This one’s for the wanderlusters, the travellers who’ve been thrust back into city life. Not a global brand new exciting city, your home city.
I know, coming home after travelling hurts. One minute you were living the carefree dream and the next minute – boom! Your rucksack has been swapped for business attire and you’re thinking ouch, how did I end up here.
Well it’s totally possible to survive and some people even adapt and flourish! There are just so many opportunities yah. My home stint is coming to an end. Therefore, I feel I can take a step back and give other free spirits with clipped wings a few tips on surviving London, or wherever ‘real-life’ is for you. If the wanderlust is too much, get the next cheap flights outta there!
You get used to a certain level of inspiration all the bloody time: New food, people, things to see, smell, do, cultural changes, language and experiences. When you get back it’s all so underwhelmingly familiar. This may be nice for a week or two, but then the boredom kicks in. People are predictable, hell you’ll even become predictable. You don’t want to become predictable, DO YOU?
You get back and you’re thirsty for newness. Act quickly on this one before you slump. Drink up everything your city has to offer whilst you’re still looking at it with fresh eyes. Do the tourist thing and then step further, do everything: courses, theatre, art exhibitions, landmarks, live music. Push, push, push yourself to keep diving out your comfort zone. This is something that comes so naturally when you’re in a foreign land. The challenge is to keep it up when you’re on home turf.
Take a whole day of your weekend to wander without a purpose. Get lost in a familiar city and take streets you’ve never been down. Bring your camera and choose a theme to photograph: streetart, architecture, parks or people. Whatever it is that makes you smile.
Do you know the best place to watch the sunrise and sunset in your home city? I bet you can name countless other cities/islands/lands where you can pinpoint the perfect sunset view. Home should be no different, make it your mission to find out and make time to bathe in Mother Nature’s magic.
Fight the routine, every step of the way. If you have flexi at work use it. Switch up your journey every week, even if it takes you longer. Routine is a soul-crusher when you’ve experienced freedom, break free whenever you can.
Is there such a thing as reverse culture shock? If there isn’t there should be! When you travel you become so used to the thrill of learning what makes a new culture tick. So when you’re suddenly surrounded by people who are all similar to you, it can get stale pretty quickly.
Ok, so if you land in a multicultural city like London then it’s not going to hit you so hard. But, unless you make some effort you’re probably going to miss the pleasure you get from mixing with people who have a totally different outlook on life.
I was so lucky with this one… landing in a very globally diverse office, working within an eclectic international team with unique characters, perspectives and experience. If you don’t have this joy you could volunteer. Volunteer for a group that could do with a native’s support. In fact, do this even if you land a job in an international team. Damn it, I wish I’d thought of this earlier.
Of course you still have your travel tribe, those still adventuring and those that have returned home. The locals you hung-out with and have remained Facebook friends with – speak to them. Make time to stay in touch, these are the people that keep your dreams alive.
Maybe I chose to forget the full-on hate filled underground sweat-ridden carriages, but I swear they’ve got worse! Busier and angrier. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what a wonderfully connected city London is, and TFL do a bloody good job getting the masses from A to B, BUT just nah mate. You need balls of steel these days to embrace rush hour on the Central Line and a short course on the unique London transport etiquette.
Break all the rules! Or as the Dali Lama says: ‘Learn the rules so you know how to break them’. What a dude. Go, on make eye contact… smile at the person opposite you and watch them recoil in horror as they realise you’ve actually dared to do the unthinkable. Or maybe they won’t, strike gold and they’ll smile back. Rule breaking, even the unwritten ones makes you feel a little bit alive again, like you’re not just a cog in the robotic underground system. Take the recent Holborn tube escalator test (stand on both sides) for example… Mwah ha ha.
If you really can’t bring yourself to challenge the unspoken London rule book, make sure you position yourself right in the middle of the carriage, with people sat down to your left and right… close your eyes and surf your way along the central line. Granted you need a pretty vivid imagination for this one, but stand in position and see how long you can surf the underground waterways without taking a dip/falling headfirst into an angry commuter’s lap. I wouldn’t recommend popping-up here
When I first left to travel I was overly concerned that I may not have an actual conversation with anyone, EVER again. What a tool. People around the globe are wonderful and I’ve never been anywhere, where I haven’t had a soul-filled interaction. Hostels are a mecca for inspirational globetrotters just like you and there’s the luxury of time… endless beautiful time.
Fast-forward and whoa you’re back home, in a city with a multitude of friends. But something is different, oh so different. People don’t look up anymore, everyone’s a phone zombie. Staring, snapping, papping, now life is lived through the shiny device glued to one’s hand. It’s not just that, there really is little need to talk to anyone face to face anymore.
Money isn’t necessary; it’s all Oyster and Contactless. Shopping is ordered online and Deliveroos are a thing. We’ve gradually done away with the need to talk to anyone. So much so, that apps have been developed to connect people. Ironic?! Don’t even get me started on dating.
Go to small independent shops, coffee shops, markets – avoid the chains. I mean this is a good thing to do anyway right? Support your local businesses and these guys may actually want talk to you. They’re usually proud to tell you about their business, the community and not just grunt at you.
Alternatively, chat to the rough sleepers. This is about as close as you’re going to get to life’s free spirits whilst you’re moving on a city conveyor belt. If you’ve got a rare bit of time to fill then wander outside and see who’s about for a chat. Hands-down, I’ve had the most interesting conversations with the homeless community, from all walks of life. Talk to anyone and everyone, just like you did when you were travelling!
Look properly and you’ll spot other folk dodging the all-engulfing system too. Join groups, go to talks, surround yourself with people who aren’t trapped in the city work hard play hard, or just work hard mindset.
No matter how much you love your job, there will come a time when you think how did I end up here. Your memory bank is overflowing with a myriad of out-of-this-world landscapes and travel experiences that fill your heart with joy. Meanwhile you’re slowly being inflicted by slide after slide of Powerpoint hell, you glance out of the window hoping to see some real-life happening, but it’s grey and the rain is obscuring the view.
Dig deep into that rich treasure chest in your mind. If you’ve travelled you have so much to draw on, to bask in the sunsets and let those waves wash over your frazzled brain. Obviously, listen to the parts you have to. But, you know that there are meetings where you just need to show up. Be there in body, but let your mind escape to your best travel moments.
For those two hour meetings, well it’s meditation time of course. If ever there’s a time to hone your meditation skills it’s now. Keep your eyes open but practise relaxing every part of your body and see what you can do. At an all time meeting low I have been known to try and read the auras of those around me – it’s the perfect environment if you have lots of white space. Are you rolling your eyes at me? Stop it.
You’ve had your mind opened to the world’s cuisine and experienced flavours and dishes you’d struggle to explain. When someone asks your favourite fruit, you say mangosteen or kiwi berry and they look at you like you’re a nob. We all look forward to eating our home food when we’re far away (yes even us Brits) but when it becomes a daily reality it quickly becomes dull.
This is an easy cure, but it takes a little effort. Depending on where home is it’s easy anyway, Londoners you have no excuse! Have a food week… pick a country and eat that nation’s food all week. Actively hunt out ingredients, restaurants, and food vans, for one particular nation and take yourself back to the faraway land through their cuisine. The fruits are harder to come by, and maybe you should just savour those memories. Fresh foods that have travelled hundreds of miles just aren’t the same.
If you experience awful customer service, well I don’t have an antidote for this one. Maybe just vent online and know you’ve got your own sweet revenge. Yep I may be a free spirit but the passive-aggressive Brit still resides within me.