After almost 4 years of travel, last week I returned to England, possibly for good.
The feeling is bittersweet. In many ways, it’s the end of an era.
We’ve all been there. Graduating from high school, or university. Leaving a job we’ve worked for years. Times in our life where we have to transition from one way of living to another.
Part of me is sad about what I’m leaving behind, not wanting to let go. Another part is glancing forward to what will come, considering the possibilities of the future.
So I begin a period of transition, from the travelling life to the settled life. As with most transitions, I’m not handling it too well. You’ve probably noticed from my blog that I can be pretty negative and I handle decisions and change badly.
At the moment, I have quite a blank slate before me. Plenty of room for imagining my future, plenty of choices of what to do. But while this sounds like freedom, for me it’s a form of hell as more often than not all I can imagine is a negative version of the future.
Returning home has reminded me how much I’ve changed during my travels, but also how little. In many ways, I am a better person, but in some ways I haven’t changed in the slightest.
One of the reasons I left home was to avoid the future. Travel forces you into a state of limbo where you can live apart from your “real life”. Now that I’m back in Newcastle I have to consider all those questions about my life and what to do with it. Make big decisions. That scares the shit out of me. I don’t like decisions because I’m always afraid I’ll make the wrong ones.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I hold the completely irrational belief that whatever decision I make it will be the wrong one and that my entire future will be terrible. Negativity.
But what I’ve learnt, and said before, is that I know travel isn’t the answer to these problems. It’s running away from them and while I could run away forever, I don’t think it’ll make me any happier in the long run. So I’m determined to try and settle down and do what many of my friends did years ago: start living life.
While my four years of travel have been amazing, they’ve also set me back four years behind everybody else. Coming back to Newcastle, living with my parents again, trying to find a job. It’s as though those four years didn’t exist and in a lot of ways I’ve moved no further forward during that time period.
Like many people, I often think of life as a race or a competition. I’m constantly disappointed in my lack of achievement. Comparing myself to others. Coming back home is making me realise that many of my peers are so out of sight in the race that they’re just dots in the distance.
Although this is just a trap many of us fall into. Life isn’t a competition and once we find ourselves competing we’re trying to grasp contentment based on somebody else’s definition of success. One thing I have definitely learnt is that this attitude is counterproductive.
The truth is that if I had stayed at home for those 4 years, I’d still probably be looking at my peers and feeling like I was failing or behind them all. So now, more than ever I understand that the problem isn’t so much my life situation, but my unhealthy perspective on life that is holding me back.
We’re back to negativity. I’m aware more than ever of how negative I am. Yet, I still do nothing about it. That’s not surprising though, because motivation is hard to come by for a negative person. It’s hard to do anything when a little voice tells you you’ll always fail.
My travels have forced me to confront these thoughts about myself. Although I haven’t overcome the negativity, I have managed to gain some belief and confidence. I still find it hard to think positive thoughts about myself, but at least now I can admit there’s a possibility positive things exist within me.
So in some ways travel has changed me and while my life situation back in Newcastle is exactly the same, it’s a different person that has returned. The boy that left four years ago hasn’t turned into a man, but has at least started to move in that direction. I’ve grown up and now have just enough within me to take the next step in life.
What person has returned? I’m not sure. It’s hard to see yourself objectively. I can’t know who I am to others. What they see me as.
In some ways, I’m still working out who I really am. Which is one of those horrible cliches up there with finding yourself (which I hate.) We are who we are. Although that’s another cliche.
But a point I’d like to make is that for the last 4 years, who I am has been completely defined by where I’m from. I have always been that slightly incomprehensible British guy with the weird accent who people keep thinking is Irish. This has made existence rather easy because simply being from Newcastle has given me personality (or the facade of it.)
It’s given me confidence in a lot of ways because I’ve thought that even if I’m not an interesting person, I can fool people with my interesting accent.
Back in Newcastle, I’m the same as everybody else though. So I’m forced to confront the notion that I could be a bit dull personality wise. Maybe that’s just more negativity pushing its way in.
I’ve been living my life for so long, defined as the traveller that it’s going to be hard to transition back to a life where I need to prove myself in other ways. To be interesting as a person, rather than be interesting as a foreigner.
All of this is very negative. But transitions are always hard as we’re forced to confront ourselves. Going through the routine of life, we never really have to take the time to think about who we are. It’s only in these periods when we have to make decisions about our future that we truly get to decide.
I may feel the temptation to believe I’ve made a wrong decision. That I should have continued to travel forever. But I know deep down, for once I’ve made the right decision. To confront life, to build a home and to settle. To live life.
Living life sounds like a good decision to me.