After 18 months solidly on the road, spanning 12 countries and too many bottles of beer on the beach I returned home 2 weeks ago for a brief UK pitstop – attending the TBEX Travel conference, getting some solid work done and catching up with friends and family.
But what is it like returning home after so long on the road?
I know a lot of backpackers are worried about leaving home (in which case read my 10 myths of backpacker travel!), but once you start your trip you’ll soon realise the worry is returning home and readjusting to ‘normal’ life.
Well it’s been an odd experience to say the least, filled with good and bad parts – so here’s how I’ve found the whole thing…
Without a doubt one of the best things about being home again is seeing old faces and catching up. Particularly with family.
I only saw my parents a few months ago when we travelled New Zealand together but other faces like my grandparents and such like are people I haven’t properly seen for the entirety of my trip.
Technology has avoided me getting homesick that much and missing people – even my Grandad bought an iPad so he can text and Facetime me on the road – but it was more the physical contact that we caught up on.
There’s nothing quite like a hug from your grandma is there to welcome you home?!
Catching up with my buddies has been pretty awesome too. One of the things I missed most about home was not being able to surf with them and since my return I’ve been lucky enough to have a few good session up in north Devon – catching up in cold, rainy car parks, out back in the waves and annoying them intently with stories of board short sessions in Bali!
One of the weird things about coming back is that everything is familiar. It’s an odd experience that I find hard to describe…but you kind of slot right back in to where you left of to a large degree.
It’s almost like being in limbo, like the last 18 months were a hazy dream you’ve just woken up from.
Gone are the strange sites and sounds of distant places, gone are the new experiences you had on a daily basis and gone are the numerous backpackers you meet, party and explore with.
The unknown and the excitement are gone, replaced with locations and faces that to a large extent seem untouched by time.
One of the hardest things to overcome is the realisation that you’ve changed a lot – but people you interact with on a daily basis haven’t. They haven’t experienced what you’ve done, learnt what you’ve learnt.
I don’t mean this in an egotistical travel veteran kind of way – but the truth is you’ve changed a hell of a lot and have the experience of the world with you now, it’s an inevitability of life on the road, no matter how slight it may be – you’re the one who has changed.
9 times our of 10 the people you chat with are in the same job, house and relationship.
My viewpoint on this has altered the longer I’ve been back. At first (and I’m a bit ashamed to admit this) I felt sorry for those people. Sounds bad doesn’t it?! I want them to experience the world and see what I’ve seen – it’s amazing!
But then I realised what do we really want from life? We want to be content and happy. To my friends who truly are happy – I salute and admire you, you’ve found what you wanted, taken it and are content.
…it’s the people that call me lucky and say they’re jealous that I now feel sorry for. They simply need to man up, bite the bullet and put their dreams into action!
Boredom and Productivity
Another inevitable process of coming home is boredom. The first few days were a whirlwind of catch ups, impromptu drinks and banter. This was further extended by the chaos of TBEX!
But now…well…I’m bored!
I’ve grown accustomed to spontaneous trips, an ever changing set of surroundings, meeting hundreds of amazing new people each day.
One of the biggest things I kind of overlooked was the fact everyone has real life 9-5 jobs Monday to Friday and I….errmmm….don’t!
So during the days I’m pretty freaking bored and have sod all to do! Sure I’ve gone for walks and slotted in some surfing – but most of the time I’m plain bored.
This however is what I bargained on! I wanted to be unstimulated so I could be productive! I had a large to do list of stuff that I needed to get in order – and without the distractions of beach parties, dive trips and island hopping I’ve jumped in feet first and I’m making some serious progress.
The work load I’ve covered being at home would’ve taken me months on the road – not least for the unpredictable wifi of Asia but also through the ability of being able to focus!
It’s a double edged sword but I’m using it to my advantage.
So has coming home triggered feelings of wanting to settle down?
Has being around my family and friends made me think twice about my rather random lifestyle on the road?
Do I appreciate my lush double bed and being greeted in the morning with a cup of tea and biscuits enough to give up noisey, uncomfortable hostel dorms and return home.
Not in the slightest!
I appreciate the time I have to properly recharge, restock and re examine what I’m doing and where I’m heading.
I appreciate the home cooked meals and the friendly faces.
But I’m most definitely in this for the long haul and don’t plan on stopping any time soon if I can help it.
If anything returning home has solidified my decision to live the dream and explore. It’s made me miss travel. It’s made me miss all the stupid little things I almost hated at one point. It’s made me miss…well…my life.
It’s pretty hard to put this in black and white (and I don’t want to upset my mother!) but home isn’t where my life is anymore.
My life is out there, with backpackers, with all those lost souls in a permanent state of holiday, with the so called nomads who have turned the beaches into their offices.
Home isn’t even where all my stuff is anymore – I have left my possessions scattered across the globe…maybe in an unconscious decision to force myself to keep going and pick it all up at some point! I haven’t even fully unpacked my stuff yet either!
I’ve appreciated being home.
It has been amazing (and still will be for the couple of weeks I have left) but I’ve finally let myself accept that I doubt I’ll be content in a single place for some time to come, and that single place will probably not be the UK.
But for the time being I’ll enjoy every bite of the home cooked roast, every sip of that cup of tea in bed (seriously I love it!), every cold night in front of the fire and every shiver inducing duck dive of UK surfing.
It’s a reminder of what I left behind, but also a reminder of what I left it for.
Any of you guys return home after a long trip? How was the reverse culture shock for you?