Coming home, part 1
It took me a while to write about this last part of my trip. Partly because I’ve been super caught up in the coming home process; meeting with friends and family, finding a (temporary) place to live, trying to catch up with some administration, finding a job, working… Next to that I was struggling with my physical and mental health (more later) and most importantly, I wasn’t able to write the full story, just because for me it was not really finished yet. Until now.
Sydney – Australia
After 8,5 months of travelling from Antwerp to Bali without flying, it was time for me to catch a flight to maybe my most favourite city in the world. When I started my trip, my goal was to reach Australia without catching a flight. Even though I “only” made it to Bali, I knew I wanted to finish in Australia anyhow. By that time, in contrast to everyone at home, I already knew I was going home soon. I’d decided that I wanted to spent some time at home, during the European summer. I was tired, weak, couldn’t enjoy the travelling anymore and I missed my friends. So why didn’t I fly back straight from Bali? Well, there was a reason why I crossed half of the world to come back to Australia… As some of you may know, I used to live in Sydney for 5 months while I was on exchange. I fell in love with the city, the Australians and the laid back culture of ‘all good’ ‘no worries’ and ‘too easy’. After leaving Sydney two years ago, I was sure I wanted to come back Down Under and live there for a while. But at this moment, I just didn’t feel like, nor had the energy to start a new life in Australia. Maybe I would come back after a couple of weeks or months at home, when I felt better. But maybe Australia wasn’t that special anymore… maybe it was just the magic of being an exchange student far away from home, and the important life changes I was going through that made my time in Sydney that special. I thought that if I wanted to come back to live there, I needed to know if the feeling I had in Australia two years ago was still the same. So I went back.
Ironically, Asia said goodbye to me in her own way by given me… food poisening! Again. Right the night before I had to catch my flight. I felt so miserable on Denpasar Airport that I was worried the border control officers would discover my fever and wouldn’t let me on the flight. Luckily this didn’t happen and while I was on the flight I slowly started to feel better. From the moment I touched Australian land (which was in Brisbane since I had a stop-over there) I felt unbelievably calm. When I went through border control in Brisbane, it was 1 am and the airport was empty. I had almost forgotten how nice Australians were and was stunned by the relaxed and friendly border control officers who were working night shifts but were happy to chat with me and ask me about my plans in Australia. Maybe they were just doing their jobs, but I felt super welcome. And at home. The people, the accent, the stores (oh how I missed Woolies) and even the scents (mainly of coffee) made me feel nostalgic.
In Sydney I stayed with one of my favourite Aussies: Eryn, who used to be my roomie when I lived on campus. She moved to another place but still lived in the same area, close to the University I used to go to… so I got a chance to reminisce some memories 🙂 Sydney was beautiful as ever. With typically Sydney winter weather: fresh air but sunny. I did not think I was ever going to say this but I honestly liked the ‘cold’. I needed to buy a jeans and basically lived in a sweater I borrowed from Eryn, but I loved wearing proper clothes. And not being sweaty al the time. Since I still didn’t have a lot of energy I decided to spend my two weeks in Sydney observing the Australian life, to see if I wanted to come back sometime later. I met up with my aussie (and Dutch) friends, joined Eryn with some of her activities and did the same kind of things I used to do when I lived there. I went to Manly and Bondi beach and enjoyed the cheap sushi, banana bread and take-away coffee as much as possible.
Walking around Manly I saw people skating, running, cycling, surfing and (despite the cold) going for a swim in one of the sea-pools at the beach. I remembered how this life had appealed to me so badly. It still did. But I also felt ready to go home… And walking around Sydney, one thing became very clear to me: in two years, nothing had really changed. Whenever I want to come back, I know I am going to find it as I left it (okay, maybe with a few more (coffee) shops). And another thing I learned while travelling and which, again became very clear in Sydney, is that it isn’t such a big place, this planet. When I met one of Eryn’s colleges, we turned out to have a common friend, an Aussie who I met in Antwerp last year. And this summer, this college is coming to Antwerp as well (and I am going to meet up with him again). So Australia isn’t all that far away, at least it doesn’t feel like that anymore… even though in 8,5 months of travelling, I didn’t even make it that far.
Coming home, part 2
Antwerp – Belgium
So now, after 1,5 month of being back in Antwerp, I decided I am going to stay in Europe for a while. I’ve burned myself out pretty badly by travelling the world and now I (probably temporary) lost my ‘wanderlust’. It’s good to take some rest, so I can get my (travel) energy back. It turned out that, apart from being overworked and extremely fatigued from the travelling, I had a vitamin B-12 deficiency, which can have caused a lot of my symptoms like fatigue, heart palpitations, panic attacks and anxiety. I think I underestimated what a total change in lifestyle can do to your body and your mind. Having a totally different diet with little dairy products and being food poisoned a couple of times effects your physical health severely. And mentally… By taking on the challenge of this trip. I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone immensely. From a girl who used to be a control freak and scared of everything that was out of the ordinary, I went to a girl who started travelling solo, without much of a plan and through parts of the world where most people never think of even going. Although I almost never felt alone or scared, unknowingly all your senses are on sharp, everyday. Meeting new people and being in a new place everyday means continuous uncertainty and it wears you out. This, together with my feelings of social obligations and perfectionism, made me a perfect victim for getting a travel burn-out. I had the feeling I had to make the most of my time in every place because who knew if I was ever going to get a chance to go back there! And every time I met cool new people, because the world is full of amazing human beings, where I wanted to hang out with. Every time I got asked to join for either which activity, I felt like I should. That day off that everyone needs, you know these Sundays that you just stay at home and watch a movie? I needed that kind of days too but I didn’t take them. And I wasn’t supposed to complain right? Because I was making the trip of my life, and my friends back home had to work. But here is what nobody dares to tell people: travelling is not only fun and easy and it shouldn’t be either… Because it is not the same as being on one largely extended holiday, although your (facebook) friends may think it is… it’s a choice, it’s a way of living and like working a full-time job, you need to rest every now and then and do nothing. So the kind of things people like me learn by overworking themselves in their first jobs when trying to establish a career, I learned by making my first big solo trip. And I am super grateful that it happened, although it might have made the last part of my trip a bit less fun. And I am even more grateful that I’ve learned this while making a trip halfway across the globe, instead of working myself to death 8 to 10 hours a day behind a desk.
So for now, a steady base for a while, with my friends close to me is everything I need. I finally managed to see that it doesn’t make sense to push myself to travel more just because it was my plan. I’ve travelled from Antwerp to Bali without airplanes, something I can say I am proud of. I crossed 15 countries and 14 borders, where faces and languages slowly changed along the road, I used about 10 different modes of transport, stayed with locals, in hostels, guesthouses, beach shacks, Mongolian Gers and hotels, where I slept in about 100 different beds, I went from freezing my toes off to sweating my ass off, from trains with too much heating to trains with too much airco, I have 6 visa’s in my passport and a hell lot of stamps, I met 227 people (where I remember the names of), I got food poisoned 5 times, but enjoyed the most amazing local food about 500 times, learned how to say ‘thank you’ in at least 13 languages (but forgot almost every one of them), got ripped of a couple of times but far more often came across incredible hospitality in every single country. This world is an amazing place with amazing people, everywhere. And really, we are all not that different from each other…
My vitamins and energy are going up and I am even excited to make some smaller trips in Europe soon, since I made so many new friends along the road who just live a cheap Flixbus ticket, train ride or Blablacar-ride (or Ryan-air, but I still prefer to not fly) away. And Australia… I am sure she will wait for me 🙂
Europe, bring it on!
Ps. Since I am pretty sure my travel bug is just lingering and is coming back as soon as my energy (and bank account) is restored, I am certainly not planning to stop this blog. You will be able to track me wherever I go 😉