I left on the 15th August 2015, boarding a flight from London Luton to Amsterdam Schipol at 07.35, the plane due to leave at 07.55. It has been 20 days since then. And there are 10 days until I return.
This is the single longest time I have been both out of the UK and away from people I love since I was 14 yeard old and went on a 23 day trip around Europe with the scouts. That was 8 years ago.
Since then, the longest amount of time I have spent out of the country is probably 14 days. Of course, that was with my family.
I’m not going to pretend I am not enjoying myself. There are aspects of the 30 days journey interrailing around Europe that I don’t enjoy. But these are counter-acted by many facets that I love, or I am learning to love. Yet, that doesn’t stop it being hard. And believe me, it is hard. In fact I’d say both emotionally and physically that this is one of the most challenging things I’ve undertaken. Sometimes I feel like I’d rather be writing my dissertation or taking my A-Level exams all over again.
That’s quite possibly because of the things they don’t tell you about travelling. It is, in a way, similar to University in that respect. You hear about all the positvity, that when you go away you learn and discover more about yourself. You come back as a more rounded and better developed human being thanks to what you have experienced.
But that doesn’t stop the long nights when you have only your mind for company. That doesn’t stop the sadness. The moments when you feel weak and all you crave is to fall into the arms of those you love and cry. Cry about how much you miss them. Cry about how you wish you had never left their side.
That’s where travelling differs from Univeristy. And that’s why I think I am finding it so challenging. At Univetsity you have a fixed base. A friendship group. You learn to love and rely upon others but the important thing is that usually they are always there.
When you are travelling, no matter how long you may be travelling for – whether it be weeks, months or years – that safety net is gone. It isn’t there. You move city or country so often that there isn’t time to make a base. There isn’t time to build or feel a connection. You are alone. Even if you are lucky enough to be travelling with someone else, you are alone and it is scary. You want to reach out to those you care about most and your motives or actions may be misunderstood. After all, they have their lives to live whilst you are away and can’t put everything on pause for you. But when you are in that moment, you reach out for what you know and either the result is how you expected, or not. It’s not your fault and it’s not theirs. You can’t live your life for someone else or expect someone else to live their life for you. But its difficult. You want gestures, you want their time, you really want to feel their love… but even if you recieve it that doesn’t necessarilly appease you. It’s not physical after all.
I’m not saying this happens to everyone. Some people thrive on not knowing where they are going to be the next month, or even the next week. For some, travelling is a way of life – for whatever reason – and they love it. Whereas for me it is an experience to learn from. I know I am not the travelling type. My safety net, desire for reassurance and desperate need to be involved in the lives of the people I love [whether continually or every now and then] dictates that.
That isn’t to say I’m not thankful or grateful for this opportunity, I’m just trying to explain something that is very hard to put across. After all, the initial ‘novetly’ and excitement of travelling has to wear off at some point.
I know that many people dream of this opportunity and that for so many – for whatever reason – it passes them by until it is too late. After all I am 22 years old, I graduated University in the summer of 2014 with a ii:i and 16 days after finishing interrailing I fly to Australia for around 5 weeks. To be doing this, and being able to afford this opportunity at such an early stage in my life is the stuff dreams are made of. After all, I am spending time in 13 major cities across 9 major European countries before flying out to Australia.
And yet, a traveller isn’t what I am. Far from it. I’m travelling with a heavy heart. Looking forward to [and enjoying] every day, but excited to come home and be back with the ones I love.
At the end of the day, the old cliché rings true. At least for me. Home is truly where the heart is, and my heart just isn’t here.