In August 2015, more than two years after I stepped onto that first plane to Rio, I planted my feet back onto English soil.
And it was the best feeling in the world.
My boyfriend, Gareth, and I had been travelling for around 20 hours, and I was so jet lagged that I was almost delirious with exhaustion. Yet nothing could take away the fact that I was damn happy to be home.
People warned me that I would be clawing at the walls of my childhood room within two weeks, but fortunately this hasn’t been the case. I missed the Devonshire countryside; English pedestrian crossings; Twiglets and Fox’s biscuits; the tenth cup of strong English tea; my brother’s sarcasm; Zumba classes; the Westcountry accent (the first time I heard a lady say, “‘ello Pauline, my lover”, I practically sighed with happiness); my Grandma Shirley’s infamous Irish coffees (guaranteed to put the hairs back on your chest); and the pleasure of taking a long bubble bath with a good book.
I also missed having routine, personal space and the chance to build on the career aspect of my life.
Gareth and I had planned to use the full 12 months of our Working Holiday Visa in Australia, but it became rapidly apparent that this was no longer feasible for a number of reasons:
- We spent a total of three and a half months doing unpaid farm work in order to be eligible for a second year visa. Whilst we received food and accommodation in exchange for our labour, we found ourselves buying a lot of our own food and paying to drive to the nearby town to use the internet. By the end, neither of us had much money left.
We immediately moved to Byron Bay with the hopes of finding work, only to discover that jobs were hard to come by. It was going to take us a minimum of two weeks to find work – and that’s if we were lucky. Even without spending money on activities or eating out, we could only afford to spend a fortnight in Australia before our money ran out. If we couldn’t find anything in that time, we would have to fly home defeated and deflated.
We were forced to make a decision very quickly: we could either spend two weeks looking (and potentially failing) to find work, or we could cut our losses and spend a fantastic month in Indonesia before heading back to the UK.
- We missed home and the farm work had taken its toll. I will save the full story for a separate blog post, but the three and a half months of farm work were possibly the hardest of my entire trip abroad. There were some brilliant and exciting moments in those months, but after 102 days we had had enough.
- Indonesia had our name on it. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, “Eat, Pray, Love”, was a prime source of inspiration for me when I was plucking up the courage to buy my round the world ticket. I was dying to experience Bali and see what all the fuss was about, and Gareth was dying to take some time off from work and have a holiday.
After a long walk and talk through Byron Bay, Gareth and I sat down on some rocks along the beach. We watched the waves and I buried my head in my arms: did we want this two year long love affair with travelling to come to an end? For me, I was heart broken that my time in Australia was coming to such a negative end, and that this would conclude what I like to call the “Best Two Years of My Entire Life”. I didn’t want to let my dream go.
It was Gareth who had the guts to say it first, “I vote that we travel for a month and then go home.”
Tearfully, I affirmed.
We went back to our hostel, grabbed Gareth’s laptop and booked our flights to Bali. We would be leaving in just five days.
Moments later, we received news about an ash cloud that was covering Bali’s airport. All flights, both in and out, were grounded for the foreseeable future. At the time it felt like the world was against us – telling us that we had made the wrong decision – but then the cloud fatefully cleared and it suddenly seemed that even the earth itself was telling us that we made the right decision.
It’s a glorious relief to be selfish and wile away days, months and even years travelling wherever your feet wish to take you, but it’s also a burden
Choosing to come home was the best decision we could have made. I love travelling and all of the adventures that it entails, but I also can’t wait to have a home of my own, to build on the work/career aspect of my life, and to spend more time with my family.
One of my grandfathers passed away when I was coming towards the end of my farm work, and it was a pivotal moment in changing my feelings towards travelling. It’s a glorious relief to be selfish and wile away days, months and even years travelling wherever your feet wish to take you, but it’s also a burden. It creates a barricade composed of time and space between yourself and your loved ones, both on and off the road. Travel sweeps people out of your life as quickly as it brings them to you. Not being there when my granddad died may be one of those things, but not seeing him for two years between my last visit and that moment is quite another.
So, I am back in the UK.
I sip on Otter Ale (in a pint glass – not a pot or a schooner), I take walks through the woods with the smell of rain still thick on the air, and I watch movies with my family. I am excited to rejoin a gym and to get back in shape. I even look forward to sorting my CV out and applying for jobs (though maybe not the interview part so much!). I am excited to plan future backpacking adventures and to see what is next in my life.
All in all, I am home and it is good.