Questioning My Reality. What Happens When A Traveller Stops?

4 months ago I started a new job on the other side of the world. It was, by pure coincidence, exactly 1 year since leaving the UK. It was tough.

The first week was a whirlwind of intensity, I was busy being trained by a lovely colleague, who is also a complete chatterbox. My cousin very generously let me stay with her family while I looked for a room to rent in the evenings, and at the weekends I went away with my friend Pete who was over on holiday. Being constantly with different people was hard, I’d gotten used to being solo. I was pretty exhausted, more than ready to stop with the traveling. I couldn’t wait to settle in one place, at least temporarily. 3 weeks later and I was settling into my new house, starting to get used to the early mornings and the 7-3:30 work hours, and I discovered a huge urge to ‘nest’ and decorate my room. I resisted on the basis of it being a temporary arrangement and having low funds, with the exception of a picture frame and photos of my travels with friends and family. At the same time, I was sad to put away my backpack, which I have a huge fondness for after living out of it for a year.

My backpack and I have seen a lot together.

My backpack and I have seen a lot together.

It was past the time for me to stop though, I could feel myself growing lazy, traveling became an effort and my appreciation of visiting new places and having new experiences was diminishing.

Life back ‘in the real world’ however, has given me a gradual understanding of several things about my life, which rather than giving me answers, has in fact led to more questions about what I really want from life. What does anyone want really?

In search of answers to life's questions

In search of answers to life’s questions

Ok, happiness. Everyone wants to be happy and actually I really do believe that being happy in yourself, in your choices (good and bad) and in the life you create for yourself is the most important thing in anyone’s life. Achieving it is pretty difficult, and of course, no one can be happy all the time because sometimes bad things happen, but I also believe that those times, when we’re sick or ill or sad or angry, make the good times even better. Working out what makes you happy is unfortunately not as straightforward as you would hope.

I believe that I am generally a pretty happy person. I have been content throughout most of my life back in the UK. I enjoyed my job, have great friends, and an awesome family. I truly believe I am lucky in that. But I’m greedy. Wanderlust was a slow burning itch that I knew I had to scratch, which meant leaving all of the good things in my life behind. I’m selfish. There have been things that have/ are happening in the lives of my family and close friends, and I am not there to help if they need me. Skype is amazing, but you can’t give someone the physical support and completely underrated of something as simple as a hug. It hurts me, but I would much rather be here, traveling and exploring the world than back at home for people who need me. Luckily they have others to be there, but I still feel guilty.

Having an awesome time when my bestie visited :)

Having an awesome time when my bestie visited 🙂

I’m not as happy as I was when travelling though. I like my job and my colleagues, I like my housemate and where I live (although Central Heating really needs to come to New Zealand) and I’m reasonably content. But I had more passion for life when I was on the road. It was exciting not knowing where I’d be sleeping (OK, sometimes that was stressful). It was liberating to have at most pretty vague plans, to have no ties, to be completely independent. I loved it. I miss it, although I appreciate my need to stop, so that when I do continue I will enjoy it as much again. I relished in the challenge of getting to grips with a new, completely different culture. I wander if I would leave now to do more traveling, if I could afford it. The answer is a definitive YES.

Money makes the world go round

Does money make the world go round?

Stopping has made me question other things in my life too. I graduated with a degree in Biochemistry in 2008. I spent 5 years working in a small University Lab acquiring a vast array of skills, and my current job is in a similar field although I’ve transition to industry. but I’m still on the bottom rung. I like working in science, but I’m not sure if its the career I still want. Travel has become such a part of me that I dream about being a professional travel writer, although the reality is no doubt pretty different to my ideals. I’m also thinking about working in conservation, but its such a broad field that I don’t know where to even start, and I’d love for there to be a lab aspect to a job in that field, but its popular, so I don’t know where to start. What do I do career wise, and how important is it to me to have a good career, or do I just want a life that enables me to travel. Yet I also dream about a future husband and family. Where does that fit in with the work/travel balance. What if I don’t meet him until its too late? (OK, I’m 28, I have plenty of time, but what if? ) I can only control my lifestyle and choices, but which is right?

Is this the right path?

Is this the right path?

I’ve started to think more seriously about what will happen when I return home. When I left I barely gave it any thought, in fact, ‘I’ll probably have to live with my parents, or possibly my sister and just get a job’ was pretty much the extent of it. I’ve been away for 16motnhs though, and it is likely to be another year or more before I return home. Granted, it’s premature to worry about it, but what if the UK isn’t as I remember it, or what if I return and realise that it’s not a country I want to live in. It was never a choice before; it was all I knew. Will it be different when I see my old friends and family, most of whom I’m terrifically bad at keeping in touch with. will the time and distance feel like nothing, or will our lives have grown irrevocably apart. It’s hard starting again, I have a few friends here, but its very different to my life was pre-travel. When traveling everything is magnified, so much more intense than real life that after spending 2 days with someone can seem like 2 weeks, and a few weeks traveling with someone gives you a life long friend. It’s much harder to get that when everyone is working and busy with a ‘normal’ life, and I actually miss that.

Making new friends

Making new friends

Ultimately I have no idea what I want, apart from to travel more. I just hope that its a plausible dream and that I won’t miss out on too many other things while I pursue it. Or maybe its just a bit of a reality bites/tiny  mid 20s crisis. I felt like I had grown as a person during my travels, now I feel like I’ve lost that, and I liked that version of me more. I guess that straying from the traveling path has led to me getting a bit lost.

Which way now?

Which way now?

11 thoughts on “Questioning My Reality. What Happens When A Traveller Stops?

  1. Pingback: 10000 Steps a Day Challenge | gemmajaneadventures

  2. The transition can be so hard when you stop traveling, so can totally relate to that. Your positive outlook will be helpful through tough times when you want to be back on the road. Follow your heart. Aching for the road when travel runs through your blood isn’t unusual. You’re not alone and have a great head on your shoulders!

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    • Thanks 🙂 It’s always good to know I’m not alone in finding it tough, I think very few travellers find the transition easy. I’ve started to get out exploring locally more which has been brilliant, and I’m planning a weekend away soon so now have things to look forward to!

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  3. Hey Gemma, I loved this article and love your writing. I have been on the road for nearly 4 months, and as I have started to say goodbye to several countries already, I am starting to realize that there will be an end, and like it or not, there will be a new beginning in my life. I strongly believe that it is by doing what we love that opportunities will come to us. Keep blogging like you do and your opportunity might come faster than you expect! You are a great writer and a great blogger so wait and see 🙂

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    • Thanks Nathalie! I’m really glad you like my blog 😀 It’s sad to say goodbye to countries you love, but exciting to explore new ones! You are very right in that doing what we love brings us opportunities, I’m sure the end of your trip and the new beginning will bring you lots of fantastic ones too! It’s a cliché, but the world really is your oyster! Happy travels 🙂

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  4. Great post! I appreciate the amount of reflection you’ve done here. And your conclusion is so perfect when you say that straying from traveling has made you feel more lost. I haven’t traveled in 4 years and I’ve been trying forever to get to South America, but settling down has a way of locking one up.

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    • Thankyou! The real world just isn’t as satisfying, it’s amazing how much you see and do, and how busy you can be when you’re not working! But now I am, and feel like I’m not making the most of my time anymore. Traveling just seems to fit. I completely understand how easy it is to settle though, and before you know it years have passed! I’m sure you will make it to South America one day, and in the meantime, a few weekend trips locally might help!

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  5. I’ve travelled on and off since I was 18 and sometimes I feel bad about the fact it’s meant that I haven’t achieved a lot career wise! I love being on the road, but like you said, I also think about husband and family (and I’m 33 so if babies are going to happen they are going to need to happen kind of soon!). But right now all I know is that I enjoy being nomadic.

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    • Life is full of compromise, but if you’re happiest traveling and that measn you’re not as far as you could be careerwise, does it matter? It’s very easy to look at those who are doing well careerwise, but they are probably jealous of your travels and wish they’d been more like you! As to the marriage and babies, if it happens it happens, but I don’t think it’s worth settling for anyone who is less than the right one, unfortunately meeting the right guy to settle and have babies with isn’t something anyone can control, but traveling and living the life we enjoy is! being nomadic is awesome, and you get to meet way more people than you would staying in one place and working, so who knows, maybe Mr Right is right around the corner!

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  6. I can idenrify myself a lot in that post! Im travelling for 13 months at the moment and I had a lot of time to think about my past, my future, what I want, what I need… And as Im doing a working holiday visa I have to settle on some points to work and save money to travel again. It is hard to settle. And it is also good, but in a wierd way. I have the impression that I can easily change my minds over and over about everything… !
    abrokenbackpack.com

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    • Travel is a good distraction from ‘the real world’ but it also makes you think more about what you want, and realise that you really can do absolutely anything if you work at it hard enough and put your mind to it. The trouble is discovering just what that is! Travel opens your horizons, but it gives you more questions than answers. I love traveling though, it is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done.
      I completely agree about changing your mind over and over, the grass is always greener on the other side! I think certain things are the right thing to do at the right time, sometimes that may mean changing your mind back again. Who knows what life and the future holds, the only way to find out is to live life to it’s fullest! 🙂

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