Resisting the changes

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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.

Australian Rules Football

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.

[Shopping mall image courtesy of Charlie Brewer, AFL image courtesy of mugley]

23 Responses to “Resisting the changes

  • I’ve been back 10 months and still fight it every day. I do without television and don’t buy much shit, I hate advertising and it’s come-hither looks that tell me life would be better if only I had this or that, and I spend more time in my cubicle dreaming of being out of it than doing the work I get paid for. I shower a wee bit more than I did on the road and often wear the same clothes for a couple of days. Looking forward is the only thing that keeps me going…gotta have a plan. Mine is taking shape with an upcoming move to keep the momentum going and a goal to get back out there. ‘They’ are not wrong…but you are not a weirdo for not wanting what they want. Cheers!

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence, Gillian – always good to know there’s others out there sharing my pain 😉

  • Your timing to post this is perfect. My youngest just arrived back from hitchhiking for a year and is looking for a cubicle at the moment. A cubicle with an end date. He’s visiting me this week and now I know -again – why I won’t put pressure on him.I guess his whole life we will be saying goodbye a lot. I will leave some interesting books by the bath though , you never know.

    • Having understanding parents goes a long way – I’m very pleased that mine are so supportive of my crazy ideas! 🙂

  • Hi, I totally understand where you are coming from. A native of Canada who also loves travel and has had some “unusual” experiences the past couple of years I get the freak look a lot:). Also I have to fight being pulled back into our Western world of consumption. I love to shop but I also don’t really care about “things” or materialism so much. I need to keep reminding myself. Being a marketer, I actually realize the influence consumerism can have – goodness, I spent years working on projects to drive that. However, I try every day to look at some photos of my travels or to contact a travelling friend – this way it brings me back a little and reminds me of what’s important.
    Thanks for the post, Miriam 🙂

    • You’re more than welcome!

      Very true that looking at photos or chatting to people on the road helps remind us of what really matters to us – it’s a real effort of will to step outside the consumerist barrage, and continual reminders of the important stuff help a lot with that! Thanks for your comment.

  • I’m not looking at going back ‘home’ a bit this summer and sorting stuff out with work. Hopefully it’s only for a couple months, I’m dreading it already…

  • I’ve found it enormously difficult settling back into ‘normal life’. The thought of going back to my old life in Sydney after 9 months on the road seemed too daunting. So I moved to the UK… seemed like a good idea at the time! The hardest bit for me has been having to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day when I’ve spent so long wandering foreign streets aimlessly or trekking up some incredible mountain. Although I love my job, I often find my mind wandering back to the amazing sites I saw, people I met, experiences I had on my travels. My decision to live in the UK was purely based around finding a job that would enable me to travel. I can’t wait to get back on the road. But when I do, I wonder how my mindset will change knowing how hard it was to come back this time. Maybe it’s a good excuse to just never stop travelling 🙂

    • It’s the perfect excuse to never stop travelling! Including coming to hang out in Melbourne, right? 😉

  • Never ever let the dream die mate!

  • Well, I’m facing the exact opposite in about a year and a half, and it doesn’t feel comfortable either- even though I’ve known for years that this is what I want – perpetual travel! Leaving my kids and friends, family, giving away the contents of a home and living off the 10kg in my backpack. Scary! And wonderful at the same time, but sometimes the scary is stronger…..

    • Sounds awesome! And a bit scary. But mostly awesome! 😉

      I reckon it’s ok to be scared – that’s what lets you know you’re pushing your boundaries and doing something truly wonderful…

      • Thanks! I love knowing there are people like me around, and not only those with the perpetually raised eyebrows….

  • After TBEX I’m going home for the summer, I full expect to be depressed and feel like I don’t belong. But at least there will be a light at the end of the tunnel – just like yours!

  • A) I will be your friend and that’s all you need, so don’t worry about making friends haha.
    B) You are a freak. Embrace it.
    C) Try to enjoy every day no matter what you have to do or are thrown into. Think of all the awesome things you do have, have had and will have in the future. I spend my mornings reading funny comics and drawing my own while I drink my coffee. It makes my day no matter what shitty things I have to do.

    @ayngelina, don’t worry. I will be a very short Go Train ride away from you. It will be summer and that means cottages/camping and patio beers. I have taken the challenge to NOT let you be depressed coming back home.

  • A) Yay, a friend!!
    B) I try to – seems to be working judging by most people’s reactions!
    C) I do my best – even if it’s just listening to an awesome song on the way into work, or having a stoopid Skype conversation with a friend somewhere in the world, or something. Even the small things make a difference and give me perspective…

  • I like what Andi says- never let the dream die. And agree with Lindsay- you are a freak, we all are, in the minds of those, well who live the “normal” life. I’ll shout out at ya on Twitter and say “Team CM!” Enuf said! Hang in there! 🙂

  • Man I have to say I needed to read this. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I’ve been back for 5 months now after a year in China and traveling south east Asia.
    It seems no one I meet or hang with anymore understand what I’m all about. I miss the late night hostel convos over 30 cent beers about where we’ve been and what we’ve seen and what we’ve learned.

    I love for those talks.

    And yea, sure, I can get my taste on Twitter haha, but it’s just not the same.

    As Jack said in LOST (if you watched that show haha- which you should! ;-P ), “We have to go Back!!!”
    Now, I’m not sure if I’ll move back to the grey skies and spitting people of China, but I will be moving abroad again. I’m doing all I can right now to set that as a reality!

    But I’ll tell you one thing – I am right there with you in not letting my dream die! We can do it!!! 🙂

    … I too, can no longer pay $10 for a beer haha.

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