28 Jun After the Adventure: Returning Home from Travel
After 13 bleary hours in the air we arrived back in England on the 6th June to blue skies and sunshine, a perfect reflection of the joy we felt to be back on home turf. The weeks since then have been a blur of visits and reunions, family meals, picnics, walks and planning for the future. So, how have we adjusted to life back in the UK after the adventure of our lives?
Coming Home – the Good Bits
It’s no secret that Andrew and I were totally ready to take a break from travel and we definitely chose the perfect time to return to England. With the exception of a few showers the weather has been beautiful since we got back, even though the air beneath the sunshine feels nippy to me after over a year in humid Asia. The British summer evenings are long and light; stretching out while people lounge around in beer gardens, play rounders in the parks or demolish BBQ’s and picnics.
We have wallowed in the Britishness of it all; the picnics and walks, punnets of strawberries and ice-creams at the beach, watching people shiver in sun dresses and shorts, determined to make the most of the sun even as the evening coolness draws in and the deluded football fans hanging out England flags in the hope of a world cup victory. We’ve cooked roast dinners, rhubarb crumbles and stuffed our faces with all those foods we missed in Asia; cheese, pasta, salads, pickle and brown bread, fish and chips and a million cups of strong, hot tea.
Most importantly, we’ve spent the first few weeks catching up with our immediate family and some friends. Yes, things have changed while we’ve been gone – there have been new babies, jobs and homes but I don’t feel like a stranger here. Underneath all these changes and despite everything we’ve seen and experienced on the road, this is still my home, the place I’ve lived almost my whole life. I have realised that with some people, no matter how far you travel, all distance and time is erased when you meet again, you slip easily back into familiar patterns, have a millions things to say and a common bond that never frays.
What I have developed though is a new appreciation for the UK; people here are more cheerful than I remembered (although that’s probably partly due to the current weather) and I’ve been struck by how incredible the scenery is – there’s so much green space. I travelled to the other side of the world in search of awe-inspiring beauty but didn’t appreciate that it also existed in the very place I had lived my whole life.
Returning Home – The Weird Bits
I’d be lying if I said that coming back home after 15 months of travel hasn’t been a little bit strange. Firstly there are the small things; being able to drink water directly from a tap instead of a bottle, watching the sun set stretch out until nine o’clock in the evening instead of reliably falling everyday at six like it does in Asia and having British pound coins in my purse after grappling for so long with unfamiliar currencies.
There are bigger changes that I’ve noticed too; food waste bothers me more and I can see that too often here we eat for want, not need. I’m also shocked by the amount of people who leave doors unlocked, windows wide open or car engines idling while they nip out to the shops; I’ve become far more safety conscious since travelling, to the point that I even interrogated the window cleaner last week. There’s also a debate raging in the UK right now about the ‘dangers’ of immigration which worries Andrew and I – if there’s one thing travel has taught us it’s that the UK’s biggest strength lies in its multi-cultural population.
We’ve been ‘travellers’ for so long now that it’s been hard to switch that off and get used to not talking and thinking about travel all the time. There have been brief moments in larger groups of people that I’ve felt alien, like I can’t identify with the conversations and themes that I used to so easily – work, homes, plans, routine. At times I feel a flash of homesickness for the roads we’ve travelled down and the places we’ve left behind, for the rawness and intensity of Asia.
The biggest change I’m dealing with at the moment is being apart from Andrew. After 15 months of living every moment together, I’m now spending a few weeks in Southampton with my family while Andrew’s in Wales with his. It’s strange to be apart after the intensity of sharing absolutely everything with each other for so long; there have been fierce arguments, tears and illnesses along the way but sharing this travel experience has bound us more tightly together than ever.
Andrew and I will finally be reunited in London at the beginning of July; I can’t wait to reconnect with my favourite city and catch up with friends. After many let-downs and frustrations we’ve landed two house sitting assignments which we’re very excited about, especially because they involve looking after a very cute puppies!
After London we have visits planned to Wales and our University City, Bristol. In August we’re off to explore a part of the UK we’ve never been to before: Scotland. I’m so excited about visiting the castles and lochs and I have a hunch that Edinburgh is going to join my list of favourite cities. In between all that excitement we’re still planning for our return to Vietnam in mid-August where we’ll hopefully begin teaching.
As one adventure ends, another begins…
CatherinePosted at 14:40h, 28 June
So glad to hear you’re settling back into life at home so well – I’ve read a lot of similar posts from bloggers who haven’t settled in well at all. I was expecting ‘The Good’ and ‘The Bad’ – ‘The Weird’ is much better 🙂
AmyPosted at 19:14h, 28 June
I was worried we’d have more trouble adjusting Catherine but so far it’s been great! I think it helps that we’re moving around the country doing different things and also preparing for our move back to Vietnam too.
KatiePosted at 14:46h, 28 June
After just a few weeks of travel, I often a little “off” coming home, I can’t even imagine what I’d be like after 15 months. Glad you got roasts, tea, and family time in. Sounds like you’ve got quite a lot of adventures planned! 🙂
AmyPosted at 19:17h, 28 June
The thought of returning home freaked me out too for our first six months or so on the road Katie. After 15 months though we were exhausted and missing everyone so it was nice to come back, especially since we know the return isn’t permanent 🙂
Heidi @WagonersAbroadPosted at 14:52h, 28 June
I think the adjustment is even more enjoyable because you already have more travel plans locally and beyond. It is nice to visit and be “home”, but I think it would hit hard if it were permanent. At least, that is how it would be for me. It must be very strange for the two of you to be apart this month, almost lonely. I know our little family has grown much closer during our time in Spain, so it would be tough without each other. Best of luck to you and we will give you a ping when we make it to Vietnam. We are starting in Thailand the end of July and will take a few months to make it over that way. Take care and enjoy all of the love you are surrounded by.
AmyPosted at 19:20h, 28 June
I think you’re right Heidi, we have lots of exciting things planned; if we were back for good and had to sort out finding jobs and a home again things would be pretty different, the thought of that scares me actually! I am really looking forward to being back with Andrew again; it’s nice that you guys have that close-knit bond that you may not have developed without becoming expats. Hope to see you in Vietnam 🙂
KatePosted at 11:47h, 29 June
Love your blog too. We are in Malaysia then Bali but will be in Thailand July 19 until Aug 6. We will most likely stay in Hua Hin with a couple of days in Bangkok depending on politics. Where are you guys heading to?
MigPosted at 14:54h, 28 June
Congrats on your amazing accomplishment to travel for so long! It looks like your transition home with culture shock has been going well. Many travelers have commented about the food waste in the western world after visiting developed countries. Sometimes we need to set out of our home city only to come back and appreciate it from a new perspective. This happened to me too when I left Chicago. It is nice to read that it won’t be long before you are back on the road again!
AmyPosted at 19:23h, 28 June
Thanks Mig! Spending so long away has definitely made me see how good our quality of life is here in the UK, most of us don’t realise how lucky we are to have food in our cupboards and fresh water coming out of the tap.
Lauren McGregorPosted at 19:45h, 28 June
What a beautiful return home 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing the good and the strange haha. One of my absolute favorite posts to date.
AmyPosted at 19:51h, 28 June
Thanks Lauren, we couldn’t have wished for a better homecoming 🙂
EmielPosted at 20:43h, 28 June
I love this, such a great post. Especially when you realize to appreciate what you have at home… I think I know how you feel, although we have never been long-term travelers (longest travel was 6 weeks to India and Thailand). But also after 4-6 weeks returning home is special and you realize how you are actually so very attached to your home…more than you might have thought.
Have fun and hope you are both reunited again very soon!
AmyPosted at 21:57h, 28 June
Exactly Emiel, if we hadn’t gone travelling I never would have realised how much I love England. Andrew and I will be back together again next week – can’t wait 🙂
ShanePosted at 02:23h, 29 June
I wouldn’t waste a single one of those roast potatoes. They look so good. Enjoy your time at home.
AmyPosted at 10:04h, 29 June
I’m making more roast potatoes today Shane, can’t wait 🙂 We definitely will make the most of our time here.
AlysonPosted at 07:56h, 29 June
Hi Guys, after 7 YEARS away, mostly in Australia, I’m so totally in LOVE with London you wouldn’t believe. I love the parks, the Thames, the history the (surprisingly cheap) food and the people are great, as you say, really friendly. You mentioned multiculturalism, it’s incredible and wonderful in London, it really feels like home, I know of nowhere else in the world with this level of diversity and a big boo to the morons who voted in so many fascists. But anyway…enjoy your time, as we will. Hope to see you in July but I’m off on a press trip for 2 weeks, poor me!
AmyPosted at 10:08h, 29 June
Hi Alyson, we think London has to be one of, if not the most multi-cultural city in the world – can’t wait to get back there next week. Look forward to seeing you (hopefully) and hearing about this exciting press trip 🙂
CarmelPosted at 11:19h, 29 June
“There have been brief moments in larger groups of people that I’ve felt alien, like I can’t identify with the conversations and themes that I used to so easily – work, homes, plans, routine”
Although we haven’t gotten home yet, we’ve felt the same way when being in a conversation with people who aren’t traveling long-term.
We’ll be landing on the other side of the country once we return next month, so there will be a lot of differences to being home since the US is so big, but I know some of those things, like food waste, security, and immigration, will all be topics we’ll be faced with. We haven’t been gone as long as you have, but I know we’ll face a lot of the same challenges. I am really looking forward to it, though.
AmyPosted at 12:26h, 29 June
Hi Carmel, I’m sure you will notice a lot of things about the US that you hadn’t before your travels. It’s great that you get to travel across the country too, I imagine that will be like visiting different countries in a way because the US is so vast! Have fun 🙂
KatePosted at 11:44h, 29 June
I popped back to Florida for a week last month after being in Dubai and S.E. Asia for 1.5 years. It was lovely and I kept thinking how much I missed it. I’m coming to realize that home is simply where the people I love are or are closest to. Most of my best travel memories involve the people who are with me rather than simply the place. Luckily I have a large group of kids who wants to travel with me so we make our fun on the road:)
Just left Vietnam yesterday (Hanoi). We really liked HCMC but Hanoi was heavy going – heat/crowds/food not as good we thought/and more expensive. Anyway hope you get the teaching spot and have a wonderful time enjoying it with each other:)
AmyPosted at 12:29h, 29 June
I agree Kate, I feel at home whenever I’m with family. I find that the people do often make the place; my fondest memories of our trip are the incredible people we met while volunteering in the Philippines and the kindness of those we met in Cambodia and Burma.
KerriPosted at 02:04h, 30 June
Welcome home Amy! Looking forward to reading about your adventures in Scotland and seeing what the future holds for you all.
AmyPosted at 09:24h, 30 June
Thanks Kerri, I’m excited to get to Scotland and see what it’s like 🙂
PattiPosted at 04:37h, 30 June
This was so good to read, Amy, good to know that life is settling for awhile, but yet you painted a very real and honest picture of life in the so-called “norm” after being on the road for 15 months. I’ve always appreciated your honest approach to your thoughts on the blog. We don’t travel full time, as you know, but I can totally relate to the good, bad and ugly of being together 24/7 because that is exactly how our lives are. It can be challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way and I’m sure you and Andrew wouldn’t either because in the end you come out with a solid and unbreakable bond between you. Well done!
AmyPosted at 09:30h, 30 June
Thanks so much Patti. You’re right, I wouldn’t have it any other way; back in London Andrew and I lived quite separate lives and sometimes only saw each other for a couple of hours each evening before we fell into bed, exhausted. Now (well, apart from this brief period apart) we get to share all of our time and some amazing experiences together, I can’t imagine doing that with anyone else. I now really admire couples who run businesses together like you and Abi as I realise how tough being together non-stop can be, but I also understand that it’s totally worth it!
Nathan & Alex TarlingPosted at 06:20h, 30 June
We have been following your blog every week for the past 6 months as we have been planning and are now in the midst of a 12 month world tour.
Firstly we would like to say that we have found your blogs both inspiring and informative, you probably gave us the kick up the arse we needed to actually do it, so thanks for that.
We are currently in Auckland, having spent a month travelling through USA, mainly California (which was excellent) and are after some advice as we are touring New Zealand for the next 3 weeks.
Our plan is to hire a car and travel south from Auckland to Christchurch, do you have any suggestions as to where to visit and more importantly where to stay, we have a rough itinerary but obviously you have 1st hand experience of the country so we wondered if you could give any further advice having taken in to account your blog.
We leave NZ on 19th July and are heading to Oz for a month, flying to Sydney then making our way up to Brisbane to stay with friends.
Hope you guys are enjoying the sunny uk and being back on home ground, we are from Manchester and are pretty annoyed that we are missing the sunshine back home as it’s currently pissing it down here in Aukland.
Nathan and Alex
AmyPosted at 09:44h, 30 June
Hi Nathan and Alex, thanks for commenting, I’m glad you’ve found our blog useful and it sounds like you’re having an incredible adventure of your own!
We absolutely loved New Zealand and were lucky enough to have beautiful weather practically the whole time we were there. If you haven’t already read them, you can look through the articles we wrote about our time in NZ here: http://ourbigfattraveladventure.com/countries/new-zealand/.
In the North Island I’d highly recommend heading up to the Bay of Islands, we took an overnight cruise there on the Rock Boat and saw the most incredible night sky ever while kayaking – we could see the Milky Way, something we’d never experienced in London 🙂 I’d also recommend stopping in Raglan, which has some of the nicest beaches we came across in NZ. I’d say that stopping at the Glowworm caves in Waitomo and seeing the geothermal wonderland at Wai-o-tapu in Rotorua is essential and if you like hiking, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a must.
We did so much in the North Island that we only had about 10 days in the South, which we really regretted as soon as we saw how incredibly beautiful it is – make sure you leave enough time to explore it properly. We drove through Nelson and briefly stopped in Golden Bay/Abel Tasman and wished we had more time to explore, it was so beautiful. We also loved our heli-hike on Fox Glacier and there’s loads to do in Queenstown; we did hear that cruising Doubtful Sound is better (but more expensive) than Milford though, so if you have a bit of extra money perhaps go for that.
Let me know if you have anymore specific questions about places to stay or activities, we’re happy to help 🙂
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)Posted at 12:24h, 30 June
So glad you made it home safely and that your return to the UK has been largely trouble-free! No matter what the change, some adjustments and bumps in the road are to be expected, but I’m sure viewing this time back home as an intermission rather than a full-blown return to your old life and routines helps as well. To be truthful, although Tony & I will be spending far more than just the summer back in Toronto, the only way I am able to mentally deal with it is by telling myself it will only be temporary… I have no idea when exactly we’ll be able to get back on the road again, but I am determined that we do so, and that is what will keep me going!
Enjoy the lovely English summer weather, eating all your favorite foods, and taking a much deserved rest. I know you’ll stay busy, but now you know the truth: nothing is more exhausting than packing your bags & traveling every 2 or 3 days!
AmyPosted at 13:47h, 30 June
It does definitely help to see this period as an intermission Steph and it’s so nice to have a rest from moving around all the time, even if we are still busy with new plans and catching up with people. I hope you guys enjoy the next few weeks and have a smooth return to Toronto, I look forward to hearing about it 🙂
RobPosted at 01:40h, 01 July
Really nice read Amy. It is odd heading home after being on the road for so long, I remember thinking how clean the UK is when I arrived back, never noticed it before I left.
It weird how your priorities change as well, things like food waste become a huge annoyance and making immigrants scapegoats is just nonsensical and frustrating, but also it’s great that you can now look at the world and life differently.
Plus you got to eat proper English grub! We have found a restaurant here which does fish and chips but I can guarantee it wont be the same without a litre of malt vinegar drowning them 😉
AmyPosted at 09:16h, 01 July
Yes, the UK did seem clean to us too, although we softened the reverse culture shock by visiting Taiwan right before we came back, which is very clean and high-tech. I’m glad you found some fish and chips but I’ve no doubt that it won’t be as good as the British version – we’ll eat lots for you while we’re here 🙂
CharliePosted at 21:11h, 05 July
Happy to hear you’ve settled in and its good to be back in Blighty! I find it interesting how you feel people seem happier here in the UK. That really stood out to me too when I came back. I’ve always wondered if it’s really that people are happier, or it’s something in myself that’s changed my perception. I can certainly relate to the feeling of being an alien at times and not being able to relate to ‘everyday’ conversations; I also feel I’m overly conscious at times of not speaking about travel (or, more specifically for me, Canada) as people can’t relate to what I’m talking about – I think most return travellers go though the same. It certainly gets easier as you slip back into UK life though. It won’t be long until you’re back in Asia though! Enjoy London in the sunshine – while it lasts eh 😉
AmyPosted at 16:27h, 06 July
Yes, perhaps it is just my perceptions that have changed Charlie; I also think British people are really cheered up by some sunshine! We are living being here, I think leaving again will be hard but once we’re back in Vietnam we’ll love it.
Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush?Posted at 16:54h, 28 July
Having just returned from a world-trip adventure of my and my wife Lindsay’s lifetimes, I practically read my own experience in this post. New appreciation for my adopted country (the Americanness of it all) and home town, Portland, Oregon. Off moments when reconnecting with friends whose lives went on while we were gone. It’s all part of travel, though, isn’t it? The adventure continues!
AmyPosted at 21:27h, 29 July
I’m glad you can relate to our experiences Peter and you’re right, it’s all part of travel! Like you, I do think being away has given me a new appreciation for both the UK and how great it is to just spend time with friends and family. The downside is that I’ll be so sad to leave again for Vietnam – I guess that’s the nature of this travel beast though 🙂