Thursday, 25 February 2016

Hard to Write

Location: Glossop, Derbyshire, UK
It's almost a year since we set off.  The past year has a dreamlike quality.  I can remember the trip vividly, it's just that it often feels like it happened in another universe.  I'm sorry we've not written since we got back.  I did try.  I wanted to keep the writing up, but I found it so hard.  Its been a difficult 3 months since we arrived back in the UK on 16th November.  We are very lucky to have had a wonderful place to live with my Aunty and Uncle while we found our feet and figured out what the next step holds, but that figuring out has been so tough.  For me in particular.  Tom has had his own struggles, but since flying home our experiences diverged in some ways.  I was leaving the cycle tour behind, whereas Tom was heading towards setting up a business.

It's an idea he had whilst we were on tour and is something we are both excited about, if also a little nervous.  It seems like a pretty big and scary thing to set up a business, but I have utter faith that if anyone can do a good job of it, it's Tom.  He has even managed to get his first piece of consulting work building waste admin systems for a local company.  If you need clever stuff building in Excel for your business Tom is your guy.  I am so proud of him and what he is working towards - it is really awesome and he is constantly amazing to me.  So that is all good.  Scary, yes.  Hard work, yes.  But Tom is a guy who having never been out of the country for more than 2 weeks embarked on a mammoth self-supported cycle tour.  He can do scary and he can definitely do hard work.  And unlike on the cycle tour he has a very definite direction to move in and a real sense of purpose now - which suits him much better than the aimless wandering of the tour.

Having some savings left from the trip and not having to pay rent meant I was free to take some time, not having to rush back into the first job I found.  Tom thought it would be good for me to figure out how to be at home without work.  But this is not a comfortable place for me - I'm not good at being at home, as in the UK, and not working.  I've been travelling a few times before, but on each return I went straight back into work.  This time I intended to take time to write, edit the footage we shot while away, be creative and give myself time to process it all.  Try to figure out why I am utterly happy to be away wandering aimlessly, but as soon as I pass back through UK customs I need a job, I need to fill my time, I can't just be.  Afraid to say that more than 3 months after returning home I still feel uncomfortable and have not worked out the why.  And in fact I have barely been able to bring myself to look at the footage or write.

I was pretty down initially and suffered quite acute reverse culture shock.  I'm sort of getting used to it now, but it's almost like I am reverting.  On the cycle tour things are stripped back to the basics - every day is occupied almost solely with finding food, water, accommodation and toilets (including suitable bushes etc).  Obviously there is all the cycling too, but that in some ways just happens.  You appreciate things in ways that are just impossible to in the comfort of your own home.  Almost every day our lunch was cheese, crackers and half an apple each - and it tasted AMAZING!  On many days the cheese was really sweaty, but that just made all the days that we had un-sweaty cheese really special.  Food always tasted wonderful on the tour.  I think because it was well earned - from the physical exertion of cycling, but also the mental effort of finding shops/restaurants/gas stations.  Now I am home, with a fully equipped kitchen and easy access to the same shops (so I know where everything is and don't have to search for it) not to mention a fridge and a freezer, food just doesn't hit the spot in the same way.  Don't get me wrong we've eaten some delicious meals, meals that totally surpass anything I made whilst we were away in terms of flavour, texture and complexity, but I've not licked my plate clean grinning from ear to ear with the same sense of satisfaction that we got from camp food after a day in the saddle.  Life on the road is hard, it takes effort to do basic things, but there is something wonderful in this simplicity.  Striving to meet your basic needs is somehow ultimately satisfying and fulfilling.  Back home it's not like that.  It's so much more complicated.  And so much less fulfilling.  It's so easy to meet your basic needs, but there's so many other things to worry about and stress over - meaningless, pointless things that fill me with angst and uncertainty.

But things are looking up.  I got a job!  A job I like the look of, with nice people.  And whilst it's true I've not figured out why I feel so compelled to have a job here, the reality is I feel so much better having got one, even though I've not started yet.  It felt like limbo before, but now I feel like I can enjoy the remaining days of leisure I have in a carefree way.  I even feel like I can write.  On top of that we move back to Sheffield on 1st March.  It's been amazing staying with my Aunty and Uncle, but we are definitely looking forward to being in our 'own' house for the first time in over a year and we are so excited about being able to be the hosts, not the hosted.  So many of you showed us the most incredible hospitality, you taught us a lot about how to be better hosts and we are so eager to start paying it forward.

We're not sure what the future holds, but I think the next year at least is looking sort of set.  And as soon as I start work I can start planning holidays!  Totally open to your suggestions for 2 week trips, my current thought is cycling in the Alps or Dolomites this summer, but feel free to shout out other possibilities.  As I said when I think back on the trip it feels distant, I look at the photos or video and think 'my god we cycled there!', but the thing that does not feel distant is you guys.  The people we met, the kindness we experienced, the friendships we made burn brightly for me and do not feel at all diminished by time or distance and that warmth has got me through this cold, dark British winter. Thank you.