As mentioned in a previous piece, I made a decision that may probably fly in the face of some of the things I’ve said over the last year.
I’ve decided to cut my attempted backpacking short after only three months, to head back to the UK, and head back to my old life. Well, not quite – new role going forward, so not hitting the reset button entirely.
Back in the UK I was frustrated with what seemed like a cycle and a sense of unending monotony. And it was affecting me, in many ways, which came out through my work, through my friendships (unfortunately) and through a long time relationship. All of which suffered, and all of which meant I was a prick to the people I cared about.
This frustration was causing me, in effect, to be thoroughly miserable. And the reason why was twofold:
I wanted to see if there was another way at living our lives, and if there was a way to find happiness. I wanted to find something on this trip that I would resonate with, that would give me a goal to pursue.
I haven’t failed on these goals – my short time away made me realise what I had, what I was missing in my home life, and what I had to do to find that happiness that I felt was missing from my life.
I spent six weeks on the Australian coast, attempting to do different things, step out of my comfort zone, and see new places.
To that end, I succeeded – I haven’t had such an adventure in a damn long time, if ever, and have done things I would have never dreamed of – jumping out of a plane, diving under the ocean, climbing clifftops by Sydney, chilling with travellers in hostels, actually talking with strangers (that’s a difficult thing for me to rise up to).
It’s been great, utterly amazing, and eye opening – I couldn’t believe how simple it is to simply get a ticket, get a plan and just fucking run off and do something interesting. But I had a realisation, which was a thorn in my mind I was initially unwilling to approach.
The realisation came as I arrived in Port Douglas and began to not travel – if I were to have these lulls, wouldn’t it be easier to do it from a position of strength, as I had previously had in the UK? After the adventure, I was then looking to sort out the next one – which would require time and resources to build towards….which could have been done under my own power, in a place that I can call my own.
But here I was, relying on the good nature of family, to prop me up in the short term so I could do it all again…and the only thought in my mind was that it felt distinctly like a step backwards.
Not only that, but I had come to realise that in the months before my departure, I had met and spent time with a wonderful group of friends. I was now far away from the other backpackers I had met, and the people I had grown fond of back home.
In effect, homesickness hit me like a freight train.
The other thing I realised was that the opportunity for me to grow was not in a strange land far away, like it was for my far more adventurous sibling, but it was back in the UK, under more stable surroundings. Back to the city, the place, and the people, where I belong.
Without that stability I had built for myself since University, I felt unnerved, and felt like a burden to those around me here. I realise now that having that security is something I need, and while adventure is super fun, exciting and can change your perspective, it had to be done under different circumstances for me.
Let’s be clear – everyone wants to be that care free adventurer. Maybe that’s what we all want to strive for – no authority on where we want to be but ourselves, our own energy, our own desire. It’s romantic, a version of existence which we can hold up as something greater than a nine to five gig.
But a nine to five gig can give something we don’t realise until it’s gone away – a foundation for the future. It can allow us to live a good, active life, provided we balance it in the right away.
Because that care free adventurous life, is not as carefree as you may think. Between hikes, between surfs, between falling out of perfectly good planes, you have to live, and have to manage, and support the next adventure. In my mind, that support could easily have come from a place I felt more secure in, and felt far more at home in.
I was not under the illusion of its difficulty. In Theory. In practice, that lack of stability means you have to step the fuck up to looking after yourself in a very different manner than before. It means not just stepping out of your comfort zone, but also stepping into doing things you wouldn’t want to, or things you consider a backwards step. Especially if you are coming at this after working a fairly decent job for a while (stresses notwithstanding).
That, combined with a longing for home, for the people and the good things in life you had, can knock you for six. For me, it did. Consider it a failing if you wish, but I had to do what I felt was the right choice for me. No point living in circumstances that make you miserable just to prove a point.
I realise what I want now. I may not have found what (quoting from my leaving piece here) “Makes my soul sing”, but I have found what I want going forward with my life, and what makes me happy.
And, simple as this may sound, but I only wish to spend time with good people, in good places, doing interesting things.
I let my life become thoroughly unbalanced before I left for this trip. It felt like a fog had descended over my life, and was clouding every step, every thought and every action I was doing. I let routine and numbness into my life and stopped pursuing interesting avenues.
This adventure has changed my view on that. I can see now, where I can go, and what I can do – back home, in familiar surroundings. Australia is not my future, not at the moment. Nor is a life time of backpacking. Having tried it, I can see and feel that it’s not for me.
I feel like that mental fog has lifted, and that I can return to my previous line of work without concerns our doubts about it. I also feel like I can open my mind up to other avenues, and further a career that can let me build something for myself, while balancing it far better than I did in the past by pursuing the occasional adventure into the world.
And ultimately, that’s what I want now – to live a life, built by my efforts, for myself and the people around me that I can hold up and be proud of.
It may feel premature, and maybe disappointing to people reading this post vs. the one I wrote on departure. It might even seem hypocritical. But I do not worry about that – I made a choice: an experiment with my own life and livelihood, to determine what’s best for me.
I doubt many would dare that.
And I do not regret any of it. I have learned more about myself in the last three months than in the last three years. It feels like a step forward in the right direction for my life.
Nor can I forget the great people I’ve met here either.
Hopefully, this adventure will act as a catalyst for further trips, month long voyages and tours to distant places around the world. Then I can write here on this blog about them, and return to my home, to prepare for the next one.
That doesn’t sound like a bad life to me.
There’s other writing on the rest of my trip on the way – including Airlie Beach, Mission Beach, the Whitsundays, Magnetic Island, Cairns and Port Douglas. I’ll be drip feeding them for a while after this post.