Home sweet home

There’s a lot of truth in the idea that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone (or in this case, an ocean away).

England is like a new place and it’s hard to understand why no one else is giggling at all the details. My town looks so English. Our currency is beautiful. The weight of a pound coin in my hand, the accent, the familiar orange of a train ticket; I want to bundle all these up and never forget them.

I know where everything is here, I turn down streets and I know what I will find. There’s something immensely comforting in that.

And of course seeing the people I love again is best of all.

When I was asked what was most different about being home, it’s that the sky is free of towering buildings, and the people walk slowly.  Supermarkets delight me, and pedestrians, and roads that are exactly the right size.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses coming back; I had pretty horrible jetlag and I still wake up not knowing exactly where I am. But I’m very glad to be home.

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Six months of travel wisdom

OR: Things I learnt. Some of these are really trivial, others are more meaningful. I am proud of every single one.

How to choose and book Greyhound tickets really efficiently.

How to keep track of my possessions

To be happy in my own company, at a restaurant,  bar, or show

To be (more) patient

To contort my body into the prime comfort position on bus and train seats

To not (completely) lose it when things go wrong

To spot a postbox at twenty yards

To determine someone’s level of craziness (and potential danger) within ten minutes

To act accordingly to maximise my own safety

What kind of people I want to spend my time with (not you, hostel drunkard!)

To speak and understand basic Spanish

To haggle (just about)

To take better photographs

To describe in words some of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen

To make good meals out of limited ingredients, sparse kitchens and the deadline of checkout to keep in mind

To complain less (or at the very least to realise that my complaints will be ridiculous to someone else) NB. Perhaps not having someone always there to complain to also helped.

To navigate my way around new cities and use local transport

To calculate currency conversions in my head

To budget effectively

To ask for what I want

To do what I want, when I’m worried about what other people think

To challenge my beliefs

To try new things; recklessly and relentlessly

To curb my materialism and think about the things I genuinely want to own

To read amazing books that inspire me to think in literature

To not get burnt!! Yes, it only took 24 years.

To realise what sort of place I want to live in

To meet people who completely change my mind

To shed a lot of inhibitions and concerns about privacy

To pee off the side of a boat,  behind a rock in the desert, or in doorless cubicles.

To sleep on buses, trains, floors, hammocks, a boat, airport and in tents and a luggage rack.

To carry everything that I need

To throw away the things I don’t

To treasure the parts of home I respect the most

It ain’t all fun and games

I’m not taking a very long holiday. Sometimes, travelling is hard. And sometimes, I’m exhausted.

I’ve been on the road for over four months and every day is new. That’s exciting,  but it also means I need a map to go anywhere.

My head is full of calculations;  time differences and currency conversions, budgets and street names and people’s names. I might not be speaking a different language anymore, but I still need to remember to use American vocabulary in order to be understood.

This isn’t a complaint.

I love travelling and am a firm believer that it’s not the easy things which are the most fulfilling. But I wanted to be honest, and honestly, I could sleep for a week.

The sheer amount of planning I need to do (at least if I want a place to stay in the next city) is huge and constant.

Sometimes homesickness takes me by surprise.

Perhaps it’s why I read so much, or actually look forward to long hours of solitude on buses. (I can’t remember the last time I was bored).