’t be here, that you no longer belong here. It’s called growth, it means you’ve changed and grown as a person in your time away and it just means that you take up a little bit more space in the world, perhaps this town you once called home can no longer contain the person you have become. Likewise, what needs to be understood by those welcoming home the traveller is that this is no longer the person you waved off at the airport – they still look the same and share all those amazing memories with you. But something deeper has shifted, something stronger than personality or opinion, their very core has been shaken by all that they have seen and experienced. So don’t put it down to them being a wanky traveller who can’t stop talking about their gap year, perhaps it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s more that their whole world has changed and if that’s not something to talk about and share with the people who mean the most to you, I don’t know what is.
How did you find returning home from travelling? How did travelling affect you? Did you struggle to settle back in at home?