We have been back home for almost 3 months now and this is the first post I’ve written since we arrived. There has been a feeling of stuck-ness in my creativity that I associate with the shock of coming home after a year of travel.
There is a sense of profound loss and the sadness of goodbyes, and the knowledge that even with our strong culture of social media and WhatsApp and Viber that we will miss the long conversations with family we met, new friends we made, the nuances of the unsaid words … the words that aren’t voiced, that I know will also say ‘we love you and miss you too’.
‘You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.’ (Miriam Adeney)
For five long weeks I wallowed in a cesspit of self pity and proceeded to eat my feelings while Ben started back at his old work place. I forgot to be grateful that we had an income that allowed me to wallow in this way. I forgot the calm I had been practising, forgot my vows to be in the moment. The growth I’d grown was discarded like a dead branch in favour of wanting to be elsewhere. I told myself it’s because it was autumn and that I didn’t like the cold (but it wasn’t that cold), I told myself it’s because the sky was cloudy (but the sun continued to shine outside). If I was being honest it was like I had to hide from everyone and everything that would remind me that I was back home.
Post-travel depression is real. Anyone who has returned from an extended trip away or changed their life in some major way understands what I mean. Everyone knows that travel can be life changing, but we seldom prepare for the emotion that coming home brings with it.
We’ve travelled before, but never for this long. I was expecting to come home to a world that had changed; people that had moved on or to be doing different things, conversations to be different. After all I had lived what felt like a life time during that year. But nothing had changed. Everything and everyone was how we’d left it. But WE had changed. Deeply and irrevocably changed.
As I eventually started to come out of my funk and connect with the world around me, I often felt like I didn’t fit in anymore. I had outgrown the familiar. Home felt strange and unrelatable, with too much ‘stuff’ and stuckness. Some conversations that I had put up with before felt like they were sucking the very life out of me in their shallowness and their ‘unknowingness’. I felt unable to explain to others what I had experienced and how I had grown, and it frustrated me.
People said ‘I want to hear all about your adventures’, but they didn’t really. They just wanted to hear us say ‘it was great.’ They asked ‘what was your favourite part?’ – is there an answer to that I wondered as I struggled to give them an answer as vague as their question. But why should they be interested in delving any deeper … after all they’ve been home doing the same thing they’d been doing when we left. Whether it is envy or just unrelatability who can blame them. After all I’m very sure that I was one of these people at some time.
And anyway how can you explain a year’s worth of experience and growth and aha moments to someone who hasn’t experienced the world in the way you yourself just had? People experience moments in so many different ways, and our experiences of the same thing can be so vastly different and teach us wholly different lessons.
You saw the sunsets and the scenery I posted, but I hope you read between the lines and also saw the way we grew as citizens of the world, How we moved from being ‘stuck’ and ‘planned’ and deadline filled to walk in the freedom of vulnerability that a life filled with unplanned days, impulsive (😱) decisions and mindless (mindful) wanderings brings.
Social media wouldn’t have shown the silly arguments that start because you’re getting a bit sick of seeing each other all day every day. You wouldn’t have seen a photograph of my ham and cheese baguette because we were too lazy to cook a meal that was a bit more nourishing or photogenic. Those unforgettable belly laughs with new friends, the silly moments, and the serious conversations that challenge our settled viewpoints and make us for a moment walk in another’s shoes… You can’t record these and I didn’t want to. They are private and special and unforgettable. I don’t want you giving me your opinion on that conversation or that relationship because you weren’t there. I was.
“There is nothing that can or will last. The trick is to immerse oneself completely in the moment, live it, and when it goes, to have not an ounce of regret or a backward glance. To know it will go and not mourn for it. To let it be.” (Rani Manicka ‘The Japanese Lover’).
And so after living a year that was totally different to the life we had lived thus far, we are beginning to immerse ourselves in THIS moment, in this life, in this our community.
We have not one regret of the life we lived for such a brief flash of time but it has given us a taste of what could be … and so, our gaze will continue to be on the horizon, looking and dreaming for another adventure that will grow us even more. And I hope I have learned enough to know that that adventure may well take place right here at home. And if so, I want to be ready to embrace it with just as much joy!