You’ve seen the kind – the thrill seeking, adventure-loving, continually travelling folk who seem to thrive on sleepless nights and exotic street food. Tales of broken down Tuk Tuks and wandering abandoned temples are plentiful and you can’t help but envy their lives so very different from yours. Nevertheless, it seems all wonderful to be travelling the globe, meeting colourful characters and soaking up the sights, but here’s what they don’t tell you about the whole ordeal.
Sometimes, it just sucks. Not the travelling part, but the returning home to find that everything you once loved seems trivial and meaningless. The mission trip I went on to Cambodia earlier this year (read: most incredible and life changing experience I’ve ever had) was the best thing I ever did. Spending 5 days building a brick home for a family battling HIV/AIDS, and two wide-eyed weeks inhaling the culture isn’t something you just do and forget about, instead it never really leaves you and follows you around as you go through the unimportant and meaningless motions of life. It’s so hard to think about entering year 12 when your heart is still overseas and your mind still tuned into “don’t drink the water, you might get cholera.” It’s hard waking up on a Monday and trying to get ready for a day of lessons when you can practically hear the welcomes of “Hello lady! Are you from Australia?” that once echoed around as you walked the streets. Australian roads are so lacking in atmosphere, a heavy silence having replaced joyful honks and criss-crossing traffic, not to mention our lame excuses for a ‘market.’
Returning home from an overseas trip – no matter how big or small – just plain sucks. There’s nothing you can do to ease the longing either. A computer full of shaky videos and bedroom wall plastered with photographs just makes it worse. Lengthy conversations with fellow travel buddies fuels the burning desire to just get back on that plane, but empty pockets and the absence of concrete plans won’t get you far.
6 months down and it’s only a little bit easier. I think of Cambodia almost every day, in fact, if I realise that a day has passed and I’ve not engaged in a trip down memory lane I feel a little twinge of guilt that explodes into a full blown panic that I’m forgetting it all. I fear nothing more than the time when I realise that those defining moments of swimming in the Cambodian rain and dancing under a plastic tent with a rural community have faded, and that they no longer stir up the intense joy and love that once accompanied those memories so strongly. I fear that one day I will resolve to simply living a life chasing unimportant pursuits, absorbed by the hang ups of the Western World that carry no value whatsoever, when I should have held tightly to the elation I felt in those two weeks instead of letting it fall quietly from my sight.
The travel bug is still biting and if given the opportunity I would drop everything and go in a heartbeat, but I can’t guarantee I would ever return, because if this is what you feel every time your journey comes to a close then I guess I’d just have to carry on forever.
For now I’ve no choice but to keep those memory-laden songs on repeat as I endure the struggles of redox reactions, re-read my midnight scrawl dated 13th of July and resolve to submit to an experience of such kind before I lose an appreciation for what has been and shall always be a most precious time of my life.
Monica @ Frangipani Princess xoxo