The last few weeks have been something of a revelation.
I finally booked my flights to India, a place I’ve been fascinated by ever since I read The Jungle Book. In fact, I’ve got a very challenging yet exciting few months of travel ahead of me. Since I love making life difficult for myself I ought to be in my element. Yet in the back of my mind there is a nagging voice holding me back and curtailing the excitement.
Because the truth is this: I am going to find it very hard to leave England this time around.
I know; I’m as surprised as anyone. I distinctly remember a time when I actively avoided my fellow countrymen as I travelled solo through Southeast Asia, and didn’t have much positive feedback for foreigners asking me about my home nation. But that was a few years ago. I’d fallen out of love with my life in England and took it out on my motherland, perhaps unfairly.
Things are different now. I spent two years away from England (don’t worry – I did talk to my compatriots once in a while) and had pretty much the time of my life. Then I came home. To my tiny hometown in the countryside. A place I found supremely boring to grow up in and hadn’t actually lived in since I was 18. I arrived in the middle of a typically bleary English winter, bagged myself a decent job and knuckled down to save up for and plan my next escape.
What happened over the ensuing eight months was that, without really thinking too much about it, I began to enjoy living in England again. I reconnected with some friends I hadn’t spoken to in many years, and made a lot of wonderful new ones. This being the kind of town where everyone knows everyone, to find a few hidden gems was something I didn’t expect.
As the weeks drifted on we were gifted a beautiful British summer, one of the best I can remember for a long time. At times I felt like I was experiencing something like an old-school ‘summer-of-love’ from the 1960’s. Young, single and carefree with those long sultry summer evenings stretching ahead of me… you get the picture. Relationships were begun, revisited or ended before I even knew what was happening to me. At times it was trying, not to mention exhausting, but one thing living back in England has never been is boring.
The date of departure is now almost upon me, heralding many leaving parties, last-minute panics and far too many sad goodbyes. It’s been a struggle from the day I booked my flights to stick to my guns this time. Especially as one by one people begin to draw back from you – you are no longer a certainty so understandably they cut their losses. To use a rather crude metaphor, it’s like being a piece of meat nearing its use-by date that people would rather throw away than risk eating.
A gentler soul might have abandoned the whole idea and chosen to stay in the place that almost feels like home again.
Home: where you can tell the time from the pealing of the church bells. With wintery days where the sky is devastatingly grey and bleak, yet the smoke from a cottage chimney somehow warms you. Home: where you can smell spring in the air before you can see it, and the bright yellow of rapeseed carpeting the country fields means winter is finally over. In mid-summer, a muggy aroma of cut grass pervades the humid air as agitated pigeons coo from the greenery above. Cider and strawberries have never tasted so good. Home: where the people are funny, politeness is a way of life, and no one cares if you are a drunken fool because we all are from time to time in this land.
Before you start to worry where this post is heading, don’t– I’m not staying. I’m a traveller at my core and I am infinitely happier living out of a bag from day to day than in one place for eight months. I just wanted to clear things up: England, all is forgiven. I am truly grateful for the eventful, surprising and often hilarious experience you’ve given me this year. I can’t stay just now; but this time, I’ll miss you. Plus a fair few of your people.
Now for the next chapter.