So, after three years of travelling, volunteering and working aboard I finally decided to pay my friends and family back home a visit. I had decided earlier this year that this was the year that I wanted to come home. I wasn’t sure for how long or where I would go from here but I knew that I wanted to come home. I left London telling all my family and friends that I was going for three months but these three months turned into three years. I’m not entirely sure how this happened but the last three years went by pretty quickly. Whilst travelling is contagious and it is hard to pause, I was adamant that I both needed and wanted to go home.
I was eager to pay my folks a visit. I know they have struggled with me being away for so long and being so far away. I spent the last year in Australia so it wasn’t easy for them or anyone to just pop over and see me. Of course, I invited them, along with other friends but no one came out to visit and I understand that it is not easy. My parents supported and gave as much as they could even though they wanted nothing more than for me to come home. During this last year, my parents actually encouraged me to settle in Australia which came as a surprise. Whilst I know a handful of people who have done so, I certainly would not.
My parents along with one of my sister’s couldn’t believe that I was coming home as, prior to this, I said on a few occasions that I would come home but I never did. My sister deems me to be a flight risk, so much so that she was happy to book my return flight to London. She missed me immensely and I know that it hasn’t been easy for her. I was fearful before I left that I would be forgotten or that I could somehow be replaced but I was very wrong. I can’t and won’t be forgotten and more so, I know for sure that I am indispensable. I am unique and the relationships I built and preserved are special and embedded for years to come.
I appreciate that three years is a long time to be away and of course life doesn’t stop, the world doesn’t just stop, everyone and everything continues to change, grow, develop with or without us. It is a long time to be aboard and some people, friends etc. move on and this is also fine. I don’t expect friends to wait around in anticipation or for them to stay in contact as some people need face-to-face contact and do not wish to remain in contact through the web. I try and stay in contact with as many friends as I can but any friendship is a two way street and sometimes, life happens so it is also not possible to stay in touch.
I was fortunate enough that many of my good friends continue to call, message and email me. One of the greatest advantages of modern day technology; communication is easy no matter where we are and it is free provided there is wifi. So whether it was my flatmate or the women I had the privilege of working with, I was able to share my journey with them in most cities I was in. My friends are a lifeline, I wrote numerous messages when I felt lost, confused, hopeless, sad or angry and sure enough I received a supportive and kind response. Many of my friends are an inspiration for me and some I admire a great deal. I am grateful that my support network, my circle of friends was never too far away despite me being so far from home.
It wasn’t just the friends that I left behind that I missed, no, it was also the friends I met along the way. The wonderful, kind-hearted backpackers with whom I shared so many great memories with. I was eager not to loose contact with these friends and was adamant that we would meet again. For me, it wasn’t a question of if, no, it was more a question of when. Some of these friends went back to work or back to university. As I am often told, they went back to their normal life but I have come to learnt, one is never able to fully return to their ‘normal’ life, whatever that may consist of, as something inside of us has changed. The seed has been planted and watered and so it continues to blossom.
Seasons come and go but truthfully, for all of those who have ventured out and explored new cities, worked, volunteered or lived overseas, our life has changed forever more. There is no coming back from it and whether or not we choose to go back out, we know what the open road holds. If anyone had told me that I would voluntarily stayed on the road for three years, I would have laughed. When I left London to volunteer in Vietnam I was apprehensive, anxious and fearful of what this experience would entail. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of one of the greatest adventures of my life. I learnt and grew as a person and I stretched my comfort zone in more ways than one. I have not one but many places that I call home now and pieces of my heart and soul remain scattered around the world.
So coming home was not a easy decision but the right one for me. I was under no pressure and had no obligation to return. I was conscious of how long I had been away but this too wasn’t the reason of my return. It was more I had this feeling in my gut, telling me that it was time to go back. Whether or not I venture out again is not the question. The question is when as opposed to if as I have a long list of cities I wish to explore but I am in no great hurry. The world isn’t going anywhere and for now I am happy to be coming home. You don’t need money to travel, you need courage, determination and patience to explore the unknown, new cultures and cities. So this is not goodbye but farewell to the long, beautiful road I was on, until next time.