“How was England?” they said.
“Cold” I replied.
But of course it was so much more than that.
I think that when you spend time away from home you start to switch off your emotions of missing it to a certain extent because otherwise it can just get too much. So, standing at the bus terminal at London Gatwick, freezing my toes off, dressed in my Asia pants, all the t shirts I owned, and wrapped in my sarong, not only was I trying to stop my teeth cracking from chattering so much, but I was also trying to slow my heartbeat whilst thinking of the prospect of being back in my home country. This was not because I didn’t want to be there, but because of the amount of emotion running through my body. It felt as if my heart was pumping out hot and cold liquid in alternating spurts, causing my stomach to clench in excitement, release in relief, and seize in anxiousness.
Had I changed? Will my friends think I’ve turned weird? Will my family think that I believe I’m better than home? What will I say? I have so many stories to tell that it renders me speechless. I knew that I was a day away from walking into a world of “so how was it” questions and pointless, uninspiring “yeah really good” answers from myself. I could talk for weeks, months, about the things I’ve done, seen and experienced, but when does it become selfish? When does it become boring to someone that isn’t me? I didn’t want to become that one friend that constantly starts a sentence with “oh yeah when I was travelling…”. I knew I needed to find a balance to include people in my experience but not force it on them as the way one should live.
None of my family, or Jayde’s knew we were coming home. As far as they knew, we were still in Cambodia and staying for a few more weeks until our visas ran out. Not only were we suppressing this information, but we were also suppressing our own emotions. Talking about it with each other made it real, so we tried not to do it. Usually we would have spoken to our closest ones about this massive event, but of course we couldn’t do that either. It was daunting; not only the weather forecast but the end of a year of freedom, of careful carelessness and absolute release. I knew I was coming back to Sydney pretty soon, but I knew it would never be the same. I had the task of creating a life over here and the responsibility of making something of myself. We had decided to spend the night in a hotel to get rid of any jet lag and to best prepare ourselves for our surprise arrival. We couldn’t afford anywhere in London so booked a bus to anywhere our finger landed on and booked a hotel there. On this occasion it landed on Northampton. Truly the arse end of nowhere. However, the finger had landed and that’s where we were headed. A freezing cold walk once the bus entered Northampton, and we arrived at our hotel. Too tired to even eat, we headed upstairs to our room and dived into the luxuries of rubbish UK television and a proper brew. After a half an hour shower of HOT WATER and REAL SOAP each, I slipped my legs through the crisp white sheets, pulled the thick duvet over my finally clean body after thirty plus hours of travel, watched some terrible television with Jayde and fought back the thoughts of tomorrow having to leave one of my best friends for a long time.
From our moment of meeting one another, Jayde, Abbie and I spent hardly ever any time apart. Aside from my farm work separating us, and Abbie’s spontaneous trip back to Australia at the end of the trip, we had been joined at the hip. A year like that and even having to go to work alone made a day seem long before we were reunited. We learned so much from one another over the year. We helped each other through break ups, missing home, learning new places, people and skills, and getting by truly alone on the other side of the world. This is a kind of companionship that surpasses friendship, it becomes family and true love. These girls are my sisters, people I would give my soul to make happy, and my life to help them. I set off on my travels over a year ago now, thinking I was going to explore the world with someone who I thought loved me, and create a new life. Instead, I found two girls who without even trying gave me the biggest fulfilment I could ever have asked for, countless different friends along the way who taught me so much, and the love of my life who will stay forever by my side and me his. Life is never what you think it’s going to be, it’s always so much better.
It was the next day, we were perfectly rested and raring to go to surprise our families. We said a tearful goodbye after our last bus together at Milton Keynes, and set off into the big wide world alone to get home. It felt like the day my parents left me at university. Like something wasn’t quite right, but that I would be okay once I came to terms with it.
By the time I got to Leeds bus station, my heart was pumping out of my chest. I was so excited to get home, and also slightly anxious at the prospect of everyone being out, me having no keys, and the weather giving me frostbite. I forgot where to take the bus home, so walked around like a lost tourist for a while until I was pointed in the right direction – of course it was right in front of my face the whole time I was just too much in a tizz to realise – and I gave the bus driver my first new five pound note.
As soon as I stepped on the bus I realised something rather sad. No one smiles anymore. Maybe I didn’t smile as much before I went away. This was later confirmed in London the next week, when a woman told me she could tell I hadn’t been in England for a while because I was so happy. How depressing is that! People didn’t say hello on the bus, they looked at their phones with a grey miserable face. Of course, this happens in all countries, but I hated the realisation that my loved ones live in this environment. It’s a contagious virus attacking our vital happiness.
Regardless of my bus observations, I snuck into my cul – de – sac and up my driveway just as my front door was closing. I knocked on the door and waited. My mum opened the door, probably expecting to see the neighbour or the postman. She took one look at me, her pupils focalising on my face, her eyes widening and contracting in surprise, disbelief and realisation. Crying out as if in fear and then in joy, she welcomed me into her arms in the way only a mother can. Her smell filled my lungs, her warmth and heart beat filtrated through my body as it pressed against mine for minutes. As soon as I was through the door, it felt like nothing had changed. Like I had never been away. Of course the fist thing I did was make a proper Yorkshire tea. I wasn’t sure if I had over estimated my arrival, or whether home was so much like home that I should never have questioned how it would be anyway. I raided the fridge for nice cheeses and chutney and settled down to chat with my mum as if I hadn’t been away for a year but just popped to the shops and back. The classic family conversations of broken washing machines and what people are up to filled the kitchen, followed by baking a cake for dinner and dancing around to Enrique. True love and connection denounces time of it’s power; within the bubble of pure appreciation time cannot change anything. Deciding that we couldn’t keep the secret long enough from my dad because he was in meetings, I called him from my mum’s phone.
“Why are you calling me from Mum’s phone? What’s going on?” my dad questioned as I heard not only his voice but the cogs turning in his head, as he realised what was happening.
“I’ve got a surprise for you” I replied.
“I’ll be home as soon as I can!”
When eventually his day was over, which I can imagine seemed even longer than usual knowing that his daughter was home from a year travelling, the door creaked open and I jumped into his arms. Something so special to me in my father’s expressions, that I always look for, is a certain glint in his iris and a wrinkle at the side of his left eye. The blue of his iris became so bright, light blue, as both of our eyes absorbed each other’s being for the first time in too long. In the instant of this first embrace, I thought back to the day I left. My dad never cries, and to see the tears in his eyes that he was fighting away confirmed the amount I meant to him. The watery eyes of relief upon my return in both of ours expressed a beauty inexplicable with words. Finally, both my parents in my arms once again, the only missing ingredient was my best friend of all: my brother.
Something I always wonder in my travels, is whether I am being selfish. Of course it is selfish to an extent because I am doing it to flourish in my life path, but should I be staying with my family to look after them? What does anything mean if I can’t protect my family from any problems that may arise? Yes they’re all adults, and of course I wouldn’t want them to stay at home for me rather than pursuing their dreams, but it’s always a slight niggle at the back of my mind.
The evening of this most energising of days was possibly the most exciting. I had been conversing with my brother’s girlfriend, Mel, for a few weeks to be able to surprise my brother at the right moment. My dad drove us over to his house, let in by Mel, luckily he was in the shower. Mel had told Jon that the door was the pizza delivery and to hurry up in the shower, she really did have everything organised! I was slightly nervous that Jon, excited by the pizza, might bound out of the shower and into his room starkers so I hid behind the door with Mel on look out in one corner of the room and my dad on the bed with his camera at the ready. When he eventually came through, thankfully not completely naked, I caught the look on his face before he saw me, shocked to see my dad on his bed, probably thinking this was some kind of intervention. Then he turned his head in my direction and his mouth gaped in surprise. Quickly, he whipped his head from side to side in realisation and tried to confirm the image his brain was creating for him. Immediately his arms were around me, if I had any breathe in me, if I wasn’t so excited, then it would have been squeezed out in this moment. The bond between my brother and I is something that everyone who meets us claims to be out of this world. We are absolute best friends, tell each other everything and love and protect each other like our lives depend on it; which they do, thinking about it. It was in this embrace that all our year long separation seemed like a decade ago, and we had never been apart. As our auras combined once again, an eruption of multicoloured light, invisible yet so vibrant, dissipated once again into the atmosphere, rebalancing the last imbalance of my world. All of us reunited at last, we all sat down for a dinner cooked by my mum. What a joy that was, to finally have some home cooked food that I had been craving for months! The word home, the feeling behind it, is one of the hardest words to describe; because it is abstract in it’s fullest form, hidden behind a physical image. The sentiments and love that push out from this image and break it’s boundaries are so much stronger than our human minds can comprehend. Only spiritually is it something that can be felt, seen in a higher definition and shared with each other.
As time started to pass in my visit to England, I managed to see all of my closest friends, finally hug them and tell them I love them; nothing felt different. It’s a sign of true friendship when you can walk straight back up to each other and still take the piss like you did the last time you were together. We all had so many stories, so many new environments and friends that there was hardly time to take a breathe.
Whilst my friends and family were working, or busy however, I started to feel like I had no purpose. In a town that is my home, I couldn’t go to see things like a tourist, and actually I had no money to go travel to any other cities and I didn’t want to miss a night in my own bed, or the opportunity to see the people I love. So at points I ended up realising that I was filling my days with things I wanted to do, yes, but also a lot of time doing not a lot in comparison to my previous travelling.
The amount of people I had met randomly in places and chatted to, who told me I was so lucky to be travelling and they were so jealous of me, was starting to wear on my nerves. To me, these descriptions of feelings are just empty comments. It represents someone who would love to throw everything away and set foot somewhere unknown to them, but never will because they’ve been sucked into the world we all so dearly despise. The world of working to pay for the shirt you put on your back, which is shit on every day by someone telling you what to do at work. To pay for the car you think you so desperately need, the house you must show to your neighbours is better than theirs, or simply that new watch to ‘subtly’ flaunt to your peers as you pass the salt over the corporate business table. A world where going home means going to sit in a house full of objects but empty of aspirations, happiness and hope. I was beginning to realise that in my city, where the weather is unforgiving, people become too happy to sit in their comfort zone instead of pushing to get out there, chat to someone next to them on the bus, crack a smile down the street, or even create some project in the city. The city streets are plagued with charity workers asking you to donate money in direct debits which actually fund the government, and barren of people directly changing the lives of others for the better. It’s as if the city is wrapped in a veil of plastic, distorting the proper way to act, generating uninspiring, inactive people and suppressing creative impact. The place no longer has a vibrant feel to it but a sad and small, grey position in the world. Perhaps what I feared most is actually happening to me. Perhaps I’ve fallen into the traveller trap which makes me displace myself from my home city. The people I love are everything to me, but the place has become miserable. I no longer belong in this city, and I wish with all my heart that I could transport all my loved ones into a sunnier and happier environment to live. Again, maybe that’s just my view, and to everyone else it’s not like this. Have I become a pretentious traveller? Or have I just opened my eyes to reality?
My next big event was getting my second year visa granted. Originally I would have stayed in Asia longer, therefore been in England later, but things worked out slightly different timings so I decided to surprise Rama for his birthday if I could get my visa granted fast enough. Throughout my whole trip in Asia I was getting more and more nervous that I would get stuck in England if my visa got investigated and therefore have to start getting a job here etc. However, my visa got granted the same day! I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. The only thing was that now I had to keep this from Rama for a month so that I could surprise him really well on his birthday. I found the perfect flights to arrive the night before his birthday, so all plans were set and I knew I had just a few more weeks to absorb all the goodness of my loved ones and give my love as much as I could to them before it was time to start another adventure.
A lot was riding on me on my arrival in Sydney, and it was becoming slightly daunting the more I thought of it. I want to create something of myself, throw myself into journalism and launch my career. Am I capable? Do I even have any talent for it? Before I knew it it was the morning I was due to leave, and I was stood at the bus terminal to get a coach to London Gatwick. Although I had a lot to think about with my travel and I had so much excitement inside me to see Rama again after what felt like a lifetime, I couldn’t help but feel like the second time round the goodbye was even harder. To put it bluntly, I felt like a bitch leaving my family after having only seen them for a month in the whole year. I kept telling myself that if I don’t leave now, I wont be able to come home for Christmas. So with tears streaming down my face I boarded the coach. My mum trying to hold in the tears, my dad’s eyes glimmering once again, threatening a light rain, and my brother holding on to our connection rather than thinking of me going away once again. And me? Every time I looked in their eyes from the bus I wanted to run back off it and stay with them. My willingness to push myself into environments I’ve never been and my determination to start my life with Rama were the only real magnets keeping my bottom on the seat.
Off I set on my mammoth journey back over to Australia. A long six hours down to London, a thirteen hour flight to Taiwan, 13 hour layover, and nine hour flight into Sydney and I finally arrived back in the city I would be calling home for this year, and who knows how much longer. As I stepped out of the airport, and filled my lungs with the warm summer night’s air, my body filled itself with courage, determination and excitement for the year ahead.
I took a taxi to Bobby’s flat because I simply couldn’t wait any longer. I used the taxi driver’s phone to call my friend Matt inside the house, Bobby came down to meet me and up we went to surprise Rama. For a long time I had been wondering what it would be like to surprise him. What would his face be like? Would it actually be the same, or were we dreaming too much when we thought this is what we want? My friends had joked with me that he could have some other girl over when I walk in, that perhaps he had already moved on and just didn’t know how to tell me. Of course these things passed swiftly through my mind but there was no way in hell that the connection we have could ever be tarnished. The path that we are on in our lives is meant to run side by side. We know it, it’s written into our souls, as they forever twine closer and more intimately together. With each step up to the apartment, my hands got slightly more clammy, my heart beat even faster, and my stomach made more and more rotations per second. I was hot and sweaty and uncomfortable from the plane, in no way looking beautiful to see my boyfriend for the first time in three months but I couldn’t have cared less. Nothing could get in the way of me getting back to be with him. I waited outside the flat door as Bobby went to get Rama. The corridor light switched off and at the exact moment that I went to push the button to turn it back on, Rama came out. In a flash of light I saw his face for a second, and the light turned off once more. I fumbled in the switch to get the light on so that I could see his face. It lit up when he realised who I was. I don’t think he believed it was me at first. We were both speechless in the power of the moment. My body was flooded with emotion, if I could have cried I think I would have, but nothing could come out of my body. Not even a word, and neither could his. The power of our two energies aligning once again in our physical forms was something indescribable. The moment my lips pressed against his again, their soft, tight form, slick with his taste, the corse feeling of his curly hair, and the hard dreadlocks dotted around his crown that I love so much to crunch in my hands, had finally arrived. Like I said, life isn’t how you expect it to be, it’s always so much better. This moment, although I couldn’t have imagined what it would be like, was so much better than it ever could have been in my imagination. Purely because in the moment of surprise everything is so pure, so clear and clean. The rest of the flat were filming us and taking photos to document the surprise, it felt like a lifetime of hugs and kisses and Rama’s gasping face so close to mine, pinching me and squeezing me to see if I was real.
“I feel high”, he said to me.
“Me too”, I replied in complete euphoria.
In this moment, it all became clear. The reason my bottom stayed glued to that coach seat, the reason I had to leave my loved ones and pursue something slightly scary and new.
Our love might come easy to us, and our dreams may already be written into our paths, but our sacrifice is stepping out there, into the unknown, into the bright light, and fighting for the happiness we deserve. As many pathways stand before me, I know only a few things for sure. Thanks to Bobby I have a loving home. Thanks to Rama I have complete, pure happiness and unequivocal love. Thanks to my friends I have support. Thanks to my family, whether close or far, I am complete, and all this forms the base of the trampoline to allow me to spring however high and in which ever direction I desire.