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Today marks six months since I flung my little backpack over my shoulder, said au revoir to family and friends great and small and almost missed my National Express to Heathrow.
Happy 6 month travel-iversary to me!
That’s an actual word, it really is.
If you’d asked the me of March 29th 2016 where I thought I’d be in six months time, without a doubt the answer would have been at home. I had every intention to be back by now – so much so that I only purchased 6 months worth of insurance, meaning that as of midnight tonight I’m officially uninsured overseas because I’m an idiot and forgot to call before close of office today. Somebody bang my head against a brick wall please
Despite having accumulated a nice little collection of 32 countries and over 2 years travel in the past 5 years, this is actually the longest stretch of being away so far. Even when I was on my Erasmus Year Abroad, the most consecutive months I stayed away without a weekend visit home was 4. It’s a biggie! Some would see this as the perfect opportunity to make a nice little listicle about what travelling has taught me or whatever, but that would be really freaking hard because I learn new things every day. Everyone learns new things every day, and most of the time you don’t even have to leave your house for the privilege!
So instead I thought I’d just go with a few random musings that have been floating around in my head for a while, sort of to do with life, sort of to do with travel, all to do with me. Because narcissism.
ON MISSING HOME…
To be completely honest, I haven’t missed home. I’ve definitely missed a lot of things about home, like Cathedral City cheddar cheese and Milkybar and pickled onion Monster Munch and welsh cakes and Cherry Coke and okay this is all to do with food so I’ll stop now. But yeah, whereas I have missed things about UK, I haven’t missed the sensation of being home if that makes sense?
There have been a few little moments which have had me thinking ‘ffs Rhiannon, why’d you decide to go off and be a gypsy for?!‘- like the whole Roald Dahl celebration they had in Cardiff recently (MASSIVELY bummed about missing that!), and my cousins’ graduations, and all the pub quizzes my chums have gone to without me. And whenever I’ve seen new pictures of my niece and nephews it’s kind of like JESUS CHRIST THEY HAVE GROWN AT LEAST FIVE FOOT AND AGED SIX YEARS, RED ALERT BOOK A FLIGHT HOME NOW BEFORE THEY’RE IN UNI AND GETTING MARRIED AND BUYING DOGS AND CARS AND STUFF! Then there’s the big one. A week and a half ago my sister, who I’ve only recently reconnected with after almost two whole decades, had a baby – an adorable and squishy looking little boy called Joey. I am so excited to meet him for the first time, and to catch up with her after so long, but it’s also a bit crazy to think by the time I get to meet them he will be almost three months old (!!!). He’ll be well out of the potato baby stage by then, and fast approaching the fun developing a personality and smiling at things as opposed to just having wind stage.
So yeah, I miss the people back home at times, but I don’t miss the UK itself. I don’t miss the boring but super safe roads; I don’t miss the weather; I don’t miss the radio or TV; I don’t miss the scenery. I just don’t.
ON PLANTING ROOTS…
One of the major reasons that I haven’t experienced homesickness is because, without sounding like too much of a soppy git, it feels like I’m already home. I’m talking about India now, not China or Mexico or anywhere else I’ve laid my hat in the last half a year. Despite sticking out like a sore thumb, constantly getting way too much physical and eye contact from strangers, being charged at least double the actual price for things and having to eat more spices than any British person should have to handle, I’ve never felt more at home outside of my actual home than I have here. To be specific, Kerala.
I was lucky that I had friends here before travelling out. They were mostly the only reason I chose Kerala actually. But now I have even more. I have friends coming out of my ears. The friends of my friends are now my friends too, and the families of my friends are also now my friends. That’s a lot of friends in one sentence, so please forgive me if it now just looks like gibberish. Friends friends friends friends friends.
I’ve mentioned before how I’m not doing the whole tourist thing in Kerala, how I’m jut enjoying spending time with friends (there’s that word again!) and what I’ve actually come to realise recently is that now I’ll always have a home here. Even if I don’t want one, it’s here. Because now I have roots.
ON NEW DISCOVERIES…
Apparently I do like beetroot after all – who knew?! Only if it’s shredded, though, and it needs to have a nice bit of spice for flavouring. Yum. But all new and exciting culinary tastes aside, I’ve learnt and discovered so many new things about myself in the past six months. Like how I can be an extremely convincing liar when I need to be, my hidden super power is hailing taxis, and I can actually do anything I set my mind or heart on.
Without wanting to sound all new age hippie, I am such a better person now than I was six months ago. I have more patience, more empathy, more sympathy, more kindness, more humour. But I’m also a lot more selfish. Now I mostly do things for me and only me. When I decided to extend the trip by an extra two months, did I think about the effect it might have on anybody back home, or anybody here in India (because having a white girl hanging around you 24/7 ain’t an easy feat over here!)? No, I didn’t. I just figured I want to stay in India so I will.
The Christopher Columbus in me hasn’t just discovered a bunch of stuff on a personal level but, you know, on a life and world level too. I know things now – things I didn’t know before. Ask me about the diet of an elephant, go on! Or when the PETRONAS twin towers were built or what date World Rabies Day is. And these days I can even eat rice WITH MY HANDS in small portions. Not gonna lie, with these mad skills I’m gonna be shit hot when it comes to the pub quiz on my triumphant return! Jess James, prepare yourself for victory shall be ours!
ON GROWING UP & ADAPTING…
If we’re playing a numbers game, six months of time passing means I’m six months older, which naturally means I have grown up. At least by six months. But other than on paper and on a calculator, I’d like to think that I’ve grown up mentally and emotionally too. It’s hard not to when you find yourself having to wash your underwear in a grotty hotel sink at half past midnight because hello you can’t even order a veggie burger in Chinese let alone ask for a laundry service.
The thing about travelling – and especially travelling alone – is that you hit new snags and bends in the road every other minute, and you have to use your noggin perhaps a bit more than you’d like to. Problem solving becomes second nature. If this were secondary school, my Key Skills Problem Solving would be in the bag. But aside from problem-solving, you also need to develop skin like a rhino, you need to have your wits about you at all times, you need to think outside the box, and you can’t let things get to you.
The other day I was in Ajmer (do yourselves a favour and never go there!) trying to get a bus to Udaipur. The bus hadn’t turned up – or it had turned up but with a whole different company name painted on the side – and I’d been waiting almost an hour and nobody spoke English and people kept staring at me and these little kids dressed in rags kept asking me for money or my phone and this one particular cow was looking at me in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable, and I was still highly strung about the prospect of dying of Rabies and my whole arm was dead from the injection I’d had the day before, and it all got too much and I just had a good old sob right there in the middle of the highway.
No. Let me get this right. What I actually did was call up my Indian friend and proclaim how much I hate his stupid country and the stupid cow that was staring at me and the stupid bus system and the stupid man who refused to help. Then I had a good sob in the middle of the street. It was the first public ‘I can’t do this travelling nonsense’ meltdown of the trip so far, and I’m actually super proud of myself for lasting this long, because trust me there have been so many golden opportunities for me to go full on Britney 2007.
There was a point to me sharing that anecdote, but now I can’t remember the point.
Basically, I’ve grown up. And I’ve learnt to adapt, except for when a cow is being all creepy staring at me.