Give me a moment to brag about my 2017.
I’m not going to go hugely into detail; I’ve written at length about the beautiful things I have seen/done/witnessed/eaten like the backpack wanker I am. This is more about how I feel as a result, and how bloody lucky I am as a person of this world, of this life and of this accidental leniency with bank accounts.
This didn’t all just happen to me though. People always say to me ‘you’re so lucky you could do this’. I saved hard to get out to the other side of the globe, I worked three jobs, juggling those, ongoing heart disasters and an inability to actually be an adult in control of my life without the help of those around me. I didn’t just up and leave one day and it all worked out; some of it was a massive struggle. I also lived on pesto pasta for the majority of my Australian existence which is fine because pesto pasta was sent from the actual baby Jesus.
So lets delve in, as a Melons standard; arriving very late (I got back to the UK on the 16th December 2017… it is now February 2018), making an entrance, being overly dramatic and wanting your full attention.
2017: you had your bad, incredibly shit moments.
Every year does, but 2017, you also rocked my bloody world too.
So, I haven’t written on here in a while as I have become one of those people I never wanted to be.
I am a commuter.
I get on a train when it’s still dark (well I try and fail to) and make my way to the collective metropolis; that compact yet domineering place we all know, love, hate and find great joy in; London.
I work now. Properly. I have returned to that place in life where I am in my actual home again; with more than 10 possessions and an address for the bailiffs to adhere to. A job, a stab in the dark at a career, life attempting to adjust, debt attempting to be paid, dark chocolate digestives being eaten, and normality attempting to be resumed.
The bikini is long gone; shoved to the back of the wardrobe with no sunlight on that frosty, rainy horizon. Though that’s probably good as I appear to have given up regular yoga sessions for indulgence in every form a potato can come in since the very second I did land on British soil.
Sunglasses are no longer useful. Mosquito nets are good for absolutely and literally nothing. Its gone straight in the cupboard; which is one of those cupboards that no one knows what is in there exactly, how long its been there, and could in fact be in the entrance to Narnia for all I know.
Flip flops are only out when a spider crosses my path on the way upstairs.
No more sarongs, no more tie dye, no sun cream to rub begrudgingly and terribly into my salty skin, to immediately sweat off and still result in weird sunburn across the entirety of my body, normally concentrated on my shins. No need to jump in the sea every 20 minutes to cool down because ITS BLOODY FREEZING HERE. Strappy tops are only useful as the very bottom of three million layers to combat these baltic temperatures, no passport needed for any journey; which is technically good as I was as everyone knows the least well organised backpacker ever (so ironic as my job is literally now me being paid for organisation) and I do not have a passport so I basically no longer exist.
My views are now the train. Every day. This morning a dog was sick on it.
Bleak, rainy skylines fill my vision, and high rises are galore. No more beaches, no more local markets, no more local doggos following me around; just mounds of tourists getting in my way whilst I try to get into Pret for my early morning caffeine fix. Now in the newsagent lemon Fanta costs a solid £3 and everyone on the train converges on each other in the morning like unloved cats; at the speed of light wrapped around each other, never actually getting anywhere and breathing hot in each others faces.
I so wanted to come home.
I ached for home.
I ached for my people.
I love to travel, I love the experiences, the culture, the people, the stories I have to tell like a complete wanker at every opportunity, and the memories I have for a life time.
I want a million more to fill my head, my notebooks, and my life.
But I missed it. Home.
I missed somewhere I could truly be me. Where I could say things without people being shocked or me being misunderstood, not in terms of language but in terms of me as a person; where people just knew me. My illicit profanities, my never-ending sarcasm, my temper, my I got dressed in the dark appearance and my love, my huge love. I missed my incredible family, I missed my beautiful friends, I missed my dogs, I missed Nandos and god I really missed houmous. (Not in Australia, obviously they have houmous there.) Really, I actually missed the monotony of life, the normality of it. By the time I was coming home I wanted nothing more than to just be there. I made new families all over the world, new friends that are my forever lot. But home is home isn’t it?
The one thing that panicked me when I knew I was officially on my way back, was how I would feel about it all. Not how tired I would be, not what would happen, what I would do, not even who was my friend still and who wasn’t, or would my ex be lurking around every corner like some sort of time-travelling ex-girlfriend catcher?
I would feel differently and I knew that and it scared me.
I had changed; and did that change fit any more?
What if i came home only to be unhappy again?
There were so many reasons I had left in the first place.
The feelings I had when I first left England were a strong variation of unhappiness, unsettledness, a lack of direction and ultimately a broken heart. A whole range of excuses that I could use not to be where I was. So I left. Don’t get me wrong, I had other reasons to go, my dream to see the world, to see my brother and his beautiful wife married, to see if I could even exist on my own. The people I had and thankfully still have around me never questioned, but encouraged me to go forth and prosper; salt of the earth, loves of my heathen life.
And I did go forth and prosper? Bloody hell, did I prosper.
The main thing you gain from travelling alone, and also being away for a long period of time, is a greater level of independence and in my case, as so many have told me since I came home: confidence. The change doesn’t just happen one day, it’s a progression over time. The kind of realisation where the bad things you had let settle become permanent quips of your character, are one day kind of gone. You don’t know what it is that changed, or what exactly happened to change the way you think or feel about yourself. But its like the minute you step back on home ground, you realise the new version of yourself is the real version of yourself and it makes no sense that you weren’t that person before.
You let go of that shit stuff someone told you to think about yourself, you let go of the horrendous feelings you let yourself live in. We all have bad moments; shit moments where we think the darkest things about ourselves. But they are less now, and you smile a hell of a lot more.
Don’t get me wrong, its tough. Seeing people you haven’t seen or sometimes spoken to in such a long time and just ‘fitting back in’, being back where someone cares enough to ask normal questions like ‘whats on telly?’ and ‘whats for dinner?’ are at first dramatically and stupidly painful; like you’ve somehow traded in your independence for constant rain and public transport, and the best years of your life never actually happened.
But, the realisation that you’re back with these wonderful humans, who want to look after you, nurture you, support you and more often than not get drunk with you is an enormous privilege, not a right.
It’s a different life now.
With different goals and aims, with different ideas and dreams. With different and more people. With all the exciting things I couldn’t even see before. I couldn’t even imagine all the possibilities available to me. I couldn’t even think the way I do now, the way I am so hopeful for everyone and everything. Yes, sometimes I am still a moody cunt, and yes, I now sit here in the office on a Friday afternoon skiving, having devoured both quavers and a brownie, looking forward to some cocktails after work, knowing I need to put on a jumper/coat/scarf/hat combo to step outside, knowing there is no beach on the horizon and knowing exactly what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month.
There isn’t anything wrong with that.
The world at least right now isn’t going anywhere for me. Those years of your life did happen, you went and you proved to yourself you could to the thing you set out to do. I had the most incredible time, I laughed, I cried, I jumped out of a bloody plane. I had good moments and I had shit moments. I lost people. I gained them. So many people go and do these things, go and be somewhere,; and the triumph isn’t to be one of the mass of backpackers; its to have the courage to be a person who wants more from this life, who sees the bigger picture, who sees the amazing things about people and about the world.
I did it, I made myself do that, I proved it to myself. Even if that was just to live. I did those things. Because as that fictional ledge Peter Pan said; ‘to live would be an awfully big adventure.’
And boy, have I lived,
and there is so much more living to do.