I find a little nook in the corner, slide my birks off and stretch out. The girl next to me is doing the same. It’s 10pm and I’m taking the red-eye flight back home.
Home… this is a word I’ve explored the meaning of for the last six months.
It had been a challenging month. My friend and I had been unwell and really missed home – I mean more than a fleeting couple of hours yearning for home-cooked meals and my own bed. Those little things have become big things when on the road for so long.
But it wasn’t Bali or travel I was tired of. I just couldn’t wait to see familiar faces after facing some recent struggles. That’s when you miss home the most.
Travelling is a funny thing. Just when I feel like I’m ‘ready’ to come home, if only for a few days, there’s a little twist of fate – just to remind me this is exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing.
“Hey! Where are you heading?” A dark-haired guy in his mid-twenties says to me. I almost miss what he says, as I’m half torn between working out his accent and trying not to blush at his cute dimples. His Italian friend and another Aussie guy join us.
This sparks an hour-long chat about travel, life, relationships, and ambitions. We all chuckle at how our friendship is forming from our mutual idea to beat the Bali traffic and get here early (I’ve learned not to expect anything living here in Bali).
The spontaneity and presence, I think, is what pulls me to a lifestyle of travel. The friendships, unique experiences, lessons and insights that come at the most unexpected of times. Yes, even late at night in Denpasar airport.
Time, almost by definition, changes us
No one talks about life after a trip. We focus on the anticipation and excitement of leaving. But what does coming ‘home’ mean? Returning home brings with it an expectation that everything will be the same, but people move on. And you notice this. The real stuff happens beyond Instagram and Facebook. It happens over a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning.
Coming home is hard because it sometimes means changed relationships; a new dynamic. It’s hard to explain the events that changed you. And this makes picking up where you left off hard.
The constant flow of fresh perspectives and new experiences stop, or at least slow down. It’s easy to go back to what you were doing before. I’ve found there’s a certain energy travellers carry with them. Often this feeling starts to fade as we return to our everyday lives and routines. One week you’re surfing Indonesian beaches and having BBQ’s with locals on the street. And the next, you’re back to your ‘usual’ routine – work, catch ups, TV, bed. And repeat. But those new experiences don’t have to stop. Rather, they just need to be sought out. It requires effort.
So, what is home?
I’m still trying to work out what home means to me. I find comfort in strangers I meet in the airport, just as much as my friends at home. Maybe that’s the secret – Home is the people you love. Home isn’t a place; it’s a feeling you get.
So, maybe I have many homes. The more I travel, the more homes I have. We’re so programmed to think “travelling” and “reality” are two separate things. For me, travelling is my reality. And while there’s no place like home, I now know I have more than one.
You’ll learn just as much coming home
I’ve learned that travelling is a mindset, not an action. Coming ‘home’ doesn’t mean the travelling has to stop. My life when I’m travelling is full of adventure and presence. Maybe that’s the key – living in the moment, no matter where you are. Instead of booking in a lunch two weeks in advance, ask yourself what you feel like doing today. You fill your days with new experiences still.
In the last six months, I’ve become more aware, more observant, and more patient. I no longer sweat the small stuff. I notice all of the societal pressures and how they’re making us unhappy. We think we need more than we do. Freeing yourself from this is liberating.
There are lessons on the other side of that flight which I couldn’t even comprehend before I left. And these lessons don’t stop once you’re at the end of your journey.
In the end, it’s the transformation is what goes on within that matters. And the great thing about this is we can tap into it at any time – we just need to make that choice.