In life, we’re always changing and growing. Often, it happens without even realising it. We start to want different things and forget about those that we once held above all. That’s life, after all.

But there are times where these shifts are like a big slap in the face. You know, the kind when you’re sitting in a group of people and you’re off in a whole other world. This happened to me, about a month after I came home after another year abroad.

A few gins in, laughing and sharing a cheese platter with a few good friends, my emotions took started to take over my body. It was unexpected. Friends to my left and right, engaged in some conversation I wish I could remember. This pull, this vortex of memories took me. Words became muted and my mind completely occupied.

Every place I’d ever visited, every person I’ve ever talked to, touched, every ‘oh my gosh I’m at…’ moment took over my body. I started crying, but I wasn’t sure if they were tears of joy or sadness.

My friend broke me out of my daze, noticing the sea rolling down my face. I couldn’t explain it to her. I had no idea what was going on. But in my let’s, say ‘unsettled’ state, I felt this instinct pull to the beach – which we were only five minutes away from.

No questions asked, my followed me to the beach, leaving the party. “Mands, I’ve never seen you like this before. Are you okay?” It surprised me, too.

Reflecting on this moment now, I believe it was my body’s way of processing the last year – which was the most transformative, fulfilling yet challenging year of my life. I was coming down from what I like to call, my travel hangover. The movement had stopped. This release, crying both in undeniable happiness but sadness too, was inevitable.

The births (the new friendships and experiences) were unlike I could have ever imagined, yet the deaths (the constant goodbyes) became debilitating.

We reached the shore at golden hour. I took of my shoes and tip-toed over the hot bitumen, letting it warm the bottoms of my feet. My hair, carefree in the hot summer air.

The sun was soaking down into the horizon, turning into a deep burnt orange mess. People had become silhouettes and I could make out the shapes of the distant boats. There was a collective feeling of people on their own journeys. This time, I gave myself permission to cry, unapologetically.

It was one of those perfect nights. A beautiful balmy 24 degrees, after a notoriously hot 45-degree day. We sat there for hours, and finally left at 2.00AM – a few bottles of wine and friends later.

That hard, but necessary night reminded me of one important lesson: the voyage of travel is never over, even when you come home.

Smells, feelings, stranger’s smiles, and love (the thing that connects all humans) live on in the chambers of my mind. But, so does the cultural oppression, the injustice, and the hard-to-see things. And that’s a good thing. You’ll be reminded of it, too, when you’re in those ‘normal’ moments again.

And you’ll be a changed person.

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