What it feels like to be home

Boarding the flight, I settled in, as I normally would, and made sure I had everything on board to ensure that the next 8 hours would be as comfortable as possible. It felt like any other flight that I had taken over the past 3 years since I left my native Northern Ireland, or indeed in the recent 5 months I had spent in South-East Asia.

Except it wasn’t.  I was flying back to London, to start over again. I wasn’t sure what I was going to come back to, where I’d live, or work. I was scared and unsure.

“I’m coming home … let the rain wash away, all the pain of yesterday.” – Diddy (dirty money) 

I had left my job in the East Midlands of England at the end of 2011, after a relationship split with my then boyfriend, and at the time travelling was my escape. I had wanted to work and travel overseas, and at the time, it felt like the best option. It turned out to be a great option, and I don’t  regret a single day. I had no solid plans when I initially got back. I had a wedding to attend in November, and I wanted to be around for my first Christmas with my family.

Then I thought I’d pack up again, and bugger off to Australia on my 1-year visa, that I had already had organised, but which I needed to use by the end of January.

The end of January came, but I stayed. Despite still being in very temporary living arrangements, and having a temporary job, there was something keeping me here, but I was unsure what it was.

Having moved around homes so much in this past year (the longest I have ever stayed somewhere was 3 months in a flat in East London – which I was sub- letting for a guy that was travelling out of the UK for a short period), I felt that my life was in limbo. I was well and truly depressed, with the first 5 months of my time back, mostly spent hibernating indoors after work. I put on weight, and I didn’t make much of an effort to make new friends or connect so much with my old ones. I had started to wonder whether leaving my life in New Zealand was such a good idea.

‘Isn’t home going to be boring?’

When I arrived home, a lot of people said to me, ‘don’t you think life will be boring in the UK in comparison to your adventures?’ This I felt was a huge insult to the UK and surrounding areas, but I guess it perhaps did feel a little bland in comparison to where I had been previously. However, in this past year I have managed to explore many parts of the UK, particularly in the South-East, where I have never been before. I discovered castles, historical villages and towns and developed a love for the UK again.  

Where have I gone to?

Not content with just seeing the UK. I took many trips across to Europe and managed to travel to 8 countries (4 of these being new ones). I spent a cold weekend in cities in Austria and Slovakia, I travelled to Dublin to support Ireland in the rugby.

I attended a friends wedding in Germany, took my sister to New York for her birthday, and visited Turkey, Denmark and Portugal for the first time. That certainly doesn’t sound bland or boring, does it? I have roughly travelled once per month, which a lot of my friends and family think is slightly excessive, but short trips to Europe make me happy, so I will continue to do it.

Then I did something that I thought I’d never do – settle

After my spell on feeling down, and having post-travel blues. I told myself to ‘wise up’ (Northern Irish speak for get a grip), and decided that, approaching 29, I needed to decide what I wanted in life. This took me a little while, but I decided that I wanted to set down some roots, really connect with a community, find a home and foster old relationships that I once held dear. At the time, I was working as a Locum, which paid well and I had enough money saved up to wander off and spend 5 months in South America, but I thought back to the work I did in New Zealand (working in palliative care), I decided that I wanted to further my career in that, and so I did. I found a job after a few short months of looking, I bought a car and decided to get grounded.

Where I’m I now?

Currently, I am on a flight back from Lisbon in Portugal, but for the past 3 months, I have been living in Sussex in the South East of England, working in palliative care, which I love. I feel like I am actually making a difference, contributing to an incredible community, whilst still being able to go off on trips overseas when my leave and public holidays allow, and you know what? I am happy with this.

Where I’m I going next?

As I write this, I have no plans for my next European break. I will be returning to Northern Ireland in December for Christmas to see family.

Oh, but I will be exploring the UK extensively over the next few months, with trips back up to the North of England, where I studied and where I still have wonderful memories of being. I will be climbing Mount Snowdon in Wales shortly, as well as being in Manchester for a conference.

If someone had told me 1 year ago, that I would be settled in a permanent job, with a car of my own, I would have laughed at them. Life takes us on an unexpected journey, but that is the beauty of it. I have no idea where life will take me over the next 1 year, but I am excited to find out.

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