I’ve been back from travelling for about four weeks. It’s been a whirlwind of joyful reunions, catch ups, new baby cuddles, raucous drunken nights out and birthday celebrations. I’ve loved every minute. I also can’t express how grateful I am to the friends who have been helping me out since I got back. London is just as glorious as I remembered, and my heart is bursting with love for the people in my life. You’ve all made my return to reality the absolute best (see below for evidence of just how great it’s been)!
But the past few days, a flatness that is more than just your average case of January blues has started to creep in and I just can’t shake it. I’ve caught myself staring out of rain stained windows and dreaming of the sun on my face. I’ve felt myself zoning out of conversations struck by a memory or simply wondering why I’m now here when I was there. I find myself feeling anxious and I’m not sure why, I think it might just be life sinking back in.
Guys, I miss travelling. I miss the freedom. I miss the simplicity of my days. I miss being stretched out in the sand alone with only my book and my thoughts. I miss those moments of complete and utter dreamlike contentment whizzing around deserted mountain roads on the back of a bike.
Here are some of the things I’ve been pining for:
Striking up conversations with strangers
“You’re never alone long when you’re travelling alone,” the saying goes. And it’s true. There’s always someone to talk to on the road, if that’s what you want.
Gone are the days of walking into a cafe, hostel common area or restaurant and striking up conversation with a stranger. If I did that here I’d undoubtedly be met with hostility because God forbid anyone should even make eye contact with each other on the tube at rush hour (and yes, I am one of those people who puts my head down in the paper every morning for fear of interacting with other humans before I have to). I’m already missing the openness of other people and the quick, meaningful connections that were made on a daily basis, the rigmarole of ‘where have you been and where are you going?’ and talking to someone new over dinner almost every night.
I find myself wondering where the people I met are and what they’re doing, thinking about the laughs we shared and conversations we had about life around campfires, on city rooftops, in jungles and in hostel beds. I wonder what Pedro the Mexican that Jenn and I met over pizza in Ubud is doing right now. I wonder how the Danish girls who I lazed by the pool and shared tropical fruit plates with in Mui Ne are. I think of my Captain Coconuts family, the sunsets we watched and the nights we spent lying under the stars and my heart twinges.
I think about all the conversations I had about life and love and the dilemmas I shared with relative strangers – I wonder if I made an impression on them like they did on me.
I wasn’t away long, but I forgot what it was like to set an alarm every day. To know you have to be on the tube by 7:53 to get to work at a respectable time and still have time to stop off at Pret for coffee. To have a vast wardrobe of outfits to choose from every day and to actually have to think/care about your appearance rather than just whipping your hair into a bun and putting on your denim shorts – again (although I’m not going to lie, I’ve enjoyed being reunited with my curling tongs). To have a diary and make plans and have to know what you’re doing at the weekend and have people ask what you’re doing next week, next month and the third weekend in July. To have the panicky, anxious heart in your chest feeling I get so often here.
I’m not entirely sure I will ever have appreciated enough being free from all these things for a substantial amount of time and living life totally on my terms and time. I felt healthy and I felt rested and I felt like anything was possible. It was precious.
Not jumping on the back of a moped to get everywhere
Ironic because I had two moped accidents, but I’m really missing jumping on the back of them (and also rattling around in tuk tuks). Yes, Uber serves the purpose of getting you from A to B and but it’s just not the same as clinging on to a moped for dear life with the wind in your hair and the smells and sights hitting you in the face as you weave through traffic and up pavements in Vietnam.
Holiday food and alcohol consumption
It suddenly dawns on you that you can no drink beer at any hour of the day, justifying it because it’s 75p and ‘you’re on holiday’ (for four months). Realising how fun it was to be able to say yes to that extra bucket of gin with straws because being hungover on a Tuesday while travelling is perfectly acceptable. You really start to miss eating chilli ketchup on absolutely everything and being able to give less of a shit about what you eat every day because you sweat out the calories anyway.
Bartering for everything
I am so used to bartering, it’s easy to forget that I can’t march up to the till in M&S with my posh ready meal and offer them 50% of the price then pretend to walk away until one of you caves (usually me).
Oh my god, I never realised it was possible to be homesick for the sun. But here I am, daydreaming of it daily and thinking wistfully of all the amazing sunsets I saw every single day. I miss watching the sun sink beneath the clouds with a beer in my hand. I miss watching my hair get blonder and my skin get darker every day. BRING ON SUMMER!
The lack of order
There were times I angrily and tearfully berated the lack of order you find travelling around Asia. There were times the chaos was too much, the traffic and noise and staring were too much. For example, the inability to queue drove me to the point of madness. I bloody love a queue, and being away and coming home again has reminded me of that fact. It is orderly and it is just so and it is polite, and god forbid you should accidentally graze the back of the person in front of you with your shopping basket, but even then you’ll both apologise profusely then go back to the wondrous order of the queue. No jostling, no elbows, no incidents like that time at Bangkok airport where an entire planeful of Chinese tourists just barged me out of the way at immigration and nearly made me miss my connecting flight – although admittedly getting to work on a weekday morning is not too dissimilar. But you know what, I think I even miss not queuing.
It’s bloody lovely to get timely public transport again but is it weird that I even miss the loooong buses and boat journeys, sometimes sharing with livestock or boxes of glassware piled dangerously tall next to you?! It’s part of the fun of travelling and I almost look back fondly on my many delayed bus journies.
I find myself yearning for the total unfamiliar, the kind of chaos that makes your heart plummet then soar back up in the space of five minutes. I miss my life less ordinary. I miss waking up some days with no idea of what would come and the luxury of being able to choose to do whatever I wanted (sometimes that choice was as difficult as ‘shall I lie by the pool or get a £2 manicure?) I miss being free to spend an entire day roaming a city with all the gear (I.e. a map) but no idea. I miss learning things about myself that surprised me. I miss being reduced to silence, or even tears, by a view or an encounter or an experience.
I miss it all.
To conclude, I really don’t want to get into any kind negative spiral feeling sorry for myself after this trip that I was so lucky to be on. I’m so grateful for my life here and being so loved and supported by my family and friends. I’ve found a new flat to move into and I am honestly so excited about spending this year settled in London.
I just thought it would be cathartic to write this down and remember just how much I have treasured every part of my trip, the good and the bad, when on days like today it feels like a world away. And for any fellow travellers who went home recently (I know a fair few of you!) reading this, this is kind of for you too.
On a positive note, I received exactly the same two pieces of advice from two special people in my life today who, like me, are free spirits caught between the rules of real life and a desire to travel and be out in the world (shout out to Tatjana and Nina, love youuu). It made me feel ten million times better. They reminded me that travel is never off the table. It’s not going anywhere. Just because I had this one big, life defining trip, it doesn’t mean it’s over and that there won’t be more or that similar experiences can’t be sought in a week or weekend away somewhere. So, I choose to focus my energy instead on that – the next trip/trips (however small), the sunshine, people, culture, chaos and whatever else awaits.