End of travels and back to normality.

It’s taken me ages to get round to writing this post. Partly because I’ve been so busy, partly because I wasn’t quite sure what to write, and partly because I couldn’t be arsed.

I’ve been back over 8 weeks I think. In my head it feels a bit longer and a bit shorter all at once. Rollercoaster with loads going on. Catching up with lots of friends and family, trips daaaaan South interspersed with job applications and sorting out paperwork and shit.

It’s been really strange. Right now, it seems like all those experiences and all my travel was a long, long time ago. A bit of a distant memory. And yet I’m not ‘back to normality’. Whatever that is. You see, my normality now is a bit different I guess. I’ve learnt lots, seen lots that can’t be undone. I don’t want to live the same life I did before, as easy as that would be. My normality right now is flitting from one place and having lots of free time, although I know that will change. Which I’m looking forward to. Having my own base, even though the new job I’ve got (oh yes, I’ve got a job but that’s maybe another post) is going to mean I’m all over the place during the week.

I wanted to write about how I felt about finishing travelling and coming home. And it’s weird, because it’s pretty much changed every day so I’ve never been sure when or what to write. I didn’t know how I would feel, so I’ve just been rolling with it. I’ve had to adjust a bit, and get used to living in limbo for a while. At the moment I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I’m just a hobo that’s still a hobo, even when in familiar places surrounded by familiar people. It’s quite unsettling.

I’ve come back from travelling even less sure about stuff than before. Everything seems to have been tilted and flipped upside down. More options have been opened. It just kind of feels like I have even more choices than before now, because I know what’s out there and I know it’s all possible. And I seem to have become indecisive and fluffy.

I had an absolute ball travelling. I really did. Having some time out of life and to be able to spend my time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it was brilliant. Exploring all those countries and meeting all those people; it was incredible. My life feels so much richer for having done it. My life has been changed and will never be the same again, but yet I feel here I am back in Lincolnshire feeling like actually nothing has changed. I guess I’m waiting for the next bit of my life to start, which I feel will happen once I start my new job and find somewhere to live again. My job starts in a couple of weeks but I’ll have to wait a couple of months before I get my own place. So, I’m determined to still enjoy each moment, and not sit waiting for something to happen.

I suspect this post is a bit waffly; but that’s kind of how my brain feels right now. A bit jumbled, a bit fluffy and not quite with it. I wonder whether that’s a result of being back in a comfort zone that I’ve not been in for over a year? It’s confused me. I kind of feel like I need a bit of time to myself, to reflect and think about what I want, but yet being back around people I know has meant I also crave that company. Maybe because subconsciously this all still feels temporary and I know sometime soon I’m going to be moving on again. Not travelling, but I’m going to be busy, less available and more than likely living alone in a new city, where I know that although it’s not a million miles away, after a few novelty visits I’ll probably not see a lot of people that often. Real life will get in the way, people have other commitments, families etc. and I’ll just become that old friend who doesn’t live close by any more. Oh I know I’ll make new friends, and have things to keep me occupied, and I’m looking forward to a new challenge and again it will probably end up being one of the best things I’ll ever have done, but right now it’s these kind of things that make me feel like I don’t quite fit or belong anywhere right now.

I was going to write a travel round up post, but it’s not really happened. I suppose I’ve told a lot of you in person some of my travel tales by now, so it seems a bit late in the day. And also I’ve written about my travels as I’ve gone along, so I’d hate to repeat myself. But, here’s a little round up, based on the questions I’ve tended to have been asked since I’ve been back. Oh, and if you want to know anything specific about any part of my trip, just ask me 🙂

  • Favourite country: Australia – mainly Tasmania just because of my biking adventure. I had the most amazing time, challenged myself and met some wonderful people. I’d never done anything like it before and didn’t even know if I could. Well, I know now.
  • Favourite sight: Taj Mahal – it’s really is a sight that took my breath away. It’s the most beautiful building I have ever seen.
  • Saddest moment: Saying goodbye to my little Irish pal after our wonderful week together in New Zealand. I think this was probably the only time I cried while I was away. I do wonder what he’s up to now, I really wish I had his contact details.
  • Weirdest food eaten – fried bugs/insects in SE Asia. They didn’t really taste of a lot but it took me a while to eat one. Probably wouldn’t do it again.
  • Worst moment: Gravel hell day cycling over 40 km of gravel road in Tasmania in 35+ heat, no shade and hills after taking a wrong turning.
  • Best thing about travelling: The people. I heard it so many times before I went away from other travellers but it really is true. I met loads and loads of people, all of them wonderful in their own way. Some of which will be friends for a long time, some of which I will never see or speak to again because it was just a fleeting encounter. All will have changed me or my perceptions in some way, no matter how small the meeting.
  • Item I wouldn’t have been without: my iPhone. I could do (and did) everything on there. From making phone calls, checking my emails, taking photos, my banking, confirming flight details, accessing my travel documents, using the compass and maps and everything in between. I’d have been lost without it (literally, in some cases).
  • Best item: my travel tap bottle from Drinksafe systems. It’s a drinks bottle with a water filter that makes any kind of water safe – really handy in those countries where it’s not advised to drink the water, especially as a lot of those countries also then have environmental issues due to plastic bottles.
  • Best ‘bottle-that’ moment: there’s so many really. Too many to list, each that little bit different. Like in SE Asia with Nick, getting to a new place and finding somewhere to have a beer and watching the sun set while putting the world to rights. With that on-holiday relaxed feeling, nowhere to be or nothing to do but just enjoy the moment. Or the view from the top of Mt John at Lake Tekapo. It was a steep climb, made harder by my broken rib but the view at the top was one of the first glimpses for me at the South Island scenery. I was transfixed and just sat there for about an hour, just staring and thinking. Or the nights spent star gazing in Zambia, Laos and New Zealand. Each one of these was with different people and there’s just something special about laying on the ground looking up at the stars and chatting about everything and anything. There’s also the moment I walked (well ran) through arrivals at Heathrow and saw my parents waiting for me.
  • Best item of clothing: my Salomon walking shoes/trainers. They were so bloody comfy, I wore them everywhere. They’re a completely different colour now than when I started but not really worn at all, still in good shape and keep my feet toasty and dry. I’ll be keeping ’em until they fall apart.
  • Most painful moment: Breaking my rib. Or rather, the days after I broke my rib. The actual break didn’t hurt at all, probably due to the large amount of beer I’d imbibed. I didn’t go to the hospital or take any painkillers until 5 days later. Why the hell not I have no idea, I think I only realised how much it hurt after I’d taken the super-strong painkillers from the hospital and noticed the change.

I was going to write about what I learnt, but I suspect there’s so much it would take me ages. There’s the stuff I know I’ve learnt and the stuff I don’t know but have still learnt (if you know what I mean?). I know I’ve changed, even if you don’t think I have. I had to do loads of things out of my comfort zone. Things I just did, because you have to do. Just getting on with it, because things needed doing. There was no one else to do it for me. Patience, practicality, difficult conversations or situations. Figuring stuff out, making things, teaching people, budgeting, planning. All that shizzle. Loving and liking your own company. Making decisions, choosing stuff.

Travel HAS made me a better person I think, a better version of me. I’m a bit more focused in some ways about what I missed when I was away and what’s important to me. I’ve always been up for trying new things, but even more so now. I know things aren’t that scary, and feel a lot more laid back and chilled about things.

I’m pretty sure there will be some more travel for me in time, but right now I’m looking forward to the future, whatever it looks like. At the moment I don’t know, and in some ways it’s nice to just let it unfold before me. That’s part of the adventure right? And my adventure right now is what most people would call life or normality. Whatever you do in life, it’s all an adventure. After all, it’s what you make of it, so I’m going to make sure I spend mine filled with things and people that make me happy. After all, you only get one, right?

And right now, I am mainly spending time running and biking in the summer sunshine, making the most of all my free time before I become a corporate slave again. And I am absolutely LOVING it. I realise now how much running (and other exercise) is a part of me now. Because it’s what I love doing. I don’t do it because I HAVE to, I do it because I WANT to. I don’t do it because I want to look a certain way, I do it because I ENJOY it.

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Sydney showdown.

There’s a bit of a rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. People living in each city defend them loyally, each proclaiming that one is better than the other. Of course they’re biased. And I am too. I love Melbourne, you know I do. So, Sydney had to live up to something to impress me. And well, I guess you could call my time in Sydney a bit of an adventure. It’s hard to compare to Melbourne because 1) I don’t really want to, I don’t think it’s fair and 2) I was only there for just over a week, compared to two months in Melbourne. A week is not enough time to get a real feel for a place, and certainly not enough time to really feel like you’re ‘living’ there.

So, I treated my time in Sydney as a tourist. To see the sights, to tick off some things to see and do, to meet up with people and just have a jolly good time. Now, we all know it started with an accident. The second day I was there I broke a rib falling off a bar stool.

This did impact on my time there. Mainly that I was in pain for the rest of my time there. In fact, not just pain but agony. But, I managed to do everything I wanted to do. See everything I wanted to see. Meet up with everyone I wanted to meet up with (mostly, there was one person that I didn’t because I just ran out of time, sorry Mark). All of it just took quite a bit longer though, that’s all. Oh, and just to let you know it’s really quite hard work to carry two rucksacks (combined weight of probably around 18-19kg), walk and get on and off trains, buses, trams and such with a (at the time unknown) broken rib. It’s even harder when you don’t look injured but are shuffling around, can’t walk faster than a snails pace and get out of breath going up a couple of steps. People have no idea that you’re in agony unless you tell them. I felt very self concious crossing roads as I couldn’t speed up, or if people held doors open for me, I couldn’t do the usual British thing of practically running through it. I’m not always good at asking for help so there were occasions when I had to take my rucksack on and off (like on the train) and it either took about 5 minutes or I had to do it very quickly and nearly pass out with the pain. I did learn my lesson and started to ask for help, especially putting my rucksack on and off; people are generally very nice (I should know this by now of course). Things did get a bit better after I’d been to the hospital and got some very strong painkillers which helped dull the pain a little bit.

So here’s a quick run down of Tara’s Tourist Trip of Sydney:

  • Walking around circular quay. This is where the harbour bridge and opera house are. You know, that famous harbour view. And yes, they are as impressive in real life. Especially the bridge. Although, I was a little tiny bit disappointed with the opera house. OK, when I saw it, it wasn’t bright sunshine. But, still, it was kinda yellow. Little yellow tiles. Not white. I wasn’t expecting that.

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  • Bondi. I stayed with Jason in Bondi, and so I got to briefly live the Bondi life for a while. Which, for me, was buying beer at the liquour shop, having to sort out an order at Domino’s pizza that they got wrong, eating a fry up two days running, watching the Neighbours omnibus and seeing the beach and walking to Bronte along the cliff tops in the rain. Obviously if I lived there for longer I’d be a bronzed beach babe working out on Bondi beach and drinking green smoothies all day in the sunshine at a trendy cafe a.k.a what I think the real Bondi life is like 😉
  • Botanical gardens and Hyde Park. I had a lovely wander around these green bits of the city. I do love a good walk around a park. I saw a beautiful couple in their wedding togs having some pictures taken. They were a stunning looking couple, and the groom had a wicked fedora-type hat with his suit. I probably stared quite a bit.
  • Couchsurfing. I stayed with a guy called Johahn in his apartment which was near to Darling Harbour and had a great view of the bridge from his balcony. He was great fun and took me to a couple of tasty and traveller friendly (i.e. cheap) places to eat. He also re-introduced me to An Idiot Abroad, a show that I’d watched before and hated, however we watched it again and it was much fun. I surprised myself. Maybe it was because Mr perfectly-round-headed Karl Pilkington had a friend tagging along, making it Not All About Him. I like couchsurfing. If you’ve not heard of it before, it’s a website that lets you get in contact with people who offer their spare bed/floor/couch to other travellers. It’s a way to meet other people from all around the world and learn about other cultures, exchange stories and ideas and just expand your horizons and all that. I love it because I get to meet local people and not just other travellers, I find I get a completely different travel experience. I get to see a country in a slightly different light. I’ve done it a bit in quite a few of the countries I’ve been to and loved every minute of it.

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  • Manly and the Manly ferry. I took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. It’s the best way to see the harbour in all it’s glory, and a lovely little relaxing half an hour ride. Well, it would be if you don’t end up sitting next to an old guy who talks to you all the way (but you can’t talk back because he’s deaf and can’t hear you), and who slips racist comments into the conversation now and then. It was glorious sunshine on the ride over, which quickly turned into clouds and rain by the time I got to Manly. So all I did there was have lunch with Jo (and I also had my FIRST oyster. Surprisingly nice. I would have one again.) before she drove me up to the Northern beaches on a mini sightseeing tour. She also introduced me to Chai Lattes. Oh.Yum, yum, yum.
  • Home and Away filming. Jo took me to Palm Beach which is where they film H&A. I’ve not watched it in years but still got a little bit excited when I realised they were filming (at the SURF CLUB!!) and we could watch quite closely. We had NO idea who the actors were but I think they were probably some famous teen heart throbs in Oz. At least I like to think they were.

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  • Blue Mountains. I spent a few days here. I couldn’t really do much walking because of my rib, after only a few steps it would be agony and I’d not be able to breathe much. It was here that I had a little trip to A&E for the day, and where I found out I’d broken a rib. It actually ended up being a nice little relaxing break (the few days, not the time in A&E). I got to see the mountains and even managed a little walk in them (despite the pain). The hostel I stayed at was one of the best I’ve stayed it, just because it was so friendly and laid back, I met some great people there and it was just really homely.

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  • Wine tasting and a weekend with friends. I met up with some great girls for a weekend filled with fun, laughter, food and lots and lots of wine. I had a truly BRILLIANT time (so brilliant it warrants capitals) and have not giggled like that in ages. Which, when you’ve got a broken rib, is quite painful but I couldn’t stop.  It included airport delays and confusions, late night crispy bread, picnicking in a helicopter landing area, a pilot getting a telling off, innuendos with a wine seller, bridesmaids the film, the Australian national anthem, take out curry and an amazing breakfast. This was one great bunch of people who really helped make my last weekend in Australia a special one to remember.

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So Sydney, it was a bit of a whirlwind tour. I did the touristy bits (although I didn’t climb the bridge). I had a wander around your streets. I made it up to the Northern beaches and out to the Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains. I laughed more than I’ve laughed in a long time. I drank more than I’ve drank in a long time and broke my first bone on your soil.

You’re loud, noisy and brash. You put your best bits out there for everyone to see and admire. And admire we do. Yes, you’re pretty, and you know it. You’re a bit of a nightmare to get around. You’re so big, and your transport isn’t all joined up. But, it doesn’t matter. I’ll let you off. Your beaches are stunning and you have some of the nicest people.

I had a great time, and although Melbourne still wins for me in the ‘where could I live’ competition, I’d gladly come back and visit for a while. I didn’t even scratch your surface, but I knew I wouldn’t. One day, I’ll come back for much more.

So, until we meet again, ta-ra Sydney!