A lot of people said that before I went away… ‘you’ll come back a different person’. I’m not sure if this is based on experience, it feels like something you’re supposed to say, or because a lot of people who go away on gap years are younger than twenty and do a bit of growing up while they’re gone. I don’t want to make sweeping generalisations, but the conversation I got out of some younger backpackers was unbelievably banal, and maybe some new experiences would give them something to talk about apart from what Sophie or Claire were doing with the rest of their gap year, or what an utter bastard Mark was to do that to Liz in Bangkok (see William Sutcliffe’s ‘Are You Experienced’ for some prime examples of these kind of characters). This is all being a bit disingenuous to the younger backpacker, when conversation with a lot of new people followed the same pattern until you’d worked out whether you liked someone enough to talk about normal things. The thing is, now I’m back I still don’t know if I’ve changed – the problem being that I was around me for the whole year, so I’ve got no idea. That’s up to friends and family to decide, but so far I don’t think I have changed – exactly how are you supposed to?
Now I’m back, I’m looking for work, but it’s slow. Job applications have so far been answered with silence, and one refusal. Something will come up, something always does unless you’re utterly determined to do bugger all. I’ve had plenty of time to go back through old photos with a strange feeling of detachment, and look back at experiences and places that while there felt like a heightened sense of reality, but now feel like a very distant memory, even after just a month. Reminders of the trip come back in the form of chats with friends who are still in South America or Thailand, and e-mails from people I met along the way – they’re still taking days-long bus journeys to see glaciers calving into the sea or drinking banana smoothies in beach shacks, while I’ve got back into cooking my own food and bitching about the rubbish on the TV. Over the last year I think I’ve experienced just about every emotion it’s possible to feel, felt supreme highs and incredible lows. Things are starting to feel normal again, after a pretty emotional new year when all I wanted to do was get on the first plane back to anywhere.
My feelings about travel, amongst other things, have changed. Before I came away I thought of the big trip as my one chance to go and see the world – then come back, having got it out of my system, and carry on with normal life. Of course, that hasn’t happened. Now, I see the big trip as just the start of a lifetime I want to spend travelling. Nowhere seems a long way away any more, and for every place I’ve been to, there are three more I want to see. Even after everything I experienced last year, I still can’t help but feel like I never really got my teeth into things, never saw everything I could have – so next time I’ll try to do it better. There are also people dotted all over the place now that I really miss, and I hope I can see them again soon. I’ve never really explored the UK and Europe, so those are on the list as well.
Work is also going to change. I’m winding down my business in its current form, to allow me more time to study, do different things, get away from a computer screen. A change of career will happen, but at the moment it’s easier to nail jelly to the ceiling than work out what that will be.
Updates on this blog will slow down now – this is my blog site for life back in the UK, and that will keep going for the time being. This blog will most likely be resurrected for the next trip – I just hope that’s not too far away.