5 Reasons Returning Home Ain’t So Bad

 

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

Lin Yutang

The thing no-one tells you about travelling is what to expect when you come home.

I’d thought about it before I left; I’d assumed that lots would change in five months but, to be honest, I was more concerned about the trip ahead. I worried about being alone, about not being able to hack it.

But then you settle into the nomadic way of life and you realise that, actually, the real fear is returning home.

Coming home from a long-term adventure can, bizarrely, be a bit of a culture shock, and the excitement you’ve been cultivating on the 12 hour plane journey home can disappear pretty quickly after a couple of days back on home turf.

Going from doing something new and meeting new people every day to being catapulted back to life pre-adventure is pretty tough going.

For me, now the jet lag has worn off and I’m back at my parents’ house in a tiny rural town in Warwickshire, England (with nowhere to go and not that much to do), I’m glad that at least the sun is shining so I get to put in a few sunbathing hours in the garden.

But I’m not very good at relaxing, so it turns out – I have the attention span of a gnat – and I’m already trying to figure out where I want to go next and what I want to do. Travelling has changed me in that sense, I’m more proactive now and detest sitting around waiting for things to happen. Doing nothing has me going out of mind.

It’s almost like being stuck in limbo. The travel experience is so close, so recent, that it doesn’t feel completely over, but you’re definitely back in the reality of “home” and all the worries that come along with it. I’m already wondering about jobs, houses, money and relationships.

I’ve spent the last five months living such a carefree lifestyle that this concern has come as a bit of a shock to the system, and avoiding the desire to compare your life to other woman is impossible.

But does all this worrying make me want to “settle down” anytime soon?

Yes and no.

I’m still not sure what I want to do.

I’m positive I am not done with travelling, but I don’t know how this will fit into my life exactly. I guess that’s another blog post.

But, having said all this, there are also many good things about coming home.

Here’s five:

1) Creature Comforts

Although there have been severe bouts of boredom, it’s been nice to be home.

It’s great to see my family, sleep in my own bed, and have access to a wardrobe of clean clothes. It’s nice not to be on the move constantly and have time to breathe and think and just sit still for five minutes. I’m completely in love with my double bed and I have no burning desire to return immediately to crappy hostel rooms, shared bathrooms and dirty kitchens.

I don’t eat too badly when I am travelling but my menu is usually repetitive and uninspiring so having all my favourite foods around me (I’m currently nursing a can of Stowford Press because I have missed decent cider) is a welcome change (although I’m making a conscious effort not to indulge while I’m not as active as I have been in recent months).

2) Friends and Family

Although I spoke to my friends and family often during the five months I was away, nothing beats seeing their faces. My mum and dad picked me up at Heathrow. My mum cried (of course) but what I didn’t expect was the reaction from my Dad who looked so happy to see me I thought he might burst. I love being back with them and, although I know I can’t live with my parents forever as we will kill each other, it’s made me realise that I couldn’t live far away from them for years at a time like some travelers. It’s just not me.

I haven’t been able to see all my friends yet. The problem with moving around the country so often is that your friends live everywhere and, like I said before, life continues in your absence.

People have jobs and lives. I cannot wait to see them!

But, on the flip side, moving back home also means new friends are left behind and so you wind up missing them and wishing you could speak to them when you’re in different time zones.

3) Appreciating Your Home Country/Town

I love England. I don’t think I realised how much I loved it until I’d travelled longer term. Although I don’t know if it’s the place for me forever, I’ve never been one of these people who hates their own country. I have been lucky enough to see some beautiful places in the world but driving back from Heathrow airport; I couldn’t help but think how pretty the English countryside really is. I’d love to show someone from another country around and see their reaction to our fantastic culture, history and scenery.

Check out this awesome list of beautiful places to visit in the UK compiled by Stylist magazine. This will certainly feed your wanderlust!

4) Taking a Break

Let’s face it, carrying a backpack around like a pack-horse and moving rooms every other day does start to grow a little old. After months of having no room of one’s own, I was dangerously close to losing my shit. The initial buzz of sharing a room and making immediate friends began to wear thin and I started to dream about my lovely soft bed and en-suite bathroom.

5) Planning the Next Big Trip

Personally I think coming back home – even if it’s just every so often for those more hardcore travelers – is necessary to recharge your travel batteries and rekindle your wanderlust. Try not to give in to the post-trip blues, instead immerse yourself in reading any travel books, articles, blogs you can get your greedy mitts on, and start planning your next adventure. South America, Borneo or a USA road trip anyone?

Have you recently returned home after a trip? Do you have any tips to beat the post-adventure blues? Do you have a new found love for your own country? What do you miss about home when you are travelling? Are you a long-term traveller with no intention of returning home?

Opposites Attract: Elephants, Tequila and Volcanoes

I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up with the blogging while I’ve been holidaying with my friends in Bali. I guess its because we were constantly doing something; even just sunbathing usually turned into a bit of a party with those crazy two!

So where was I? Ah, yes. Ubud.

Now if Kuta is full of backpackers getting messy, and the south is full of ridiculously hot surfer boys, then Ubud is full of girls. Not just girls, women. Everywhere. Elizabeth Gilbert should get the Balinese equivalent of an MBE for services to tourism as, the more time you spend in Ubud, you realise these people have inhaled Eat Pray Love and set off on their own soul-searching adventure.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that of course, I’m all for a little bit of adventure.

And a little bit of soul.

Full of temples, health food, great little markets and opportunities to find spiritual enlightenment around every corner, Ubud is a great place to spend a few days being a bit cultured and pretending to behave yourself (the self-imposed drinking ban lasted one night when the allure of a cheap Bintang became far too tempting).

We didn’t find spiritual enlightenment in Ubud. We found pretty sandals and dresses, vicious monkeys, and gecko poo everywhere in our hotel room.

But we also found elephants.

I nearly lost my shit when I saw these beautiful creatures for the first time. Although we were obviously not interacting with elephants in the wild – they were based in a safari park which housed ex-logging elephants – it was the next best thing as were able to get up close and personal with them.

At $90 US it was a pretty pricey half-day (including transport from Ubud to Taro village and lunch) but it was completely worth it. After meeting the elephants and feeding them, we had a 30 minute “ride” through the grounds which was bumpy to say the least, and completely hilarious because our guide was great fun (although I am not sure I can repeat some of the jokes he made) followed by a show where the elephants played football, painted pictures and played around with water.

We did an awful lot of research before heading off on this trip. With the knowledge of how poorly treated elephants are in the name of tourism, we didn’t want to fund this sort of operation. My friend, Alex, had already heard about the Elephant Safari Park in Taro and it had a great reputation.

My advice for anyone wanting to do a similar tour in any country is simply this: Do Your Research. Its important as a traveller – long term or otherwise – to be conscious of the impact we have when visiting another country and that we are aware how animals are often mistreated and exploited.

Knowledge is power after all, and by spending a little time figuring out where the money goes and how the animals are looked after, we can help do our bit to protect these beautiful creatures.

After the laid back few days we spent in Ubud and the – rather short-lived – attempt at being tee-total, the girls and I were more than ready to get travelling again. This time we hot-footed it onto a scary boat which bombed it across to the Gili Islands in terrifying, impressive and lightening speed.

Stepping foot on Gili T is like heading back in time. There are no cars. Or roads for that matter. Just rusty old bones of bikes with bent wheels and questionable brakes, and horses lugging great big traps around. We didn’t once get a horse and cart when we were in Gili. We spent a lot of time complaining about how they never seem to be given water and generally feeling heartbroken that such beautiful creatures are made to work all day in the searing heat. One drunken night I was seriously considering liberating as many of the bedraggled looking beasties as possible.

So Gili.

How to explain Gili T.

Gili T is the party island. It is part of Lombok rather than Bali and is pretty damn small.

There’s not much to do in the day: snorkelling and sunbathing are the main activities and if, like me, you’re a bit of a water baby, the sea bordering the “main strip” is great for swimming on a nice day. On bad days it is spiteful, spewing out chunks of seaweed and shell.

Really, people only trek on over to Gili T for the nightlife. The crazy crazy tequila fuelled, dancy nightlife.

You can’t stay in Gili T for too long.

  1. The partying will take its toll and you will crave normalcy
  2. and 2) you will know EVERYONE on the island and, as people don’t really stay for any more than three days, when the newbies arrive you start to miss old characters and realise that ship has sailed and you weren’t on it.

We spent most of our time on Gili T sunbathing, swimming, eating everything (“what are you having for dinner tonight?” became a key topic of conversation) and partying at Sama Sama reggae bar. We discovered this gem on our second night in Gili and went back every evening even though the playlist was pretty much the same every night. They had a GREAT reggae band and a pretty fun DJ who played reggae remixes of current songs in the intervals.

We also decided to hire bikes one day and cycle the island which was great fun. We stopped a fair few times for beer and sunbathing – it was probably one of the best activities we did on Gili T.

Once we realised it was time to get off the island, we decided to head north to Lovina Beach for waterfalls, volcanoes and adventure activities.

After a long boat trip we found ourselves at the port negotiating with a taxi driver for what seemed like forever before embarking on the four hour journey.

Our hotel in Lovina was amazing. We loved it so much that we barely left the hotel during our three night stay. We ate all our meals there, drank in the bar and sunbathed. I think the only time we left the hotel was to go on the two trips we had booked.

First up was a trip to a beautiful waterfall. After a pretty hairy start – we realised we didn’t have a guide included in the trip price, walked up a scary hill, got barked at by a vicious looking dog, asked for directions from a passed off looking old man who didn’t speak Stupid Hysterical English Girl, and realised we had to climb down 1,000,000 steps (and so back up again) – we made it down to the waterfall, scrambling over precarious rocks before braving the insane water spray to get down to our bikinis and go for a swim. It was freezing but absolutely stunning. Just check out these picture of the rainbow we spotted!

The next day we thought it would be a good idea to get up at 1:30 am and head out for the sunrise trek up a volcano. As you do.

I really surprised myself with this trip. I know my fitness levels are a lot better since embarking on the solo mission back in January, but I was pleasantly surprised by how I felt climbing up a steep, rocky volcano for two hours in pitch black. It was hard work, don’t get me wrong (and we basically couldn’t walk for the next three days) but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t handle it like I have done in the past. Check out new sporty me!

The view from the top was certainly worth the trek. The sunset was spectacular and we could see all the way out to a mountain on Lombok island.

The next day – once we’d all figured out how to walk again – we headed back down to Kuta for a couple of days of crazy party and sunbathing before my friends headed home and I followed a few days later.

Kuta is great for a party if that’s what you like. We were lucky because our hotel had a great pool and the bedroom was gigantic. We spent most of our time chilling by the pool nursing terrible hangovers.

But I think the less said about Kuta the better!

Have you ever been to Bali? What do you think about Kuta? Have you ever headed to the North or the Gili Islands? Have you found that your fitness levels have dramtically altered since you have been travelling?

 

 

 

Bali for Beginners and The Last Few Days of Solo Travel

So my first few steps on Balinese soil were not exactly how I envisaged them, what with the inability to access money and the general shit-scary situation I found myself in. Although I no longer consider myself a novice solo traveller – I’m on my fifth month and fourth country – I felt naïve and vulnerable for the first time since I began travelling back in January. I realised I am well and truly doing this alone.

Now that enough time has passed, I can just look back on it as a hilarious incident, a caper of woe that I can tell my friends about when I finally return back home in three weeks. But at the time, it was terrifying. I hope that anyone planning to travel to Bali heeds my warning: bring US$ or IDR with you – enough to cover the $35 “visa entry” (Tip: it is cheaper to pay in US$ than IDR), a taxi, first night’s accommodation, food for the day, and water – you never know what could happen and it is better to be safe than sorry. Don’t wing it like I did and assume that you will be able to access an ATM as you would in a western country.

I’m nearing the end of my time spent solo travelling – I do have a further day by myself in Hong Kong before returning home to England – but, really, my big solo adventure is drawing to a close (how funny that a year ago 1 week travelling on my own seemed impossible, and now it’s not even worth mentioning). As I type this I am sitting with two of my friend from England who have flew over to join me in Bali for a girlie holiday.

 

We’re currently in Ubud, having a great time and gearing up for an elephant trek that we’ve got booked for tomorrow morning. I am beyond excited for this trip; elephants are one of my favourite animals and I can’t wait to get up close!

I love travelling with these two people. Its easy and so much fun – not to mention the logistics and money issues that are made infinitely easier when you are more than one person.

But there’s a bit of me that’s sad that the solo is over. I am surprised; I honestly didn’t think I’d feel like that, I thought I’d feel relieved.

I’m not sure how I feel. Excited. Happy to have such fabulous company. Thrilled that we are having our little adventure together. But I also feel a little sad. Sad that the trip I planned and saved and travelled all by myself will soon be coming to a close. Proud that I have made it. Tired from all the travelling but disappointed that its ending.

I’m a big mass of feelings and emotions right now.

So what have I been up to?

After the money debacle and my meeting with my Canadian saviour, I spent the first night in Fat Yogi’s which is a really lovely hotel in Kuta. A little over my budget at £12 it was the only place that would allow me to pay by credit card. We had a great time hanging out at the beach, having dinner and drinking far too many Bintangs.

The next day I upped and left to a hostel 20 minutes outside of Kuta called Granny’s Hostel. Now this hostel was more in my price range at £8 or £9 a night and really is a little gem of a place if you don’t mind spending time outside of the centre. I was more than ready to leave the madness of Kuta behind and spent the afternoon and evening chilling with the super friendly bunch of people at the hostel, talking rubbish and drinking water. It was exactly what I needed as I was in danger of feeling a bit burnt out by all the travelling and drama.

I left the next day for Jimbaran in the south where I met up with a friend of mine who has been living and working in Bali for a few years. It was great to see her. She cooked me dinner and gave me the low down on a few things including great places to eat, drink and party, plus a few tips on cultural differences and things to watch out for.

I decided I wanted a few days at the beach to relax and do nothing so I headed to the upmarket town of Sanur. The taxi was a bit pricey from Jimbaran but it was worth it because the beaches are so beautiful and the area is very chilled. Its nicknamed Snore by the locals and I can see why they might think that. To the average backpacker there’s not much there other than nice places to eat, couples and white sand. I was more than happy with this quiet pace of life for a while.

I arrived in Sanur and was unceremoniously left at the side of the road by my unfriendly taxi driver. He wasn’t sure where it was that I wanted to go so he decided it would be best for me to get out, walk and find it myself. As we were on a meter, I didn’t argue! I started walking to the beach and I must have been looking so lost because I lovely local guy on a scooter asked me where I was headed and offered to drop me where I needed to go. “It’s too far for you to go with a backpack,” he said. I asked him how much it would cost and he waved a hand dismissively in my direction. “Free. I want to help,” he replied. He dropped me at my hostel with a smile and sped off down the street. Some people are just good people!

The homestay my friend had recommended was full so I headed to another across the road. Yulia 1 is a great little find in Sanur. At only 150,000 IDR (approx. £6 or £7) I had a room with a fan and access to a pool. It made up for the crazy, expensive and unhelpful taxi journey from Jimbaran.

I did nothing in Sanur apart from laze which is exactly what I wanted. Laze and eat. I am currently a bit obsessed with an Indonesian dish called gado-gado which is vegetables and fried tofu in a satay sauce with crackers. It sounds boring but it’s usually quite cheap (especially if you eat it in Warungs which are like cafes) and really tasty.

I met two ladies, one from Australia, the other from Hawaii (who lives in Hawaii????) and organised to travel with them back to Kuta to share the cost of a taxi. I had no accommodation booked but stumbled across a little hotel near the beach with rooms at 200,000 (£10) which again is a little pricey but I wanted a room to myself before sharing with others again tomorrow.

After Sanur, I headed to Seminyak where I arrived at THE fanciest hotel I have stayed at in a while. After rocking up in my tie-dye dress (I know, such a cliché, right?) with my dirty backpack slung over my shoulder, I felt so out of place waiting for my friend to arrive. I was so excited and a little bit nervous to see her – such a mixture of feelings – as she was the first person I’d seen from home in over four months, but when she appeared, all excited squeals and jet-lag, I couldn’t have been happy.

We spent the day catching up, drinking cocktails in the pool bar, before heading out for drinks in the evening. In true fashion, we got hideously drunk, ended up at a secret rooftop party in the pouring down rain, and then curled up in our big king sized bed for a mammoth kip.

The next day we were joined by another friend who was getting a later flight.

Seminyak for us was all luxury beach bars and overpriced food, so we were more than happy to head to Ubud where we accidentally booked the most hilariously unfinished “hotel” (dubbed Horror Hotel some hours previous due to the horrendous reviews the property received on Trip Advisor).

But it really isn’t that bad. Sure there is a building site right where we eat our breakfast and the swimming pool looks like Mould Soup, but its quite a comfortable room and the company is great. Sometimes the accommodation isn’t that fab and you just have to roll with it.

We’ve spent our time exploring the area: perusing the markets, exploring the Monkey Forest and taking many a selfie with the furry little creatures, having nice dinners and arranging our travel plans for the next few days.

 

Oh, and there was also an case of mistaken identity that involved a gecko making loud noises outside our room. We couldn’t have freaked out more when we heard this unknown sound coming from outside the door and, after lots of hesitation, laughter and a couple of ridiculous iPhone videos later, we plucked up the courage to go and have a look. When we couldn’t see anything we decided to ask reception what it was only to be laughed at and told it was a gecko! Queue red-faces all round.

Have you ever been to Bali? What do you think of Kuta? Have you ever been to Saner or Ubud?

How do you feel when approaching the end of your solo travels? Do you, like me, feel a complex mixture of things that you can’t quite explain? How do you deal with the travel come down?

Have you ever gone from solo to travelling in a group?