And just like that, over a year has passed and I am back in my cosy home in Scotland. A year. 13 months of adventure. Over quicker than it began. I am still in a weird stage of settling back into my normal home life, but not really wanting to. It feels as though I never left Scotland in a way. Everything here in Stonehaven is pretty much the same, minus a few new shops and faces. Other than that, I am back into the cycle that I left behind in October 2016, and it's strange how different it feels.
I have always been told that the hardest part about traveling is coming home. I guess I never felt I would relate, as home has always been so special to me. Family and friends mean the world to me, and surely coming home to them after a year would not be hard. I have been dreaming of the day we would return with excited visions of how it would all play out. I can't deny that returning felt amazing, but now a few months on I feel lost again. Almost as if I don't really belong here anymore. Back to where it all began.
The thought of leaving home for our trip hit me hard. How could I leave all the people I loved behind for a whole year? Popping over for a visit would no longer be an option. We would be half way across the world in a different country, with a different time zone and different people. Everything would be, well, 'different'. We would have to make new friends, new connections and new lives. I suppose the thought of starting a fresh was what we wanted, but suddenly it seemed terrifying. Surely leaving would be the hardest part, not going home.
Before we left on our year long trip, it rushed through my head what things would be like when I returned. A year seemed like such a long time, so much could happen. New relationships, new friendships, new jobs, new everything. And I wouldn't be there. It stung. However, I knew I would at least hear some of it all through social media and phone calls. In my head so much was going to change in my little hometown in Scotland. I visioned coming back and not being able to settle again, because everything THERE would be different. Maybe my friends would make new friends, and I would no longer matter. I suppose now I can admit I couldn't have been more wrong. I was all that had changed. All the little developments made little difference. Other than that, everything seemed to function the same.
So the truth is, coming home is the hardest part about traveling. Forget the homesickness, the tricky situations, the lack of money. Coming home beats all of that. Coming home to somewhere so familiar, yet it feels completely different. Nothing has changed, yet everything has. Everyone is carrying on with their daily lives, just as they did when you left; but this time they're carrying on without you. You haven't been a part of people's lives for a long period of time. People have come. People have left. A years worth of phonecalls and Facetiming could never amount to actually being there. You've missed birthdays, events, grief and loss. A lot has happened, and you weren't there. You're friends haven't forgotten you by any means, but somehow you don't quite feel like you 'fit' into their routine anymore.
Even admitting these feelings fills me with guilt. Coming home has been amazing and I have never felt so happy to see all my favourite faces in one place. To be able to hug my parents and my pals whenever I want to, instead of having to organise a phone call through all the different time zones. I love home. I love everyone that defines 'home' to me. But I don't feel settled here anymore. I have started something that can't simply be stopped at the click of a finger.
No matter how many times you get asked how you adventure was, you know the words won't do it justice. After all, nobody can understand exactly how it felt. But even if they could not everyone has the right mindset to see the magic in it. I love sharing my stories of adventure, but sometimes I feel like the audience does not really want to hear it.
"What are you going to do now?". Something that I seem to get asked too many times to count. The truth is I don't know, I never have. The whole reason I left was to try and find out what I wanted to do, but I guess it has only made my decision harder. The pressue of finding work again is overwhelming. The fear of having to stay here in Stonehaven and work makes me uneasy, for I do not feel comfortable here anymore. What if I end up back in the place I found myself in two years ago? In a viscious depressing circle of work and sleep, with little inbetween to satisfy and ignite that need to explore. I do not want that again.
Even the very realisation that people have moved on is difficult to cope with. That not everyone needs you anymore. People that you held close have their own lives now. They do not realise that now you need them more than ever, and I cannot blame them. After all, you've just come back from the trip of a lifetime. You should be on an all time high, not feeling lost and distressed. How do you explain that to someone unless they too have been there? You feel as though you are making something so great seem depressing and sad. You worry that if you tell people they will think you are unappreciative and attention seeking. How do you approach explaining the undeniable feeling of sadness when you've just spent the last year feeling on top of the world? How do you avoid insulting those closest to you when you tell them coming home has been this hard?
I guess what I am trying to say is this. Traveling is a lifestyle, a choice and a huge part of your life. It is not all fun and games, and it is not as perfect as we portray it on our Instagrams. The whole journey is one massive learning curve that you will never knock out of your brain. You will learn so much about new places, but more importantly so much about yourself, even if you don't realise it at first. It takes coming home to notice these changes. I may have only been away for just over a year, and visited a relatively small amount of places compared to many, but that does not change the feeling. It cannot be put into words how it feels the experience what you may. So I suppose in a way, coming home feels as though you're coming down from a year-long high. Coming home, in a way, is the hardest part about travelling.
So today I decided to focus on a pretty hard to talk about topic, and one that many people might not know about. Post trip depression is something that doesn't seem to get talked about enough. I suppose that 'label' makes it sounds pretty intense. A lot of people do not suffer from post trip depression, but a huge amount do, even if they don't really know it. Trying to explain to people feels impossible. Coming home has been amazing, but it has also been a huge struggle. Being home for Christmas was magical, but the looming thought of finding a job was tough. Most mental health issues are hard to discuss. Finding the words always seems like a challenge in itself. I hope in this post I have managed to explain the feelings of coming home after a long trip accurately and in an un-offensive manner.