One of the (admittedly few) curses of the long term traveller, is the overall inability to spend much, if any time with family and friends. This year, having been away for nine months, I was lucky enough to get a flight back to the UK to spend ten days with good friends, good food, home comforts and a loving family.
These are a few of the things that I realized.
1. How with old friends, it feels like you never left.
I am not great at keeping in touch with people. Every new year I resolve to try and do better and every year, I realize sometime around mid April that I haven’t spoken to many people.
As such I always expect that each time we do eventually reconnect, that we will be playing a game of catch up that will consume our time together. The reality is, however, that with your closest friends, it makes little difference. You see each other, hug, and then it is straight into stupid jokes, a lot of laughter and then slowly and over the course of the evening, the highlights and the low points, the important stuff and the big conversations are shared. Just like it was 9 months ago, and just like it will be 9 months from now.
2. How little time everything used to take
I had kind of forgotten that most western households have specific appliances for turning regular slices of bread in to hotter, crispier slices of bread, they also have ones for washing dishes, and clothes. There is a stockpile of food in cupboards, more than one towel and an airing cupboard. You can get up in the morning and go straight to a shower without having to get dressed and walk across a campground.
All of this equated in a hell of a lot more time during the day. Everything individually saves about 60% of the time that you would usually spend if living from the back of a vehicle and that time sure adds up!
3. How far Social media really goes.
I must admit, sometimes I do question why I bother with the social accounts, whose sake I really do it for. Is it for me to try to attribute more meaning to my trip? Or is it, as intended, to keep those who are interested updated with what I am doing?
Speaking to people while at home, I have for the first time realized how many people do follow and appreciate our various social feeds. It is part of the reason that I need not spend all of my time “catching up” with people. Most know what I have been doing, and I them. It gives a way for my grandparents to feel connected with the trip, to still ‘see’ us regularly, and to help stem their fears somewhat.
4. How it is never enough time.
Being home for only 10 days out of the year, it is unlikely to be a large surprise that this is on the list, however, I mean more, that you can never spend enough time with your family nor with your friends. And there will always be things you wished you had done, you can try pack everything in. But you inevitably leave wishing you had done more, that you had had just a few more days.
This, however, would be the same if it was 10 days, or 3 months. Before I left, having been at home for a year, I still felt there were things I had forgotten, people I had neglected to see and that I should have spent much more time with my family while I could.
5. How happiness is personal and its causes are ever changing.
On the sporadic occasions that I do manage to speak to my friends, they often comment on how jealous they are, or how they wished that they could do what I am doing. I often reply that it really isn’t that difficult, and there is nothing that unique about my circumstance that allows me this lifestyle but not them.
I had at times thought that them begging these questions must have meant that they were unhappy, but upon seeing people during the holidays, I have learned that for the most part, all are very happy following their paths. There maybe parts that wish they could see the world, but the happiness that this would give them is not as profound as that of knowing that they are building solid and happy futures, reliable incomes and strong relationships. I am fortunate that most of the people I care about are following their own paths and all seem very happy along the way.
6. How it is all worth it.
I miss my family. Modern conveniences are nice. I wish I could see my friends more regularly. I have a lot of shitty days on the road. Dirty, stressful, scary or depressing days.
But I love my life and I cannot imagine another at this stage that would make me happy. It is worth it, worth every dollar that I have burned through, worth the lows and the sacrifices. Worth not having a secure job, worth the worry and the tears and the sweat.
The overall life and the dizzying highs, the beers on beaches and discovering somewhere magical, sleeping under a blanket of stars or meeting someone who can change your perception.
It is worth it all and I would make the same decisions every single time. Although, perhaps in a different vehicle.