On being back home

It’s taken me more than three months of being back to get round to writing this. I’m not quite sure why. It’s partly because I’ve been quite busy catching up with friends and trying to find a job, but I think it’s more the fact that writing about home seems quite dull after all the exciting things I was up to while away.

But, I do want to carry on with the blog (and plenty of my friends have encouraged me to since I’ve been back – which was nice confirmation that people were actually reading!), and it was reading this post about settling back home that made me realise that I really should get on with it soon or else I’d never get round to it. So here goes…

Lovely as it was to be met by my parents at the airport, suddenly coming face to face with English weather after a year away really made my heart sink. I’d planned carefully to avoid bad weather for most of the year, and so to arrive back in London at half six in the morning to be faced with freezing temperatures, grey skies and pouring rain was a real shock to the system that made me desperate to be back on the beach in Cambodia.

The misery soon subsided though, as pretty soon I barely had time to notice the weather as I threw myself into the task of catching up with friends and family. One of the joys of being away was meeting so many wonderful people everywhere, making new friends almost every day – but being back home I suddenly really realised quite how much I’d missed everybody, and how emails, the odd phone call, and facebook status updates really are no match for catching up face to face.

I soon realised that my travels were clearly not half as interesting to other people as they were to me – perhaps people had seen all they needed to see from photos, or reading the blog, or perhaps hearing about other people’s travels just isn’t that interesting (although it is to me) – either way, in most instances I found the subject was changed pretty quickly after first meeting up with people, often after just one question (which incidentally was normally ‘what was your favourite country?’ – I’ll answer that one in a later post). It also felt strange chatting to many of my friends who said the year had flown past and that little had changed in their lives – whereas I’ve done and seen so much. The thought that my next year might end up being repetitive and samey was one of the first things to worry me.

The other thing I soon realised I’d missed was London. I’ve been to some amazing cities in the last year, but I have to say none of them quite match up to my home town. London is rightly famous for its museums and galleries, and I’d really missed the incredible nightlife, but I’d forgotten quite how beautiful it is in places, how green it is with all its parks. I arrived home after a year of being a tourist, and I’ve made a real effort since getting home to keep it up. So I’ve tried to make the most of my free time to explore the city as much as possible, checking out parts of the city I’d never been to before (like the wonderful parkland walk along a disused railway line and through ancient woodland from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, and the Greenway with it fantastic view over the new Olympic stadium). Three months in and I’m still not bored of it.

It’s not all been great though. Applying for jobs is a slow and boring process. My head knows I need to return to work but my heart would still rather be out there still, on the road. I feel like I’ve forgotten so much while being away – and that was confirmed in my first job interview where the feedback was that I ‘lacked gravitas’. Whoops. I quickly realised it was time to grow up and realise that this was something I had to take seriously.

After a while boredom began to settle in – with all my friends working 9-5 jobs, I had five days a week to fill. I spent plenty of time out sightseeing, but doing it all alone started to get boring, and I soon began to feel less motivated. I found myself getting out of bed later and later, and eventually I found the lack of structure beginning to get me down a bit. That was fine when I was moving on every few days, but after three months in one place it got much harder.

The frustrations of being on my own all day and not having a job were balanced out in other ways though – for it’s taken being back for me to realise quite how much I feel I’ve changed a person since being away. The biggest change is how much more confident I am as a person. I never used to be comfortable meeting new people, or in large social situations – but being away has changed that, I think simply by the fact travelling alone has forced me into being in that sort of situation every day, and realising there’s nothing to be scared of. Aside from that, I do feel like I’m no more adventurous than ever, I’m more relaxed too. Best of all though I genuinely feel happier than I ever have done. Even if I hadn’t had quite so many amazing experiences while away, the trip would have been worth it for that alone.

This phase of my life is now drawing to a close. After a year of travelling, and three months of settling back in, and job-hunting, I’ve now found one, and I start work on Monday. Half of me is delighted – I’ll have some structure back to my life, and crucially I’ll have a salary again (very handy for paying for future holidays). The other half of me is frankly terrified. I’m worried I’ve forgotten everything I know. I’m worried that I’m so used to doing nothing that the discipline of working will be beyond me. The idea of getting up every morning and having to deal with commuting scares me. Fingers crossed it all works out.

So what next for the blog? Well in the short term I have a few round-up and ‘best of’ posts to come, just for completeness sake. Plus I have a report on my recent trip to Croatia (which I treated myself too after getting the job). After that – well I plan to continue to write about life in London, as well as all my future travels – of which hopefully there will be lots!

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12 responses to “On being back home

  1. Congratulations on the job! I was worried too about having forgotten everything but the mind is an amazing thing and it is all there just as sharply as ever!

    Coming home is really part of the whole journey isn’t it? It’s seeming to take a long time for all the effects of travel to become apparent to me. My confidence though is, like you’ve observed too, very high – I feel so powerful and free!

    I’m glad you plan on keeping the blog – it may only be interesting to those of us who travel, but I like hearing about where people land and what they get up to with all of that new confidence!

    Cheers,
    Gillian

  2. When I first arrived home after spending almost 18 months in a secluded part of the country, I really struggled. All my friends said the time had flown and their lives were still the same. As much as I loved catching up with the people I missed, I found my self having the same conversation over and over (Where did you go? What was the best part? Weren’t you scared on your own?), plus once things had settled down my life became repetitive and although it felt like I had changed, my life ‘post trip’ was the same as ‘pre trip’. Plus, despite my friends saying things were the same, I felt that the dynamics of relationships had changed, it felt as though they had shifted to fill the void I had left.

    Traveling showed me I am my own person, but since coming home I sometimes feel that I am moving with everyone else.

    Right now I am saving hard and planing an around the world trip. This helps because I feel as though I have a goal and like I am moving forward. Plus, it gives me something to day dream about while I’m at work.

  3. Nice thoughtful post, Geoff. It has been really great to have you back in London. Best of luck for Monday!

  4. You? Uncomfortable meeting people? Give over! You were always great at all that. Charm itself in fact. Xx. If your perception has changed it’s just catching up with reality – and that’s a lovely thing.

    Good luck for Monday xx

  5. good luck for next week, it’s surprising how quickly i found it to get back into the daily grind. just don’t lose sight of planning the next big getaway. see you soon
    x

  6. I echo Clare – I’d never have thought you were worried about meeting people. Life and soul of a party! Good luck for tomorrow.

  7. Great post. I have been traveling also the past few years but recently put up a store and am now tied to my homeland more than I have ever been– it is strange, but I also do appreciate it more and do everything to make it more awesome. I couldn’t shake the “itchy feet” at first, but the notion of “placemaking” and welcoming friends to my own home (some I’ve met traveling) is equally great. (Not to say I’m not plotting for a few months away)

  8. I do not travel nearly as much as I’d like but I love to hear/read about travels others have taken. Your blog is great and I look forward to hearing your London tales. I moved from London to Yorkshire a few years ago and I now appreciate what a beautiful city London is. I feel like a happy tourist whenever I visit. Hope the new job goes well.

  9. thetravelingturtle

    So I’ve been reading this blog for months, and this is the first post I’ve commented on, funny enough considering the big trip is over. I started blogging last summer on my 2 month SEA trip, and reading your blog inspired me to restart mine!

    I feel the same way you do about my home city, New York. I almost wish I didn’t love it so dearly because it would make it so much easier to leave!

    Congrats on the new job and keep blogging!

  10. Most people don’t want to hear about your travels because in some way it makes them realize they haven’t done as much. after about 5 minutes, my friend’s eyes gaze over. I just change the subject.

  11. So glad I found this blog! I like your honesty on coming back home with a bump to earth, and heartening to hear you found a job pretty quickly. Hope you’re settling back ok, but not too much to not wander again! Keep it up.

    Jools

  12. I can really relate to what you wrote, for me I always think that coming home is the hardest part of traveling. A few years ago I had been on a 6 month trip round the world with my family, our last stop on the trip was India. From there we flew back to Sweden, and I must say that arriving in Stockholm was without a doubt the biggest culture crash on the whole trip! And it was all so gray! Not only the weather, but somehow the people seemed gray too… After having been in India and experienced all the colors there!
    And just like you found we also experienced that people really aren’t that interested in hearing about your adventures. I think it is because if you haven’t experienced something like it yourself it’s hard to relate to. That’s one of the reasons I love meeting fellow long term travelers, they understand! :)

    Good luck with your new job and everything!

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