This week marks a year of being back in good old Blighty since returning from my travels. As on the anniversary of my return I am jetting off less further-afield but nonetheless to unexplored land, I thought today good as any to reflect on a year of being on home soil. As a child I was warned time seems to speed up as you get older and now as a bigger kid, I can honestly say this is true. Without meaning to sound cliched, the last year has shot by but in that time very little seems to have really happened.
When you meet a friend after a long time apart, it's often hard to decide what information is worth sharing. Sure I have seen a hell of a lot of films; attended plenty of Birthdays (especially 30ths); made it to three weddings (nearly) and missed one; been to barbecues, parties etc but what life- changing events have occurred I am happy to impart on anyone happening to read this?
I spent the first month and a half back catching up with folk and stuffing my face with all the food I had so dearly missed - in doing so I also reacquainted myself with my huge “barrel chest”. I also spent yet more time at various magazines transcribing interviews, sorting the post and being a general skivvy before going back into education as a student.
After five and a half years as a teacher, a year on the road and eight years after leaving University (including my stint in teacher training), I was suddenly a student again and for the first time, in a college. I did my A levels in a school with a sixth form and previously had only experience of teaching in a college during my P.G.C.E. year.
My first college day was strange – both nerve-wracking and exciting. After the initial humiliating introductions, I discovered much to my relief I wasn't the oldest in the group. My magazine journalism group were a mixed bunch and generally younger than me but we all gelled so well, it didn't seem to matter.
As the weeks past, I faced an old enemy – the exam room. I have always been more of a coursework student and certainly not a natural brainbox. Whatever I have accomplished has been done through ceaseless hard-work and blind determination. As a G.C.S.E. pupil, my dad would often find me in bed asleep with course books pressed to my face - sleep wasn't going to hold me back so I moved my studies to the doorstep, sitting on hard tiles looking out onto chilling winter nights.
Later when I realised my history A level subject was poorly chosen, I turned to my GP for hypnosis to try and somehow get me interested enough in the subject to help me remember something. Thankfully media law and the business of magazines interested me which significantly aided my memory and after hours of preparation and revision I got the results I wanted. Sub-editing, shorthand and news-writing were more a case of continuous practise to master while feature writing was done through my favoured assessment technique – a portfolio of coursework.
Since finishing the course in February, I have tirelessly applied for jobs while keeping up supply teaching, living in three locations, pitching freelance ideas and writing for six websites. Juggling a million different things is certainly not new to me and in some ways a life I thrive on but there have been a few firsts this past year – going to Wimbledon, being a bridesmaid, becoming a “home owner”...
Living out of a bag, constantly unpacking and repacking and regularly moving around are all continuations of my travelling days, although I move around slightly less frequently and to less exotic locations. Looking back at the e-mail I sent out to friends/family once I'd been home a while, unsurprisingly staying put wasn't something I missed - a decent towel; a duvet; cider; washing machines; clean bathrooms; friends/family; not sweating constantly; not being a biter's banquet and being able to swim regularly/go on my pole were all things I did.
I can safely say since being home I have certainly taken advantage of all the quality cider brands readily available, haven't been bitten and have regularly utilised my parents' washing machine much to my mum's annoyance! After months of wearing a million layers suffering the shock of “England's coldest winter”, London's underground has reduced me to a sweating wreck again – although less dramatically than India managed. The downside of having three “homes” is my pole still remains in storage amid a whole array of other belongings and I don't swim as often as I'd like.
My travels taught me a few things about myself and confirmed some suspicions. I decided I was as materialistic as ever, actually a bit of an adrenaline junkie, can cope pretty effectively on my lonesome in most situations and adapt quickly. A year on and lack of money has actually slowed my buying and these days I seem to be a lot more selective about what I will spend my money on. I haven't done anymore skydives or anything as exciting since my return but certainly feel a lot more willing to give anything ago, even if it means trying it by myself.
I set a few personal goals when I returned like trying to always pack lighter but unfortunately still look like a human packhorse every weekend. I have, however, succeeded in living on a much tighter budget and I'm now less likely to complain about journey times – although, when you live somewhere and have set plans, time is more valuable and scarce than the flexibility of traveller's time. I managed to make more fresh banana milkshakes when I first returned but have since slowed and have barely eaten tuna or Peruvian style burgers with potato sticks inside. My India experience has persuaded me of the value of joining tour groups for select destinations and I am planning on booking an independent Eastern European tour, predominantly staying in hostels as I vowed.
A year home and some smaller less obvious things have certainly changed - travelling has clearly influenced my outlook in part. Who knows, perhaps in another year I'll have used the ridiculous flashing strap-on wheelies I brought in Beijing and actually have a job, instead of being “between careers”.