The world was a very different place when I departed. It was 5 am, 28th of October 2018. Dark and cold, a fine drizzle hung in the air. A final embrace with my parents on the outside porch. An embrace that wouldn’t be repeated for 1140 days. A little over 3 years. But this isn’t a blog documenting the changes in the world from then to now. Those changes have been chronicled the globe over. Instead, this is a post detailing the changes in me and the momentous adventure which took me to the other side of the world and back. It’s a post reflecting on what will no doubt be a defining period in my life and one that shall stay with me until that very life leaves me. It’s a reflection on the highs and lows of travelling the world and on the realities, one faces when finally home after such a life-changing experience. Before we get there though, we must first reflect on what it’s like to come home, after so long away.
About 10 days before actually coming home I was ready to be at home. This was due to my mind having already landed in England knowing the trip was all but over. Part of me just wanted to click my fingers and be back already. I think this was due to the rapidly changing covid situation plus the fact my Nan was taken seriously ill. Lots happened in the space of a few days and I didn’t want things to go wrong so close to getting home. Interestingly though a few days out from coming home my feelings changed again. It now morphed into feelings of nervousness and apprehension. In part, due to how bloody difficult it is to travel during Covid. Rules were changing daily due to the emergence of the Omicron variant and although I thought I had all my pre and post-flight covid administration taken care of. It’s hard to be 100% sure. I was worried something could change or go wrong at the final hour. Yet while the covid paperwork bothered me the real fear was going home itself. After being away for over 3 years you would have thought I was buzzing to get home! Yet while I couldn’t wait for the moment I lovingly embraced my parents at the Gatwick arrivals terminal, hugged my grandparent, aunties, cousins and had a pint down the pub with my best mates. That excitement was dwarfed by fear. After living in this bubble of life the past 3 years, still connected to everything at home but also somewhat detached, I was shit scared of what I’d think and feel upon my return. So much would have obviously happened at home, but would it ultimately feel like everything was still the same. Would I still get along with my friends? Would we have common ground to talk about or had our lives now branched in completely different directions? Would England come as a reverse culture shock? Would I actually hate being back there? Hate the people, the societal values, the way of life? And while there was no way of knowing how I’d feel until I was back, I was convinced I wouldn’t feel great. Wanting to be gone again no sooner than I’d just returned. Being gone so long I had built a picture in my head of what I thought England was and that picture wasn’t a place for me. Nothing about it I found appealing. I say picture, as although I had solid first-hand experience of what England was like, after so long away, you can’t be sure what still rings true. Not once in the entire 3 years away had I thought, “Shit I wish I was back in England”, or “Well England is better than here”. I barely even got homesick if I’m brutally honest. I missed every one, of course I did, but after so long you just become detached from it. Everyone gets on with their lives, it being the norm you’re no longer here, while the norm for me was no longer being there.
At the other end of the spectrum was thoughts of, would people still like me? Would they like the person I had become? The Calum who left wasn’t the Calum walking back through the door now. I’d experienced so much, seen so many places, met so many new people. I’d grown and changed as a person enormously. I discovered new things about myself, new passions, interests and hobbies. I learnt more about what drives me, what I want out of life, what I value and what I don’t. All of which happened mostly on my terms. No pre-existing external pressure, just myself, in the world figuring out what worked and what didn’t. No doing something just because my mates were, or because it’s expected of you, everything was for me. It’s one of the key reasons I think everyone should leave their home town and see somewhere new, be a little selfish, even for a little while. It doesn’t have to be 3 years, but when you leave that environment, you’re not held to pre-existing ideals that shape and frame your perceptions. The environment you grow up in has a massive influence on your worldview, so being able to escape that and discover your own version is hugely important I think. You make friends and meet people because you truly like them and they bring value to your life. Not just because you grew up or went to school with them. Leaving everything at home and escaping into the world for yourself, you’re able to fully release the shackles, discover things and reinvent yourself into anything if you wish. And while I never left to do that or to “find myself” inevitably you end up doing it subconsciously regardless. I know had I spent 3 years at home, I undoubtedly wouldn’t be the same person either. But there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I would have grown, changed and developed as much as I did in those 3 years had I stayed. There’s a quote from Hamza Yusuf which I love it states; “People say to you, ‘You’ve changed’, or something like that, well I hope for the sake of god that you have changed because I don’t want to be the same person all my life. I want to be growing, I want to be expanding. I want to be changing. Because animate things change. Inanimate things don’t change. And the heart should be alive, it should be changing, it should be moving, it should be growing, its knowledge should be expanding”
My emotions changed a lot before and after coming home. Above were my feelings a few days before I travelled home. However, on the day itself, I became very calm and accepting of the fact. It was all done now, nothing more I could do, nothing I could change. In fact at Auckland Airport once checked in the excitement started to build. All the stressing was over, I just had to get home, turning my thoughts to all the amazing things that waited there. The journey home wasn’t too bad, likely helped by the fact most planes were half full. As I travelled and got closer to home my excitement continued to build. I was going to make it, the covid stuff was all dealt with and all I had to do was sit on the plane. As I landed on UK soil the prospect of seeing my parents drew ever closer. My heart rate has never been so high waiting for my bag to come around on the luggage carousel. When I saw it slide down the ramp I knew the reunion with my parents was only minutes away. I struggled to hold back the tears even then. Walking towards the international arrivals exit the flood of emotions was incredible. As the transparent doors approached I caught a glimpse of my parents waiting on the other side. From this moment everything went crazy for a few minutes. I walked through the door and embraced my mum with the best hug of my life, before doing the same to my dad. All 3 of us in tears. And a little bit in disbelief that this moment had finally come. A moment that will forever be a part of our family story. I hope I never have to go quite as long not seeing them again but to feel their love in person for the first time in over 3 years was incredible. The ride home was all a little surreal, the next few days would be the same. I have spoken to my parents pretty much every week since I left so they knew everything I had done and had been on the journey with me. So it wasn’t like I had loads to fill them in with. For the first few weeks being back in the UK felt as though I was just floating around, a little lost and disorientated. My life having no direction or purpose, stuck in a kind of no man’s land. It was like I had pressed pause on my life in the UK, gone away done all these amazing things, came back and hit play again. Effectively erasing the last 3 years of my life with what felt like nothing to show for it. I was back in exactly the same situation before I departed. If you came to my house the day before I left, entered a coma for 3 years and then came back the day I returned, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d done nothing with my life. While home was really no different, so much had also changed, all my friends had moved out and had their own houses, no longer living in the village we grew up in. Some even had children of their own! Their lives over the past 3 years had progressed massively but coming back and seeing them all it felt like I had nothing to show for the past 3 years of mine. Even after seeing all my family and friends I still felt a little lonely, I was no longer surrounded by the other nomads, the people I’d shared the past years with. To be honest all I wanted to do was leave again and get back on the road, back to the familiar surroundings of exploring somewhere unfamiliar.
Those initial feelings upon arriving home did fade though and after a period of readjustment, I felt far more settled. It’s been great to see people I haven’t in years, share stories of my life and hear stories of theirs. While at times it does feel like I never left, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My home will always be my home, not because of the bricks, mortar and landscape but because of the people that are there. To be able to find comfort and love in the people here after all that time is a privilege and one I’m thankful for. It’s a safe haven for me in the world, that no matter how long or how far I may venture, that place of comfort shall always be there. And while I may have initially thought, to the outside world it seemed nothing had changed for me. The reality was everything had changed! I might not have had material possession but what I did have was so much richer. I had so many amazing memories, accomplishments and stories to tell. A new mindset in which I now lived my life. Although a line had officially been drawn under that part of my life, it forever in the past. I’m able to relive it every day and the lesson of those 3 years carry into everything moving forward in my life. I visited 10 countries, 2 of which I lived in for extended periods of time. Allowing me to sample a huge variety of different cultures, lifestyles, values and traditions. All of which enhanced my worldview, taught me something or offered me a different perspective. I made countless friends from all around the world, far too many to mention by name, but all of whom hold a place in my heart and a memory in my head. I know, no matter where I go now I have people to see, friends to catch up with and good times to reminisce about. It’s a wonderful thing to have such a vast and international friendship group. While the goodbyes were hard knowing I might not see them again for years. I also know the next time we meet, it shall seem like only yesterday I said: “see you soon”. It’s also a group of people I feel so comfortable around, they are my people. They are people who understand me and share my passion for travel as they too have lived a life similar to my own. The friends at home will always be my friends because they are amazing people, even if our lives have gone in different directions. But the friends on the road will be my friends because they too are great people, but equally, because we share a common desire. To travel and experience as much of this world as we can.
I like to think that my 20s have been lived by sampling as much as I can. I’m certainly going to continue that until they’re over. That’s easily been one of the best things about the past 3 years. The experience of trying new and different things was so important to me while travelling. Having the opportunity to sample and experience so much is one of the best ways, I believe, to figure out what you truly want in life and what’s important to you. How else are you meant to really know without sampling as much as you can? Some things you might hate and never want to do again. Others you’ll love and pursue for the rest of your life. Either way, you’ve learnt something. Over the 3 years, I’ve scuba dived, snowboarded, worked on farms, lived in big cities, lived in tiny places, bungy jumped, skydived, hiked, had a mini career, motorbiked, kayaked, snorkelled, loved, made friends, said goodbyes, road-tripped, and sooo much more. While categorically outweighed by highs, there were some lows. But you need all that to have a complete experience. The overnight buses, the food poisoning, the back-breaking farm work. You need it all and look back on it still with fond memories. It’s a vital part of the experience. Without the lows, the highs wouldn’t feel quite as high. So I’m immensely thankful for every little detail of the past 3 years, all of it. I’m confident in saying that to date they are probably the best 3 years of my life. For some the worry may then become, it’s all downhill from here, but for me, I’m already thinking, how can I ensure my next 3 years are even better. Learning and growing on what those past 3 taught me. I’m so happy to have started the blog and although I’ve read a few previous posts I’m yet to look back and read through it all. These memories and moments I’ve captured in time during the trip will be invaluable to look back on in the years to come, along with the pictures and videos too. Although the opening few paragraphs to this blog likely came across as a little negative and downbeat. I think I was just overcome with emotion and feelings due to experiencing something I’d never before experienced, being away for so long. Undoubtedly though this period shall always be so fondly remembered. I could waffle on for hours with various stories and moments. Not a day goes by where I don’t suddenly think of one of those moments then smile or laugh. People will probably get sick of me repeating the same stories. Yet while I could go on forever, I would likely never get to the true nuance of how amazing it was, because ultimately it’s a feeling and experience only I can know as, after all, it was unique to me. This is far from the end of Everitts Adventures though. I have so many ideas and plans of things to come in the next 3 years. Whatever happens, I can’t wait for the ride and the opportunity to look back, after another 1040 days, and smile all over again at what I achieved and what I accomplished. It’s safe to say a passion and life purpose has certainly been awakened in me. I can’t wait to pursue it further.
A note has to be dedicated to my amazing parents. It is their love and support that helped empower me to live life on my terms. Sadly I know and have witnessed first-hand parents who dont support or try to impose their own will on their children. I have never once experienced this from my parents. It’s always been, do what makes you happy and as long as you are happy then we are too. I don’t think there is a better foundation for someone to build a life on. To know they are there for me regardless is amazing. It means I’m not torn between chasing my dreams or trying to please them, the two are harmonious. It’s on their shoulders I stand and now live my own life. So as always thank you Mum and Dad and all my love.
I would like to end however with a dedication to my wonderful Nan. Who was sadly taken ill a few weeks before I returned home and died in the early hours of the 19th of December at the age of 86. She was a strong strong woman who fought to the very end. She always endeavoured to care for and support our family and it is through this very family that her legacy will now live on. She was a loving wife to my grandad for over 65 years, a mother of 4, grandmother of 5 and great grandmother of 2. She lived a life well lived and versed in travel too. I know she will be with me forevermore on my future trips. I shall forever be grateful to have made it home to see her. Having the chance to spend some final precious moments with her, recalling my stories of the past 3 years and giving her my love one last time. She was an avid reader of the blog and her heartfelt comments shall be dearly missed, as will she. It’s a poignant reminder that while cruel, all life must one day end, so ensure that when the day comes, you’re happy with the one you lived. With all my love Nan xx