Caplunk, the noise of metal on metal. Bang. Click goes a door on its wooden door frame. I open my sleep-filled eyes. What. Where am I….?
While I’m on my travels, I can spend as little as a night in one place so the feeling of disorientation when I first wake up has become normal to me. This time, however, it isn’t unfamiliarity that confuses me, but instead familiarity. They are the noises I know best in the world. Noises that have woken me a thousand times before. I’ve woken up in my old bed at my parents home; it’s the gate at the top of the hill where my mum feeds the horses and the slam of the back door as she comes back down to the house that’s brought me back to consciousness from my heavy, jet-lagged sleep.
I roll over and starfish in the middle of my comfortable double bed. Oh, it does feel good to be surrounded by home comforts again.
Just over a month on from that blissful morning, it’s time to reflect on how it has really been to come back to the UK. It’s an unusual feeling returning home after 18 months away. It’s a feeling you anticipate as soon as you have that plane ticket booked and one that you discuss with many of the travellers along the way. It also makes you question where your ‘home’ really is, but as long as my parents have this house it will always be home to me.
To be honest, I took arriving back in the UK as well as I did landing in New Zealand at the beginning of my year there. I was a bundle of nerves and emotions. In my head, landing back in the UK marked the end of my journey. Yet there are so many things I have learned from my time away and so many new opinions I have formed that it also felt like the beginning of another. This was both daunting and exciting.
My best friend, who is always there in my times of crisis, sent me screenshots of the messages I had sent her when I first landed in New Zealand and had a bit of a wobble. I was worried I’d made a mistake. I was worried I was never going to find a job. I was even worried I wouldn’t find any mates. All that worrying was wasted because it all worked out perfectly fine. Better than fine. I had an amazing time. She sent me those messages to remind me of how far I have come in the past 18 months and how, if I can do that on the other side of the world, I can certainly come back to the place where I’m surrounded by people who love me. And so what if it is a new journey, I’ve got pretty good at those now.
I want to be totally honest though. Despite that injection of positivity from my bestie, in reality, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows since I came home. Yes, it has been amazing to see my family and catch up with my friends. But, it has also been a complete rollercoaster of emotions from extreme highs, to serious panic, through to bursting into tears for no reason.
I read about ‘reverse culture shock’ when I was away and I can totally see how it is a thing. Your whole routine and way of life are turned on its head when you are away in another country or travelling for a period of time. Suddenly you come home and you have to try and fit back in your old life somehow, yet you aren’t completely the same person you were when you left. It may only be subtle, but the experiences, cultures, and people you have been exposed to do make an impact and do mould you into a newer, more mature and probably better version of yourself.
Over the past few weeks, I have been so lucky to reunite with my friends, including going to Glastonbury with a whole bunch of my old uni pals. That experience was unbelievable and the ease of slipping back into these things with everyone has reminded me why I love England as my home. I not only have my family here but a seriously good bunch of mates. People are always one of the most important factors for me in terms of my happiness. I am an extrovert after all. In a lot of ways what I experienced in my time away has made me appreciate these friendships and relationships even more.
I would definitely suggest to anyone coming back from a long period away to book something fun with a bunch of your friends for a few weeks after your return. It gives you something to look forward to so once the initial excitement of landing home wears off you still have that in the pipeline to keep your spirits up. Glastonbury was 100% that for me!
That aspect of coming home and seeing all my friends and family has been the easy part. Deciding what’s next in terms of where I want to live, what I want to do, finding a job, etc. has not been so easy and I would say is the area where the majority of my anxieties have laid.
Initially I went round in circles on whether I wanted to travel again, move to another country or move to London. Then ‘how I will earn money’ comes in to play, which is critical when you’ve spent 7 months travelling. I felt pressured to make a decision. And not just any decision, the right decision. But that pressure was only coming from myself.
Six weeks on and I’ve managed to get myself interviews, come to more of a conclusion on where I want to live next and things are starting to come together. So, despite the moments of wondering why the hell I came home (normally when it is pissing it down with rain outside haha), six weeks on I do feel so much more settled. It just took me taking a step back, considering all my options and acknowledging what would actually make me happy.
Now I am in this better head space I wonder why I forgot my motto “don’t worry twice” and let myself get so stressed. But, I am only human after all and, what I’d like to get through in this post is, it’s okay to have those moments as long as you don’t allow them to spiral out of control.
I have definitely realised in this period how much it helps to talk through what you’re feeling with the people close to you. They can offer you a different perspective and also make you realise how normal it is to feel uncertain at times. No one goes through life without the odd wobble here and there. And without those wobbles, you probably wouldn’t be exploring different paths that can sometimes lead to unexpected happiness.
If you are also in a similar position, whether that’s returning from a long trip, moving to a new place or job, going through a break up or just having a complete change of direction in your life, don’t forget to check in with yourself every now and again, it’s totally fine to be unsure or feel a bit unstable at times. Use your support network as a sounding board, there’s a reason they are the people you trust and are closest to; they will want to help and support you in whatever way they can. And, remember, be kind to yourself. You are not superhuman, emotions are real and, as humans, we feel all of them. Address them, notice what causes them and remove the triggers for the bad ones (or at least distance yourself from them as much as you can) and more importantly, hold the triggers of your happiness closer.
In essence, the next chapter of my journey through life is only at the very beginning. I still have the story and the climax to come. I’m excited to see how it unfolds.
Thanks for reading. Let me know how you have found returning from your travels and trips away?
Wonder Seeking Sarah