I’ve been back in Melbourne for over three months now. In some ways it seems like merely days have passed since I boarded the plane home from Kuala Lumpur. In other ways it feels like forever.
I had a bunch of fears about coming back, and outlined some of them during the last week of my trip. Signing a lease on an apartment. Finding a job and then, worse, having to actually turn up to it every day. Most of all, trying to fit back in to a society whose values I don’t really share any longer. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
In some ways, though, I’ve actually really fallen on my feet. I found a contract job that runs through until the end of October and pays me more than I’m probably worth. I certainly don’t love it, and some days it takes all the energy I can muster to not scream “What the hell am I doing here?” and walk out the door, but it could be worse. At least the bank account is growing for the first time in over a year. Knowing there is an end date helps. A lot.
I was even luckier with my apartment – through a friend of a friend I managed to take over the existing lease on an awesome one bedroom place in a great location close to friends. It’s on a month by month basis – which strangely enough suits me down to the ground.
I knew that I’d need to have another trip of some sort booked as soon as possible, so I’ve done that. It’s only two and a half weeks in the US and Canada in June, but being able to hang out with some amazing people at the World Domination Summit in Portland and the TBEX travel writers conference in Vancouver the following weekend will be incredible. I’m totally looking forward to that already, even if it’s still a bit under three months away. I’m also busy working on plans for what next year’s travels will look like. Let’s just say there’s a lot of options.
So really, things have turned out as well as I could have hoped. I’ve got very lucky, and I truly appreciate that. Where I’m still struggling – a lot – is actually not the big things. It’s not the job, it’s not the apartment, it’s not even the lack of time I’m finding to work on all the things that really matter to me. It’s the little stuff.
When you’re on the road, finding like minded people is easy. Just look around you at the hostel bar. Smile at the girl with the big backpack looking lost on a street corner. Start chatting to the dude on the bus beside you who hasn’t showered for a week. When you’re travelling, lack of personal hygiene is a lifestyle choice. Back home it just means you’re a bum.
I’ve found it really hard to find new people who understand my supposedly unusual lifestyle. Not my awesome family and friends – they already understand my oddities, or are at least too polite to comment on them any more. Anybody else, though? The minute I mention what I was doing last year, and the fact I’d like to make that lifestyle a permanent one, their eyes just glaze over. Apparently it’s just too far outside their frame of reference. When I tell them that it took me three weeks to bother plugging in my television in my new apartment, and that I have no idea what is happening in the State Religion (ie, Australian Rules Football), they quickly end the conversation and wander away. It’s official, I’m a freak.
Something else that I’ve noticed is the insidious changes that are trying to work their way into my brain now that I’m back in the presence of mainstream Western society. Now that I’m earning again, the incessant clamouring of retailers desperate to help me part with my money is harder to resist. I’m still not buying useless shit, but I find myself thinking less about the things I do purchase than I would like. Especially beer. I paid over ten bucks for a pint the other day because it was some funky new boutique brew. Seriously, what the hell? That’s five big bottles of Beer Lao right there. Which, come to think of it, tastes a damn sight better anyway. Sigh.
As an example of how bad it’s got, I even found myself pondering the other day whether I’d consider extending my contract for six months if that was an option in November. Bear in mind this is from the person who was having a panic attack at the mere idea of returning temporarily to the cubicle a few months ago. It would probably make financial sense given the scope of my travel plans for next year, but still. Wow. Madness. I know that time would be much better spent working on my own micro-business ideas than working for someone else despite the lack of paycheque involved, but it took quite an effort of will to remember it.
So all in all – well, it’s been an interesting return to society. I was going to say return to normality, but thankfully it doesn’t feel normal yet. I hope it never does. Writing this blog helps a lot with that, as has the continual engagement with and encouragement from the wonderful other travellers I’ve met in the last twelve months. I’m hoping that will only continue at the conferences in June.
Will I still feel the same after another few months here, slogging through 50+ hours a week in the cubicle over the coming winter? Hard to say. I can only hope so. Not letting this dream die is the most important thing in my life right now, and I’ll be doing everything I possibly can to keep it that way.
I’ll let you know how that goes.