I’ve been back on UK soil for two and a half months. Even before I landed I knew I was going to have to do some work to successfully ‘detravel’ without letting the fear set in. By fear I mean allowing old fears to come back, the sadness that my globe trotting had come to an end and the ‘what the hell am I going to do next’ fear. You know what it’s like when you get home from a mindblowingly good two week holiday and you get the holiday blues? Well, I was envisaging that feeling times 50.
Everyone who’s travelled was right… it’s pretty exciting when you first land back and all you want to do is catch up with everyone. The buzz of seeing friends and family keeps you buoyant. Some want to know loads of detail and some just want to pick up where we left off… either works for me as I travelled for me and the experiences are all in my head and my heart, right where I need them.
Having been away from England for a year, I look at my nation from a slightly different perspective. Kind of like a foreign visitor but with a huge dose of familiarity. I didn’t fully appreciate our sprawling, lush green countryside before, our musical talent, deep and rich history, and the fact that everything really does run like clockwork. Yeah, yeah the trains. The delays are annoying but nothing compared to transport issues around the globe. I can’t help but feel it’s all a bit sterile, everything runs so well and we’re so private that it’s hard to see our nation’s character. I was blessed with unusually good weather on my return, which has shed some much needed light on life. But I’m missing the hustle and bustle, the open outdoor laughter, the diversity. Oh and our customer service is truly awful. I found myself attempting to justify our shop assistants and cafe workers to a friend from Melbourne as I showed him around. ‘We’re just more reserved people, it’s not unfriendliness’. Whatever it is, as a nation we can come across as a bit rude. I can almost feel the side eyes but I’m sorry it’s true. I vehemently denied it, until I’d been away for long enough to notice when I came back. Yes, yes I’m sure Doris in the bakery is lovely, but sadly she’s the exception and not the rule.
We do have freedom of speech, which is something I’ll never now take for granted. The country runs comparably smoothly and there’s very little corruption at street level – what some nations wouldn’t do for that! Our people in power fuck up, our media blabs and we all go mental. Well we moan a bit from our comfy sofas, occasionally we have a peaceful protest. We don’t get disposed of for having a moan and the newspaper editors mostly remain intact too. Yes we’re spoon-fed a version of the news just like every other nation, but we’re luckier than most. We’re not perfect but I recognise how privileged I am to have been born here.
We are a materialistic, throw-away nation and I fully subscribed to this before I left. I’d even go as far to say I was one of the worst offenders. We buy because we can and we buy to fill the voids in our lives. But our sense of humour is like no other. Through all the bleak dreary weather we’ve developed an incredible sense of satire. For nations that don’t use sarcasm and do as they say on the tin, we’re an odd bunch – sick even. I love our sense of humour and missed it heaps. Our food is great, we don’t just eat fish and chips and roast beef – I had to come back and check that I hadn’t remembered it all wrong. Oh and we don’t all have shit teeth! I was horrified to discover that’s how we’re known the world over!
We tend to live our lives like we’re all in some mutually exclusive club. Outsiders have to break down so many barriers before they get a foot in. But once you’re in, that’s it BFF. Friendships tend to form through work, school, university and mutual friends and loyalties remain for life. Spare a thought for foreign visitors, tourists, international students and those coming to start a new life here. Don’t just sit back and think well I have my friends, my life and I’m doing ok. These people can teach you a lot, help you grow. If you haven’t had a chance to travel, then experience different cultures through them. You wouldn’t believe what a day changer it is to get a big warm smile from a local in an unfamiliar land.
I’ll just hop off my soapbox now and share what I’ve been doing to get to where I want to be.
I’ve mostly been trying to stay grounded and reach for the stars. Ultimately, this means becoming an insanely stretchy person! I’ve been wrestling with it all. Aiming high but coming up with a logical plan, have an income but achieve my dreams to live by the sea in a climate that doesn’t want to make me facepalm on a daily basis. I told the world what I wanted, I blogged about it and lo and behold the most amazing opportunity found me.
This staying grounded business is easier said than done. I even had a little anchor tattooed on my wrist, whilst in Sydney, to remind me to keep my feet on the floor. Regular walks in the Chilterns, the beautiful woodlands and a bit of tree hugging has been helping – yes really. I’ve had Reiki and been to see a psychic. I went and lost myself in Ibiza and Wilderness festival. Caught up with friends from far and wide and marvelled at the massive support network I have of amazing superstars all around me. Spent loads of time with my family, they make me laugh uncontrollably. We haven’t always been the most functional, conventional bunch but we’ve embraced it and are closer than ever.
I had a moment of panic where I envisaged a never ending lifetime of commuting drudgery after applying for a few UK roles, so I ran away to sea. I learnt to sail and discovered I love it but it’s not the right lifestyle choice for me right now. I went to one of my dearest friend’s weddings and sat with my beautiful goddaughter in the intimate ceremony – this still makes me smile. I played at being a tourist in London, Windsor and Henley, and I guess if I’m honest I was saying goodbye, as I knew I wouldn’t be around for long. Looking back it’s been a busy two and a bit months.
After all this soul-searching it turned out the perfect opportunity was just sat waiting for me. It landed in my lap months before and I hadn’t been ready to recognise its value. Whilst in Brazil, during my final weeks of travel I was contacted about a job. When I was ready it was still there waiting for me to get my act together. Three interviews later and I’m moving to Barcelona. I’m in complete awe that such an incredible opportunity found me. I get to pick up my career from where I left off but in an exciting new industry. The office is on the beach in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. So every single day I get to stare at the ocean, walk alongside it and maybe even dip my feet in on my morning stroll to work. I can learn Spanish and if I’m not inspired to pick up my paintbrush again in such an art filled city then an artist I shall never be! I have so much to explore in Barcelona and a massive list of nearby places and countries that my camera and I are itching to see and capture.
Yes, I’m a bit scared but that’s only natural everyone tells me. I’ve likened this last few weeks to getting ready to do a bungee jump but I’ve been standing at the top and just looking down for way too long… It’s time to jump. I just hope people smile at me or I’m coming home for a bit of sarcasm, shit teeth, great music and roast beef.
This made me chuckle, and many true words and a lot to relate to!
Haha the shit teeth thing got me too, when I was in Aus and learnt that’s what we’re known for – horrified!!!
It’s not true is it? I’ve been checking people’s teeth and i don’t think it’s true!
No it’s bloody not! And the reputation seems to be across the board, embarrassing!
I’m thinking it’s a Jeremy Kyle thing… Perhaps people watch it and tar us all with the same brush.
I was about to say exactly the same! Except I’m going back 10 years and the reputation was rife then, long before he blew up. I was also told British girls were thought to be the ugliest in Europe(bloody cheek!)…..I think maybe these vile Brits abroad programmes could be the culprit!
Yeah we’re not the best at our own PR! Ugliest in Europe, wowsers that’s harsh 🙁
As always Johanna and amazing, funny, insightful read that brings a smile to my face. You are one of the most inspiring individuals that I know. The best of luck with you’re new adventure (I know you won’t need it), and make sure you keep surfing 😉 Miss you loads x x x
Excuse my poor spelling. *an and *your….. its very early here 🙂
Thanks Austen, big hugs across the ocean! Your unwavering friendship means so much 🙂 I will do my very best to find some waves and I’ll be watching you proudly as you fulfil your dreams too. xxx
I never tire of reading your wonderful blog postings Jo. Please don’t stop, not while I’m still breathing at any rate 🙂 It has been truly wonderful to have met you through your work at Three and to be able to continue to be a friend. I think that anyone who knows you also knows that you’ve got some amazing talents and abilities, I doubt that we (or you) have witnessed them all yet. The global opinion of the Brits predates even me (yes, that is possible!). In my earliest travels for work I recall being serenaded about our food, our women, our weather … oh and did I know their uncle George who lived in Scartlarnd. The Shermans really believe we’re on an island like something in the South Pacific! Anyroadup, just want to say its been an amazing experience reading of your year’s travels and what is to come next. Do enjoy Barcelona, I’m sure you will little mermaid 😉
Thank you so much Danny… not just for your kind words but for all your amazing advice and fascinating insights. You’ve encouraged me to explore more than this world. I’m so happy that Three caused our worlds to collide – it’s clever how that happens. Re our nation, I’m starting to think we’re so self-depricating that we’re terrible at our own PR. I’ll be working overseas to try and amend this, one person at a time.I’m definitely not saying goodbye to you as I know, well hope we’ll stay in touch! 🙂