“We’ve landed mate” the guy in the window seat next to me says as he gives me a nudge.
I think this is the first time I’ve stayed asleep through the landing of a plane. I get up and grab my bag from the space under the seat in front of me followed by my drum from the overhead locker. Good job this doesn’t work like a bus where you could sleep through your stop!
“Thanks”, I say to the cabin crew guy who is standing at the door of the plane to see out the passengers.
“Cheerio, sir”, he replies
Yep, definitely back in the UK!
I walk through the arrivals gate and I see a black shadow dart through the handful of people waiting on the other side and it’s on me! It’s my sis (in a black coat) and Thom who have come to the airport to give me a massive, welcome-home hug :-)
“What’s happened to you?!” she says after our hugs have ended, and she’s had time to look me up and down.
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve turned into a dirty hippy!”, she points at me.
I look down…yoga pants in the Manchester winter, tank top (it was warm when I boarded the plane!), sandals, and a drum over my shoulder.
“Yeah, I’m not sure either….”, I say and we make our way back to the taxi rank and soon we’re on our way, heading to Manchester in a cab.
Before I had left, I had read a bunch of stories/websites/blogs about travelling and the experience that people have when they return home after their adventure. Every story is different and personal, but there are recurring themes of melancholy, confusion, a mixture of familiarity and isolation, inclusion and alienation…..a sense of feeling lost in the same place you used to know like the back of your hand.
Well….I’m just not ready for something that heavy!
I’m cheating! Completely cheating it all for now….I’m coming back while my trip is still in progress. A few things around work, storage, and banking needed me to be back in the country anyway at some point soon, and what better time then the holiday period around Xmas and New Year to come back and catch up with friends and family while you’re at it? :-)
So here is my experience of returning back home for the first time in a while…..all of the sweetness and none of the bitterness. Getting to catch up with family, old friends and new friends….while at the same time knowing that I had a plane trip out in a few weeks back into the unknown.
First of all, everything was very familiar…..Manchester city hadn’t really changed much. I think this was compounded because I had left this city at a very similar time of year (Xmas decorations, music, shopping). This combined with the same cold and drizzly weather, it felt as if I could have been here 2 weeks ago opposed to 10 months.
I found that I was really hypersensitive to everything around me….the combination of how familiar everything was, the hustle and bustle of pre-Xmas shopping, and the English language and accents……My brain just couldn’t stop tuning into passing snippets of conversations. Also, my legs just didn’t seem to want to acclimatize to the Manchester city-center pace! I kept on bumping into people and they kept bumping into me….I just wasn’t in sync with UK life :-)……the jet lag probably didn’t help either.
“You ok?”, my sis asks me with raised eyebrows after the 6th person bounces off my right shoulder.
“Yeah, I think so….just feeling a bit spaced!”, I reply and remind myself that I should treat this walk like an obstacle course until I’ve gotten used to the pace again.
We get some food and a few beers. It’s only early afternoon but I’m already ready for bed! A quick 5 minute stop at the Xmas markets was enough for me to realize that I needed some sleep before dealing with UK Xmas crowds!
And the rest was well needed for the upcoming few weeks……Seeing everyone again was brilliant, albeit a bit of a whirlwind…..in the 20 days I was back I ended up sleeping in 6 different beds, 4 different couches, one floor-mattress, and one seat at the bus station!
I managed, with the help of my sister and Thom, (who fully embraced the all of the sneakiness!) to surprise the rest of my family (apart from my sis and a couple of friends, I’d managed to keep it quiet that I was returning) :-)
I even managed to catch up with some of the guys I’d met on the road in the past few months. Kamille in London (no bike accidents this time around!), and Lee up in Edinburgh where we mooched around in the freezing Scottish weather to bring the new year in :-)
So, back out it is! And this time it’s to India with Mass for a 1-month biking adventure :-)
Thanks to everyone who I saw over the short stop back in the UK, for the catch ups, company, conversations, giving me a roof for the night, and sharing some xmas food or a drink or 2. I’m really grateful and feel amazing lucky!:
Mum, Dad, Andy, Jason (Great Xmas dinner Jas!), Anne, Margaret, Mike, April, Mick, Dan, Louise, Grace, Rach, El & Brendan (amazing pre-xmas party…….nail it every year!), Mass, Margaret, Kaveh, Des, Clare, Lewis, Nic, all my old mates for beers and poker, Kamille, Lee, Jez, Sarah, Caleb (Nice to meet you!), Chris, Rich, Joe…….
….and big, big thanks to my sis and Thom who picked me up, gave me a base in their flat while I darted around, helped me devise and carry out sneaky surprise plans, and for all the beers, laughs and chats we had while I was back :-)