29 December 2017

Backpacking Series: Part I - The loneliness thereafter

I hadn't even set foot outside the plane when my brain screamed one question at me, over and over: why on earth are you going home now? 
Because I am broke!!! I thought back, feeling tearful. I was suddenly back in familiar territory and I once again had to get used to everything that comes with normal, every day life. Traffic, people, the crushing idea of getting a boring job and earning just enough to pay for a 2 week holiday once a year (fun).

By the time I had got into bed that evening I was already regretting my decisions. Why didn't you get a work visa? Why didn't you stay longer? Why didn't you do this? Why not- all those thoughts which I had first confronted when I booked this trip, questions which I had already pondered deeply and answered in a logical way. None of that mattered when I pulled off my rucksack and hiking boots for the last time. I still felt miserable. Yet I had made my choices and to be honest, I couldn't complain. I had just done something which isn't possible for everyone and yet I felt guilty that I was being selfish enough to feel unhappy. 

Having had the time to think more about those initial feelings I now have several answers as to what caused this emotional state. First of all: I was being greedy. I wanted more. Despite having done a hell of a lot during this adventure of a lifetime I was being greedy enough to want more. I had definitely caught the travel bug: I lived through an opportunity which only made me realize just how many more opportunities there are out there just waiting to be grasped.

On top of that I was getting frustrated with my inability to explain the experience to those around me. How do you explain such a thing to those who haven't experienced it themselves? "IT WAS AMAZING" just doesn't do it justice, does it? I want to show you how it felt to stand on Hot Water Beach and feel my feet sinking into the sand, or how I felt hiking a volcano in bad weather and fearing for my life, or kayaking the Abel Tasman waters in the sun... I want to talk about how proud I am of successfully planning the entire trip and being utterly independent. The truth is I can't just jump into a deep, meaningful tirade with every single person who asks about it. I could write a book about how much this experience impacted my life. Truthfully I worry people don't want to hear every single detail. What if I sound like I'm showing off? Or being annoying? It's not like I can even put the experience into words anyway.

 I can show you all the pictures of mountains I want but you won't understand what lies behind the photograph, how it felt to stand amongst them or how I truly valued that moment. 
So what do you tell people? "You need to go travelling and experience it yourself!!" Not advised because not everyone can, or is in a situation when they can save up for it. It makes you sound like you are being inconsiderate, it makes you feel like you are waving around a flag of privilege. I suppose that's partly why I describe the weeks following the return as lonely. It's not just the inability to put the experience into words, it's more so because you feel like you can't truly share every aspect of your adventure with those you love which is upsetting because you would want them to understand more than anything. My mind is fighting against the "stop being ungrateful" thoughts and "it's okay to feel those feelings just go and cry a little" thoughts.

The weirdest thing about being back is that absolutely nothing else has changed but myself. People are the same, traffic is the same, the News is just as depressing, that giant tub of peanut butter is still in the cupboard... All the silly things.
Whilst those I left behind are still doing their day-to-day thing, I've been on the other side of the planet seeing things I never imagined I'd see. When you do so much in a short amount of time you feel as though you've been away for so long, yet also feel as though no time has passed at all. It almost feels like a dream, like it never really happened. You can't help be feel as though the personal changes you experienced should also be reflected in the world you've come back to. But they don't. Which is probably the most depressing part, closely followed by all those "now it's back to the real world!" comments.
On top of that there's the knowledge that time has passed differently for those who weren't with you. Things are normal for them, but not for you - you alone are in a period of re-adjustment. You alone are dealing with that feeling. Just another part of the experience which is difficult to put into words.

Along with the feelings of loneliness there was also the struggle to deal with a sudden overwhelming amount of people. Now before I get into it, I mean no offence to anyone. I spent 2 months alone with my twin: we planned everything ourselves and did everything together. Those of you who know us understand this is the norm. We left everything and everyone we knew behind, making friends with strangers. Doing long hikes in silence, exploring a city alone. So when we got back and were surrounded by familiar faces it felt like a lot to deal with. It felt as though we had lost this curtain of privacy and had to get used to socialising normally again. It's hard to explain without sounding downright rude "no offence but now I need to be alone for 5 hours". It's a strange feeling because you are happy to see everyone, but you also miss all that time you spent by yourself. I suppose this varies from person to person, depending where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. I find extreme socialising exhausting and despite being more social then usual during the trip, I guess being surrounded by those you know was just another form of socialising which was difficult to deal with after being so far away for so long.

To round this post off, I would say that I'm trying to find the balance between feeling grateful, and accepting that a. it's okay to be sad and b. you can't have everything. I traveled, I had a brilliant time, and I'm lucky enough to have a home to come back to. Best thing about all of it though? I'm lucky enough to understand the privilege of travelling at such a young age and being able to value every single moment. Even the lack of sleep and good food.

Holly x

P.S. Film pictures shot in NZ! Blog posts coming soon.


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