A week ago it sunk in further. Sunk in that I’m back home. Sunk in that I need to get a job. Sunk in that I’m no longer travelling.
I had to remove my travel wristbands. I was so excited when I bought my first one at a market in Hanoi almost a year ago: I posted it to Instagram and everything. I was so proud of it and felt like I’d turned into a real traveller. Two days later was when my tour finished and I was on my own. It was a significant event for me.
It was even more significant removing my collection last week. I’d lost two along the way but had quite a collection. I loved telling the stories of when I’d got them, who I’d been with. They may not seem like much, but each wristband had a story and I did labour over each and every one.
There was my first one in Hanoi, bought with my Best of Vietnam girls; there were the two bought from young girls in the Sapa Valley – I bought extra to give to the kiddies (my eldest nephew wore his proudly for a long time – am assuming the rest have all been lost); there was the hand made beaded one from a small shop in Luang Prabang, purchased with ‘my girls’ from Canada; there was the one I couldn’t take off and was the most annoying from my hostel in Phong Nha in Vietnam – a nice memory of my Tatum; the blue and beaded band that Claire, Nancy and I bought as friendship bracelets in Botswana, celebrating our scenic flight over the Okavango Delta; there was the much worn and falling apart paper and beaded bracelet from Tanzania, over priced but a contribution to the disadvantaged in the area; and finally the last one, a simple beaded elastic bought from Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa, my only commercial purchase, yet it was raising funds for HIV research and support. They each have a story … and also left an incredible tan line on my wrist.
They all had to come off. I knew it was coming and had been preparing myself for it, but it was hard. I grabbed the scissors and asked my friend to cut off the Phong Nha one – it was a relief, no longer was a black tie and ball digging in or twisting around. But it was an added step to having to move on.
(I’m going to take a moment to be honest here – the bands didn’t come off due to my job interview. Removing them was actually a much more emotional moment, and something that increased the hurt all the more. But, you’ll read about that soon enough.)
I do like looking down at my wrist now and seeing my gold bangles – sorely missed when travelling. They’ve taken back their pride of place, and while they all have stories to them, their stories are not the same. They have a different significance. I love my jewellery; I really do. I love wearing simple gold hoops and a gold chain. But I loved wearing bright colours and fun items. I loved the freedom and allowance to show that part of my personality while travelling.
Removing the wristbands was like removing a part of myself. A part of me that was only there when I was travelling. A part of me that I don’t know if I’ll ever get back.
It was more than just having fun and checking out the sites when I was away. It was about learning about who I am. Learning what makes me tick. What makes me happy. What makes me smile and love. What motivates me. I learnt so much about the world, about other people, about myself and I’m scared that I’m going to stop learning. You can’t learn about the world unless you’re experiencing it. You can’t learn about others if you don’t share and spend time with them. You can’t learn about yourself if you’re too scared to.
I came to what I believed was a realisation when I was travelling. I realised that life doesn’t turn out as you expect it or want it to, and that’s okay. I realised that friends are always nearby and need you as much as you need them. I realised that people are people – at the core of each and every one of us is a want to help, a desire to see others happy.
I’ve had two job interviews now and a couple of phone interviews – fingers crossed! – and when reflecting on my year of travel, one recurring theme comes out. I want to help others. I enjoy lifting others up. I’ve had girls from my travel tell me that they were going to miss me as I lifted them up, that they needed a motivational speech from me to make them feel good about themselves, they needed a quick word to confirm they were sexy and worthy. I love being in a nurturing role.
I started 2017 running away; running from heartache and grief; running from me and my seemingly getting nowhere life. I was running from the possibility of never having kids, of never having my own family. I ended 2017 thinking that it was okay. Maybe kids weren’t on the agenda for me. Maybe I wouldn’t have my own family. And I was okay with that. There are other ways to motivate and nurture.
When catching up with one of my travel girls a few weeks ago, I said that I was okay with not having my own family, not being a mum. She didn’t necessarily dismiss that, but she told me I was meant to be a mum, that it would happen. I was the mum on the trip and it was who I was meant to be.
Removing those wristbands signified a big moment. It was removing the daily proof and memories of my trip. It was signifying my next step. The next step I wasn’t ready to take or accept. It was forcing me to move on. It forced it all to sink in.