The post-travel blues. I’ve definitely been wrestling with them these past few months. However, that’s all a little tied up with moving back to the UK after half a decade living abroad. Plus, there’s a little reverse culture shock thrown in there for good measure!
And so I asked the travel blogging community if they had ever experienced something similar. Here’s what Megan Roughley of Where My Travels Takes Me and Rosie Fluskey of Flying Fluskey had to say about the dreaded post-travel blues:
Megan Roughley – Where My Travels Take Me
After an adventure away from home for quite some time, your mind is racing with all of the memories you have recently made and all of the experiences that have changed you for the better. You are coming home a changed person. Read more
I’ve been back in the UK now for four months. I’m still reluctant to say ‘back home’, but I’ll admit that it’s slipped off my tongue more than once. Like travel writer Pico Iyer says in his TED talk, ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘Where is home?’ are more complex questions now than they once were.
In fact, I’ve been wrangling with that word ‘home’ even since I breathed it in along with the crisp, British air outside Birmingham Airport.
I’ve tried on the word ‘home’ like you might try on a pair of jeans at a high street store; they don’t quite fit, but you try and justify the purchase anyway because you’re planning to lose a few pounds, right? So, they’ll fit in time, right?
And I’ve written. My lord, I’ve written about it! I’ve always found it easier to articulate through the written word than through the spoken word. I’ve typed the word ‘home’ and then hit the backspace key, paused, and then typed it again with quotation marks wrapped around it.
Trapping the letters between two floating apostrophes, like pegs on a washing line, is exactly how the word feels to me.
I meant what I said when I wrote that moving back to the UK is so much harder than moving away – so much more than I anticipated. There were parts I left out from that post. As personal as it was, there was stuff going on one level down, down in the basement, that I didn’t want anyone to see.
Because it is a struggle and it’s a work in progress and it’s more complicated than i thought. I’m rethinking everything. My goals. My dreams. How I should work towards them. How I’m going to get there. What I need to sacrifice in the short term for what I want in the long term.
Anyway, these four long months have been dragging and yet they’ve gone by in the click of my fingers. I applied ferociously for jobs for two months, but then stopped because it wasn’t the right approach and I was getting no where.
I worked on my CV and was more careful about the jobs I applied to. I worked on this blog. I visited other British cities to try and find my feet, eager to play the tourist and find a place to call my own, but I was back in that high street store. I can’t get anything to fit right.
I gave myself a deadline of three months to find a job before I would implement plan B and look at moving away again. But, then I found myself counting down the days until it could be a possibility. Because, if I was being honest with myself, wasn’t it always plan A instead of plan B?
The longer I deliberated whether to stay or go, the more I panicked that I was failing by doing nothing and the more I felt myself slipping into a routine that I had tried so hard to avoid. Freelance work. Sorting out rent with my parents. Doing a lot of nothing
I’ll be honest and say that the last couple of weeks have pretty much been rock bottom, most likely amplified by the passing of the three-month deadline and my 27th birthday. This was not what I imagined for myself after three months back in the UK. This was not what I imagined for myself at 27.
I was punishing myself for not managing to find my dream job and create my dream life within this ridiculous time frame of December to March. I was so frustrated that I had chosen to come home – not just because I was listening to my head, but also because I was listening to my heart – yet, the more I leaned into a life back in the UK, the worse I felt.
‘Why are you back?’ was a question a friend asked me just a few weeks after Christmas. I smiled and talked confidently about my plans, but I was surprised to see that he didn’t seem convinced.
‘Why are you back?’ another friend asked a couple of weeks ago, seeing how down I’d let myself become.
‘I don’t know.’ I tearfully replied.
It wasn’t until this past week that I really started to understand.
You know that quote: ‘Do the thing that scares you’? It’s one that I always think of when I think of travel and I think it’s good advice to live by. But, do you know what scares me most? Living at home with my parents, working two jobs and sitting still for a while.
So, Amy, maybe that’s the exact thing you should do.
I’m beating myself up for being neither here nor there; not fully committed to being back in the UK, yet not ready to just give up and move abroad again on a whim. But, maybe this is exactly where I’m meant to be. Maybe I just need to be still for a while.
That’s where Pico Iyer comes in. A fellow travel blogger commented on previous post and told me that she related to what I was saying, offering up some words of wisdom. She gave me a link to the below TED Talk by Pico Iyer and it completely resonated.
It’s 14 minutes long, so I appreciate if you don’t have time to watch it all, but his speech pretty much articulates everything I want to say about being back. Not just all the stuff about redefining home – that’s a whole other discussion for another day and he’s bang on about that too – but, what he says in the second half about stillness.
Pico Iyer says that movement is nothing unless you can be still. Home doesn’t need to be a nation or a house or even a family. It can be somewhere where you can be still for a little while. Still so that you can collect your thoughts. Still so that you can plan your next move.
That’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s frustrating because I’m so used to moving around and my feet are itching like crazy, but it’s exactly what I need. It’s what I need to do in order to collect myself and my thoughts, before I can move on.
Then, regardless of what comes out of that process, at least I know I’m not making a decision on a whim. Only when you’re still can you really listen to what you want.
I’ve lived out of a suitcase. I’ve carried all my belongings on my back. I’ve hopped from country to country literally without a care in the world. I’ve loved it all, but if you move that fast and that often, sometimes you lose sight of what you’re doing it for.
So, girl, if you can do all that then you can spend a few months at home binge-eating British food and catching up on all the TV you’ve missed! You’ve earned it. More importantly, you need it. You have some figuring out to do.
Notice that the quotation marks have disappeared.
My adventures aren’t over just because I’m taking some time out to reassess. Moving around means nothing unless I am still, somewhere, sometimes, even if it’s just as a point of reference.
Dear Mum, I have a confession or two. Sometimes when I travel or I relay an anecdote from an adventure somewhere, I may leave out a few choice details. But, especially for Mother’s Day, I thought it was time to share/scare you with a couple of revelations:
I have travelled without insurance. Not a lot (I’m usually pretty good with this), but there’s definitely been once or twice where it’s slipped my mind or didn’t quite make it into the budget. If it helps, I’ve worked out that I’ve spent thousands on travel insurance, but I’ve never actually got anything back with a claim, so I saved myself some dosh. Read more
Yep, I’ve turned into that girl who starts all her sentences with, ‘When I lived in Hong Kong…’ My room is filled with knick-knacks from places I can’t pronounce. I can give advice on jet lag, travelling with only a carry-on and finding cheap flights online. I can speak in different tongues. If you know me, you’re probably bored of my travel anecdotes.
If you don’t know me, I should prefix this post by stating that, up until three months ago, I lived overseas. I spent five years in Hong Kong, with a few intervals in Italy (because I like to be complicated like that). I never planned to leave the UK or live in other countries, especially for so long, but it just kind of happened. Read more
This Lent period I’m giving up being unproductive with a #40Days40Blogs challenge. Got myself a little hashtag there and everything, so you know it’s a totally real and not made-up thing.
What are you talking about, Amy?
I thought that by moving back to the UK this winter I would finally have time to write. I am no longer travelling; I’m sitting still for a little while. Half-funemployed, half-freelancing. I’m still adjusting (read: shivering) to the grey British weather, which means I’m spending a lot of time indoors. I have nowhere to be or go. I have access Wifi and good coffee.
We now interrupt this scheduled programme of backpacking-related blog posts to bring you something completely different. Time travel.
I thought that moving back to the UK this Christmas would just feel like my annual Yuletide visit, and that the fact that I don’t have a return flight wouldn’t hit me until well into the new year. Turns out, I really misjudged that one.
Instead, moving home this Christmas feels like going back in time ten years. I feel like my 16-year-old self: reliant on my parents, living back in my hometown, catching up with old friends and going through all my old things (found my Pokémon cards but, sadly, they are worth nothing on ebay). Read more
It danced around my brain as I literally googled ‘How to start a blog?’, selected a domain name and navigated my way around WordPress. It repeated itself like a catchy jingle as I opened a new word document to draft the first post and, for once, didn’t just stare at the blank white screen.
I actually started typing…
I’ve been living in Hong Kong for four years, and I know I’ve always said that I’d write a travel / lifestyle / book / other blog and never quite got round to it… so… why have I finally got round to it?
Maybe it’s a classic New Year’s resolution that I’m going to make with all the festive good intentions, only to slowly forget about and not be bothered with come February and March.
Maybe it’s because 2015 was filled with fantastic travel and writing adventures, and I don’t want to forget a single moment. I finally feel ready to start documenting all the past years’ memories as well as the adventures to come.
Maybe it’s my quarter-life crisis kicking in.
Maybe it’s because I’m just a little bit older, wiser and better organised (ish) with my time than I used to be. I’ve started carving out some ‘me time’ somewhere in the intense work-obsessed culture of Hong Kong and found, more often than not, that I am using that ‘me time’ to write.
Maybe it’s because the grace period of my early twenties is over. I’ve survived the ‘figuring out what I want to do’ years. Now, I’ve moved into the scary ‘figuring out how to make what I want to do a reality’ years.
So ‘Why now?’ Well, it’s because the clock has struck Do Something o’clock, and it’s already the second Thursday of Get Your Act Together in the year of What Are You Waiting For?
In other words, I stopped asking ‘Why now?’ and started asking ‘Why not?‘ I pushed aside feelings of self-doubt. My fingertips reclaimed their rightful place on the keyboard.
What if I write a blog and no one reads it? At least you’re writing. What if I run out of things to say? Then you’ll just have to blog about that too. What will people think? They think you’re an idiot anyway. What if I say something stupid and then years later when I’m rich and famous it comes back to haunt me and ends up in the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame? Well, then you know you’ve made it.
So, although it may surprise some people (most notably myself), here I am hitting the 400-word mark as well as the Save button on my brand new blog, Page Traveller. 2016, I’m coming for you.