Travel isn’t always fun and games. Sure, most of it is and when it isn’t, you usually find a way to turn it back into fun and games. But there are times when you’re lonely, alone, bored and broke as hell.
I don’t think there’s anything I would change about my year off last year and it is something I’ll be forever grateful for. But on reflection, while it may have been the best thing for me, it has made life all that much harder for me.
Two of my cousins each gave birth to her first son – both a deliciously gorgeous surprise. My friend gave birth to her first son, second child, another deliciously gorgeous bundle of joy. Other friends and family members did amazing things and went through tough battles of their own. And I wasn’t there to share in any of it.
Many times I only found out about things second or third hand. It does seem that out of sight out of mind does occur. I tried to catch up with everyone in my life when I was home for my two-ish months in August, between Asia and Africa, but you can’t fit everyone in. I’m not sure if I should have made a bigger effort, or if perhaps others should have tried harder for me.
I’ve been home for four weeks now and again, have only managed to catch up with a handful of people. It is hard coming home broke and living so far from many of them. It’s also hard, as I need to find a job, pay off my credit cards and get used to being back home. Get used to having a steady bed, a TV to watch at my whim and having to make all of my own decisions.
I always knew coming home would be hard and it was something I wasn’t looking forward to. I had a couple of days ‘break’ from finishing my first tour in Africa and starting my next one. I was dreading those days for the last week to ten days of my first tour. I had made some wonderful friends and I knew that when our time travelling together was over, it really would be over.
I wrote a post shortly after I started my second tour, when I finally had a chance to fall apart and cry. It was quite therapeutic and helped spur me on for the next two weeks. I made some great friends on that next tour, yet it of course wasn’t the same. The people were more varied and separate; the experiences weren’t there and the vibe just wasn’t quite right. Of course, I am still looking forward to a trip to Perth for an epic theme party and a big catch up.
The emotion then further hit me the day before I was flying home. I was at my friend’s place and it was time to start packing – I’d managed to scatter my stuff all over the place and needed time to fit it into my backpack. I looked at it all spread over the bed and it just hit me. I was immensely overwhelmed and the tears struck.
Tatum walked by at that moment and we had a big hug. It all started to seem too real, too close to the end. We had a big night out planned that night and then a recovery before I had to go to the airport. It was too much for me. So, like I usually do when emotionally out of my depth, I paused, I re-set and I took control. I turned pragmatic and got my packing done and stopped thinking about ‘the end’.
Since coming home, I feel I’ve mastered avoidance. When I have caught up with friends, they’ve asked how my trip was; I’ve given the appropriate adjectives and comments, saying that it was incredible and best time of my life. Said I can’t wait to go back and do it all again, encourage them all to have Africa on their bucket list. Then I turn the conversation and ask about them, what they’ve been up to.
I avoid thinking about Africa, Asia and my year at all costs. I keep saying that with all this time on my hands I need to go through my pictures, choose some favourites and share them with you all. I need to sit down and right post after post after post about everything I did and how it all made me feel. But when I have time alone (quite a lot of it actually), I avoid it.
I think I only managed to get a job interview as my friend sent me a link to what will be my perfect role. It’s in travel, it’s in customer service and dispute resolution – it’s what I’ve done and what I’m good at. We’re perfect for each other. But had that not been shoved into my inbox, I doubt I would have come across it. Don’t get me wrong, as soon as I saw it I did everything I could to perfect my application and reached out to all and sundry in the hopes for their guidance and assistance in reaching the top of the pile. But I wouldn’t have made the effort to find it otherwise.
I’ve taken the easy way out and applied for Centrelink benefits. The money is nowhere near enough to live on and will ensure that I don’t ever travel again or pay off my debts. But by going on to benefits, I have almost given myself free passage to sit and do nothing. To avoid life and living.
Common sense will and is prevailing, but at the moment, I’m taking the easy road. Sure, there’s no need to rush back into anything, but I need to do something. I need to sit down and go through the last 12 months of my life. I need to ensure it wasn’t all a dream that it did happen. I need to share it and love it and be happy to talk about it. I need to accept that it’s over.
But once that is all done, where does that leave me? I’ll have done it all and have nothing left to do. I’m avoiding it simply so that it’s not over. I didn’t ever want that year to end. I’m so glad to be back, to be near my little kiddies and my friends and family. But I also don’t want to be back. Life was hard before I went away and it’s going to be hard again.
One year of easy with moments of hard thrown in isn’t enough. We all deserve happiness and easy living and good things. I had that while I was travelling – and to be honest, the hard moments, the loneliness and being alone and not there for others, they’ll still be there. Just with less exotic backgrounds or activities.
It’s time for me to stop avoiding last year and time for me to start embracing. I can’t go back and get it to start again, extend it further. I need to move on. It’s just so hard when it seems that everyone else has already moved on. People I met while travelling, people I left behind, people I’ve come back to. Everyone is at different stages. I just wish I knew where mine was.