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Graham Williams's Travel Writing I hope you enjoy these articles read more at: www.grahamwilliams.net

When it's time to head home....

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 30 April 2007 | Views [2168] | Comments [1]

There comes a point in every trip when you realize that there are only a few weeks left and you have to come to terms with going home. For most of us that means reconnecting with their previous life and going back to work, the free and easy days of travel and doing what you want when you want are over.

Arriving back can be a ghastly crash landing as I discovered after my first long period abroad. My friends were sitting in the same pub talking about their car sunroofs and had no comprehension of the experiences that I’d had, nor were they interested in finding out. To cap it all there was a pile of letters from the Inland Revenue waiting for me at home and the next day it was pouring with rain. It took a couple of weeks for me to reconnect with my old life.
With a little planning, the trip back can be an enjoyable part of the whole travel experience; you may well be heading home with a new appreciation of what you are going back to; there will be friends and family to meet up with and simple and forgotten pleasures to be enjoyed. So make the most of it.

Iron rule number one - always come home to some money. I have met people who were endlessly ringing up to change that last flight, prolonging their trip until there were as good as broke, with their cards maxed out. Trying to survive with almost no money is difficult in any country, your own is no exception. No matter how much in demand your skills may be, finding a job and actually getting a pay check is likely to take several weeks. Especially if you have been away for a long time, it’s nice to rediscover your home slowly, meet up with people and have a few drinks. Even simple expenses like getting about and paying for food will soon mount up, let along putting down deposits for flats or buying a car. Soon you will be regretting that extra rafting trip you took, when you are counting every penny.

Try and plan coming home into your overall trip plan. I have always come home in the Spring, a positive time of year when you will feel like restarting your ‘home’ life again, and you have the summer ahead of you. If you have been in the tropics and you head home in the middle of winter, to dark days, cold and rain; there’s no way you are going to feel good about it.

If you don’t feel that your backpacking days are over then you probably feel some regret at having to finish your trip, but try and get things in perspective. Look at your time at home as an interlude, a period where you can plan your next campaign and more importantly raise the cash to make it happen. I’ve always enjoyed the reading and scheming for the next trip almost as much as travelling itself. Always believe there will be a next time.
Psyche yourself up for the change in lifestyle. Arrival home can be a nice surprise, think of all the things that you’ve missed while you were away, the company of family and friends. Even simple things can give a great deal of pleasure, small indulgences like having your favourite food or drink again. Make a list of these things while you are on the plane home.

Arrival back in the ‘real’ world may be quite a shock especially if it is early morning and after a long flight. Try not to take on the world all at once. If you can, have a friend pick you up at the Airport and get some rest in a quiet place. There’s time enough to hit town later.

When you do get out and about don’t expect anyone to really understand what you’ve experienced. For most people, travel is a two week holiday on a beach. Going off the beaten track or even being abroad for a long time is something that many people cannot get to grips with, and they probably won’t even make the attempt. Tell a couple of colourful anecdotes, which will keep most people interested and try not to go on and on about your trip. Many of your friends will be envious and you won’t endear yourself to people if you become in their eyes, a travel bore.

You probably met some great people on your travels and many of them became friends. Some of them you will keep up with but be prepared for most  of them to fall by the wayside, for the simple reason that the one thing you had in common with them- you were all travelling, no longer exists. My partner and I travelled in China with another English couple for several weeks before going our separate ways. Back in the UK we met them again by chance in a cinema queue. We exchanged news but after the film was over no arrangements were made to meet again as we all realized we had nothing more to say to each other.

If you are returning to a rich, western country you will probably start appreciating it for the first time. After my first trip, where I lived in the Sudan for a year, I was just staggered when I got home by how rich Britain was. I’d supposed I’d never realized before. You may have been to countries with better weather or a more laid back lifestyle but if you living in any first world country in the early twenty first century, you have won a prize in life’s lottery. I’ve had rows with people at home when they come out with trivial moans about life, or rant on about how much tax they pay. Most of the world’s population would give their right arms to have their opportunities and problems. If you’ve seen women in Africa digging into riverbeds for water before carrying it for miles, you’re not going to have much time for people whinging about their mobiles not working.

As T.S. Elliot put it, “to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.”

Make the most of it.

Tags: philosophy of travel

Comments

1

Graham, Excelent blog, makes me wonder why I don't travel more. You defianely need to think about publishing your stuff, it's all there just needs editing, polishing and hey presto!
Greg

  Greg Evaristo Jun 23, 2008 10:25 PM

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