It’s been nine days since I landed back in England, and a lot has happened in that time. I’ve reconnected with loved ones, celebrated and commiserated at the England football team, learned that my Nan is in hospital, traveled to Nottingham and back, started looking at flats to rent, played with my sister’s new kitten, and even had a marriage proposal.
The whole point of leaving a few weeks between getting home and starting work again was to have a rest, to recuperate from my long, tiring experience abroad, and give myself a decent platform from which to build the rest of my life. The problem is, life never seems to slow down enough to allow you to catch up with it.
The word “whirlwind” has been used a lot by and to me recently, and that pretty much sums up what life is, so we may as well just immerse ourselves in it and enjoy it while we can.
Despite all of this, I have had a few tuniopporties to sit back and reflect on what’s happened over the past four months. And, to put it briefly, what’s happened has been a lot of very enjoyable things that I mostly won’t forget until I’m old enough to fall asleep during the Queen’s Christmas speech.
(Close family members will inform you at this juncture that I have fallen asleep at this very point in the recent past, but we’ll gloss over that.)
I didn’t go into this trip with much in the way of expectations. That was a deliberate ploy to avoid the ever-so-simple trap of comparing the experience with what you thought it would be, rather than simply enjoying it for what it was. This approach allowed every destination, every experience, every encounter to be a surprise. Every day was a new adventure, and besides knowing where I should end up by the time I need to refresh my zeds, the journey was always into the relative unknown, and this was a good approach to have.
Finding the right balance between organisation and impulse has been the key to the success of this journey. Well, the amazing New Zealand countryside and mind-blowing new relationship have helped, but being able to enjoy those things – as well as everything else – to the degree that I have has only been possible because of this balance. Too organised and you end up sacrificing incredible experiences for ones you thought you’d like just as much. Too impulsive and you end up with no money and nowhere to sleep. Fortunately, neither of those things happened to me, and I feel like getting this approach right has helped me evolve and mature as a person in some ways (not all of them though, don’t panic).
People often ask me what my favourite thing about traveling is, and the answer is being able to enjoy the little things just as much as the big ones. Yes, snow-capped mountains and neon-swathed boulevards are memorable feasts for the eyes, but then I remember having a joke with a Belgian train conductor because I’d ballsed up my ticket, seeing the hand-written welcome note on my bed in my motel in Ohio, or falling asleep to the sound of waves rolling over the beach just yards away in New Zealand, and I realise that not all of the pieces of this puzzle are the same size, but they’re all just as important and beautiful as each other.
So what happens now? I spoke before this leg started that it probably wouldn’t be the last one, that I had plans to finish off Europe and then make my way to the Far East next year, and so we come to my greatest conflict.
On the one side, I’ve loved travelling the world. I’ve seen so many amazing places and people, done so many amazing things, and there is still so much more that I haven’t explored. Japan, for example, has been #1 on my travelling wishlist since before those blokes sang a song about football coming home, and the thought of visiting it still gives me tingles down to the bottom of my feet.
But on the other side lies stability, structure and responsibility, and I find myself craving those for the first time in a long time. I’ve been incredibly lucky these last couple of years or so to be in a position to be able to do this traveling malarkey. I don’t have a wife, or kids, or a mortgage, my partners were all incredibly supportive, and I work in a career that I have the skill set and availability to dip in and out of. Now, however, I feel a desire to change a couple of those things. No, I don’t mean kids (eww), I mean progressing my career to a level that my typically very high ambitions aspire to, and buying my own property so I can feel like, for the first time in several years, I have somewhere I can truly call home. Doing these things would make taking several months off at a time to gallivant across the world significantly more challenging.
Right now, I’m leaning more towards the side of the coin that provides me the opportunity for stability and progress. Maybe in a few years’ time I’ll be in a position again to take some time off and go on new adventures, but for the time being I feel like it would be (uncharacteristically) more sensible to focus on the bigger picture of my life, and doing what I need to do to get it looking how I want it to look like in five or ten years-ish.
I’ve had my mid-life crisis, and now it’s time to move on and embrace old age with open arms, constantly reminding young people how young they are, and emphatically declaring that there hasn’t been a single decent piece of popular music released in the last ten years. (There hasn’t, by the way)
Oh, and one final thing, I didn’t accept the marriage proposal. Yet.