Returning home from a full-time travelling adventure
What it’s really like, as well as a few reflections on our travels and coming home from them.
Having just returned from 7 months of full-time travelling together, it’s probably the right time to reflect on the experience. Was it what we wanted it to be? Did we achieve what we wanted to achieve? What happens next? I love the whole reflective bit – of life, as well as just travelling – even if that last question still makes me a bit nervous. For anyone who’s new here, we left our full-time jobs in July to start a full-time travelling adventure in August (here’s why). We spent around 4 months in Eastern Europe, had a few weeks at home and then had 5 weeks in Canada with a wee run down to New York thrown in there too.
It’s difficult to get into what it’s like to come home from a long-term travelling adventure. There’s just nothing to measure it against. It’s the sort of thing you look forward to for so long, and plan for so long, but you don’t really think about what happens when it comes to an end.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. There were loads of moments when we thought and talked about returning to work and about what life would be like when we got home. But they were only moments. We promised ourselves that we wouldn’t spend the majority of our travelling time just worrying about what would happen afterwards. And we (mostly) stuck to it. We wanted travelling to be about travelling – about enjoying the experience for what it is, rather than focussing on what the consequences of it might or might not be. But there’s always that niggling thought about where your next wage might come from, what you’ll do for work, or whether or not your favourite restaurant might have gotten rid of the menu that you love!
The reality of it is that no matter how much you’re enjoying yourself while you’re long-term travelling, chances are you’ll miss home too. You might miss your friends and family, your routine, the food you normally eat, or your favourite hoodie that you just couldn’t quite squeeze into your backpack. And along with that comes a bit of excitement for going home and bringing those things back into your life. Which is the perfect antidote for offsetting the panic of going back to the ‘real world.’ But what’s that really like?
Well actually, it’s really great. There is genuinely nothing like that first time you see your family or your friends after being away for so long. There’s a feeling of home that I really missed and it’s hard to quantify it. But that first hug from a family member, first cup of tea and first lie down in a familiar bed really come as close as you can to encapsulating it. Those moments really are quite magical, and they’re to be savoured. But the thing is, they wouldn’t have been quite what they are without having gone and had the adventure.
There’s also an intense satisfaction in getting back to the regular meals that you know and love. Even though I enjoyed the food that we ate while we were travelling, I had a long list of foods that I missed. And they’ve been every bit as good as I remembered them being.
But once you’re back in it – once these wonderful things that you missed so much re-integrate themselves back into your everyday life – they lose just a little bit of their magic. I guess it’s like anything else and it all comes down to your perspective.
So there’s something almost profound in all of this for me. Is it something about taking what we have for granted; appreciating the really good things that we have every day? Or is it something about mixing it up a bit; injecting a bit more variety into your life so that you don’t end up with too much of a good thing? Maybe it’s even keeping the really good and important things, but shifting your focus on them. Keep seeing your loved ones, but maybe play board games instead of watching TV once a week. Have a positive routine that works for you and make time in it to do something new on a regular basis. Find another hoodie that you really love and properly spoil yourself. I don’t know – it could be a bit of everything or a bit of nothing. But it’s something I’m thinking about and definitely something that travelling has helped frame for me.
Framing and shining a light on the good and not-as-good things in my life is really one of the big things that have been opened up to me here. The whole adventure itself actually gave me the space, time and perspective that I needed to get a clarity of thought about what I really want my life to look like in this next chapter. How much control I actually have over shaping this part of my life is maybe up for debate – especially if I let it be dictated by the ‘real world’ – but I have come home with new hope and streamlined priorities, as well as a fresh determination to make these a reality.
There are loads of things that I want to make happen – some bigger than others, some might be more or less important. But here are some that seem relevant to me today.
Getting back into a routine and being healthy
Not that we were unhealthy by any stretch when we were away. But the last few months and years have really put health into perspective for me, and I think it’s just slightly easier to convince yourself to really look after your physical and mental health when you have your regular surroundings, support networks and schedule around you. I’m a big advocate of not falling into the trap of routine and letting it get on top of you. But I found that being out of a routine made it difficult to add things into your routine. That sounds a bit daft because it is, but when every day you live is entirely different, it’s hard to form good habits. And I’m looking forward to forming some good habits for myself!
Building my blog and finding new opportunities
I didn’t write nearly as much as I thought I would when I was away, and I’ve made my peace with that. I wanted to make sure I was travelling first and blogging second. Now that I’m home, I’m excited about putting a new focus on the blog. I don’t want to write tips for every destination we went to. It bores me a little bit, and I think there are mostly enough travel tips on the internet. I’m not adding anything new. So I’m looking forward to putting a bit more of me on the blog, and also excited about seeing what opportunities and new avenues I can open up through writing.
Getting back to working on something that I love
There are definitely things about full-time work that I didn’t miss even a little bit. But some things I did miss. I was in a position where I really loved my job and felt like I was doing something really worthwhile. I was working on something that really mattered and made a genuine impact on people’s lives. And I was really glad of the break. I think it’s done me the world of good – and I’m ready to be doing something that makes a difference again. The prospect of longer-term unemployment makes me nervous, but I’m also excited about the idea of waiting for just the right opportunity to come up that I can get really excited about, and throwing myself into it.
Earning a bit of money and planning more travel
Obviously. It’s super-obvious to say, but I do miss having an income. I miss not really having the money for something and doing it anyway because I can always make up for it next month. That might not be the healthiest approach to financial life, but I managed it well enough and it worked for me and I enjoyed it. Now if I don’t have the money for something, I don’t do it. So that means no more travel planning. For now. The thing is, I spent so long planning and looking forward to our long-term travelling break that the prospect of further travel or different destinations feels like a bit of a new novelty for me now. And that makes me a bit giddy.
Eventually buying a house
It won’t be anytime soon, but buying a place of our own further down the line and really making it ours is something that I can get behind. We stayed in a lot of Airbnbs when we were travelling, and it just made us more excited for finding and personalising our own home.
At the end of the day, there’s an awful lot to be said for having a home. Somewhere that’s yours – a little space to call your own. It might be physical or a bit more metaphorical – or most likely a combination of the two. Somewhere where you can just be you without any other worries or concerns. Somewhere where you can take your shoes off or keep them on whenever you want to. Or light as many candles as you like without needing a reason. Or drink coffee in your pyjamas all day. And I like that feeling. And I like the feeling of being on the road too. They’re not mutually exclusive. And in fact, after our recent adventure, I’d argue that both of them are much better off for the other’s existence.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”
I see this quote popping up quite regularly, and I mostly like it because it’s mostly true. This long-term travelling adventure has made me richer. Lots richer. It’s made my wife Grainne richer. It’s made the life that we have together richer. It’s made our relationship richer. It’s made my appreciation of what I have richer. It’s made my curiosity richer, and it’s made my sense of belonging richer. But at the same time, it’s also made me poorer. In the most practical sense possible, I came back from this trip an awful, awful lot poorer – financially – than I was before I left. But that was the whole point. And if you offered me the money back in exchange for the experiences and the memories that it gave me, I wouldn’t even consider it for a moment.
But coming home has also made me richer. And I’m determined that being home will make me richer. And the next trip – be it a weekend in Ireland or a fortnight in the tropics – will also make me richer. And coming home from that one will also be a pleasure and a privilege. And so it should be.