One year abroad, a thirty hour journey and about four hours sleep leads me to the surreal normality of being back in the UK. It looks both exactly the same and completely different to how I remember. I delight in the novelty of being surrounded by everything and everyone I've missed, at the same time aware of the next impending goodbye.
On the road, we're constantly stimulated by new experiences, whereas back home familiarity allows respite from this overload of the senses. After a couple of days back in my hometown, the inevitable dip arrived following the high of travelling and I wondered where in the world was the place I fitted best.
I scrolled through travel blog posts about returning home after a big adventure and the same general ideas seemed to come up. Various bloggers posted about feeling profoundly changed and coming home where it's all exactly the same, or about the disappointment of hanging out with old friends who have stayed in one place. There seemed to be a general feeling of those left behind not getting it or not growing.
This irritated me. I understand that the frustration in said articles comes from a place of insecurity, of the vulnerability in finding a new sense of belonging and feeling like you don't fit in after returning to the place that's supposed to be your own. But the idea that you can't grow or experience or be challenged being physically in one place is far off the mark.
What's more, not everyone has the resources or the opportunity to jet off around the world. The idea that travelling is a superior way to live is problematic because it comes from a place of privilege which assumes you can only obtain personal growth if you have the means to travel the world.
So I pulled myself up out of my dip and decided to get to know my old friends all over again, to spend quality time with my family, to make the most of the beautiful country side and unique cities across the UK. I found myself listening with a new eagerness to hear and seeing with eyes that felt a lot more open. I've been appreciating things I used to just walk past without noticing and every moment feels like something to be savored. I'm drinking in my surroundings and feasting on stories from home to fill me up before setting out into the unknown again. To me, this is as valuable and interesting as any globe-trotting adventure.
As for nothing changing at home or people being stuck, it's a matter of perspective and frankly it screams arrogance to presume what others have or haven't learnt in their own lives. I've got friends who have become parents in the last year, a journey that changes you more than I will ever be able to comprehend until I go through it myself. A lot of people have been battling to stay positive and be active in their communities in the midst of government cuts to vital services. Close friends I've known since primary school suddenly seem very grown up, each embarking on their own creative projects and overcoming all kinds of personal challenges.
Sure, there's a particular thrill and a whole bunch of lessons which are unique to travelling but every type of journey is worthwhile and has something special to offer. Some of the most life changing journeys can unfold in your own back yard and these types of journeys should not be devalued.
The only thing I'm really sure of in life is the fact that every aspect of it is ever-changing so I'm here to appreciate each moment, whether paragliding on a tropical island or sitting inside writing on a rainy day in England. As for where I fit best, that's simple - it's wherever I am now, whenever now is. It's all what we choose to make of it, and I like to see coming home as an important part of the travel adventure.