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!