Monday 09/04/18: It’s a beautiful time to be back in the west coast of Scotland. The weather is still mostly challenging, with bitter biting winds that gouge the very marrow out of your bones. The rain alternates between falling horizontally and being laced with icy sleet, or there’s the snow that quickly degrades from white fluffy goodness to a brown sloppy puddle that splashes all over your jeans… hang on, where was I? Ah yes, the joy of Scotland in spring. The weather might still be truly disgusting but now there’s the odd dry-ish and not-blowing-a-gale sort of afternoon when you notice the small green buds that have started to dot bare branches. Occasionally, you might even catch a glimpse of a bright blue patch peeping through that weird nothing of a grey blanket that covers our winter skies. Something good is coming, if you’ll just persevere.
I’ve now been back in Glasgow for one month to the day so it’s probably time for some sort of closure on this blog. Two months of falling in love with Africa and four months volunteering in Nepal is now all over. I want to temper what follows with an acknowledgement that six months’ travelling is really not that long. I met so many awesome, interesting people who were on multi-year-long adventures that my own experiences pale in comparison. I can’t pretend that I’m a different person to the one that went away. I’m not going to be one of those freshly tie-dyed clichés that rock up in elephant pants with a bone necklace around their neck, extoling the virtues of finding themselves on a sunrise somewhere. Yes, I did get a rather trite traveller’s tattoo in Nepal, but I’d been thinking about it for ages, honest. If too many of my sentences start with, “When I was backpacking in (insert fabulous African country here)…” then I do apologise, but it’s only because it’s still fresh and wonderful to me. It’ll fade soon no doubt, unlike a certain tattoo that I’m stuck with forever…
Anyway, I’m ultimately agreeing that six months out isn’t long enough to change who I am fundamentally. My life, thus far, has comprised of 71 x 6-months segments (gosh, that’s a lot, I had to check and re-check that number) so one itty bitty 6-month segment couldn’t be so significant as to change the very core of my being. But what it has given me, is a bit of clarity. Taking time out from the usual non-stop rush through life, slowing down and getting off the train for a short breather, has felt like such a blessing. Like an out of body experience (I promise I’m not going full-out hippy, bear with me), I’ve been able to look at my life from a slightly removed position and consider it objectively. What do I actually want? Not everyone gets this chance for perspective. It almost feels like an even greater opportunity than travelling.
While six months might not be long enough to explore the entire world, it’s sufficient for some quite extensive self-evaluation. I’m not going to divulge any deeply personal revelations here but suffice to say that while none of it is revolutionary, my life and, more importantly, the way that I think about my life, has now taken an ever so slight adjustment to the one that I’d previously been hurtling towards. I feel like I’ve found the reins.
I’ve also learned to let go of at least some of the baggage I used to hump around with me. We do the best we can with what we have at the time. There’s no point regretting our choice decades later.
On a lighter note, there is a whole host of smaller, less grandiose or self-important changes that are more blatant:
- First and foremost, I can now go out IN PUBLIC without wearing mascara. I no longer care if I look like I’ve just woken up. No one, so far, has called me Sir so I feel like I’m winning. I’m not saying I’d go on a night-out without kohling up but it’s nice to go to the supermarket with the this-is-my-face-deal-with-it mentality.
- I recycle now – I actually can’t believe that I was previously too lazy! It’s so easy in Scotland with all the multi-coloured bins on your doorstep and whatnot.
- I haven’t bothered to get a TV – I might do so in the future but I’m very aware of how long I used to sit in front of garbage that I didn’t care about. I can’t imagine that my life is any less fulfilled for not knowing the cost of that teapot in Bargain Hunt, plus there’s always Netflix on my laptop for if/when I get desperate.
- Specifically from Nepal this one; when I’m pondering something, I’ll rock my head from side to side like a human version of the turning wheel pointer on my decrepit, sluggish computer.
Generally, I’m just super impressed by all the things we usually take for granted in a developed country. We are so privileged. Pavements, hot water, medical care, timetables, the list is endless. I’m stunned when food in a restaurant is delivered to the table together. Everything is just so organised. This country, for the most part, really works. Obviously, there are lots of examples where it fails people (and we, therefore, fail each other) but we only notice these problems because we are used to such a high standard. We all go so ape-shit when the tiniest thing goes wrong. It’s no wonder that we have such high blood pressure and stress. I have no doubt that my serenity will soon fade along with my tan lines and I’ll re-join the masses with shaking fists of sheer rage when someone jumps a queue or public transport doesn’t run to time, but right now, I’m just delighted to be here*.
I’m still digesting a lot of what the last six months have meant to me but this month has been a whirlwind of catching up with friends and loved ones, flat-hunting, unpacking boxes and rucksacks, being reunited with my cat (and less happily, with his £800 vet bill), and just trying to get back in to the swing of it.
There are still so many places that I’d love to visit (China, Peru, Russia, Antarctica, to name but a few, and I know I’ll find my way back to Africa eventually) but, for now, my travel bug feels satisfied.
I’ve really enjoyed writing this travel blog, and there are lots more subjects that I’d like to talk about, but if a travel blog is similar to an online postcard, recording the trials and tribulations of a 30-something trying to find her way in everyday life, feels a bit too personal and exposed, particularly when I know that my family are my keenest readers (love you, mom). Maybe an anonymous blog might be the way forward.
So, for now at least until I find a new travel adventure, this 30-something-and-not-panicking is out. In the words of one of my all-time favourite songs and constant playlist companion, Baz Luhrmann’s spoken word 1999 classic, “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”:
“Don’t waste your time on jealousy.
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind,
The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
*Ironically, my broadband provider just called to advise that they’ve had to postpone installing my WIFI for another two weeks, at which point, I had a near breakdown that ended in me tearily hanging up and aggressively demanding compensation.