So, I have just completed 3 seasons in a row as a Holiday Rep. Prior to this, when I was quite a bit younger I worked in Australia for 10 months. Holiday Repping is one of the best jobs I have ever come across in allowing you to do and see so many things - at the same time as earning a living. This last season I made the decision to come home; I missed the people I love the most and wanted to explore other career options that can also let me travel. This was not an easy decision, especially not after 18 months of being able to ski off around a mountain everyday, sit in pretty cafes, go for a paddle board on my lunch break, or pop to Venice on my day off (I know I know why did I leave??). It’s not an easy life to step out of but I trust my gut and this time it was telling me to go home - and go from there.
Pretty much everyone I’ve met who’s travelling long term or working the seasons is not a huge fan of the U.K. and most of us leave for similar reasons; the weather, the lifestyle, the politics, drizzly town centres, house prices, constant social pressures, the x-factor – just to name a few. So, if you’ve been away for a few years the idea of coming back to the U.K. can seem horrifying; ‘no don’t make me go back there! Ahhhhhh I’ll DIE!’. This season I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place; the thought of heading back to Manchester filled me with complete and utter dread – but my time moving about was done (for now). So I have now come home to start over (gulp). Hopefully my plans will lead me back to working abroad in some way, but it really comes down to a question of what you want more. We don’t get forever to dilly dally around putting stuff off – so a beach house, a published book and building the career I want have now become more important than a summer gallivanting around the Greek Islands (for now...at least, for now).
Anyway, those things are all a long way off and I’ve only been home 3 weeks – which does make me question whether I even qualify to write this, but coming home from Australia 10 years ago was a similar experience so I’ll have a go anyway. So, here a few uncomfortable truths about coming home and some questionable advice on how to overcome them. I definitely haven’t settled in yet and I may have woken up in the night a few times gripped in horror that I’m stuck in the U.K. again for the foreseeable future – but it’s ok, we’re coping.
1) The first 5-7 days will be great. Coming home is always a novelty when you haven’t been there in a while. YOU are a novelty. People will be abnormally happy to see you and you get to feel like an intrepid exotic traveller back from the perils of adventure. Everyone is even politely obliged to listen and look interested as you babble on with your stories; (“She’s not been here a while, let her speak!”). There is a fantastic fridge full of amazing exotic foods you haven’t been able to buy/afford/find (things like mini scotch eggs and smoked salmon!!!) and supermarkets are open past 7pm. You can get a Chinese on a Tuesday at 3pm if the mood so takes you and there’s old friends to see, new babies to meet, lunching to do, time for a good Zara binge, and then it all...stops.
2) Things will go dramatically downhill. You will get low. Sorry!– lets just get this one out of the way. It is, however, temporary - and weirdly necessary. There is no avoiding the Post Season Blues. You’re back in your old stomping ground and living in Italy/France/Madagascar/wherever the hell you’ve been feels like it never happened. You will feel listless, sad, alone, pining for odd things you probably hated when you were there (does anyone need me to run a bar crawl tonight??!!) and wonder if you just hallucinated the past 5 months. I'd been at home 1 whole week before I fell into this obligatory pit of complete doom. “How am I back here?What the hell?” Then I set about doing some mad googling to see how quickly I could get out of here again before realising my passport has currently expired. So then I was left with no choice but to whack out the dressing gown and WALLOW which leads me to my next point…
3) Allow The Wallow. For whatever important reason you decided to come home - now here you are and it’s awful. What goes up must come down – but then remember from the bottom the only way is up! It’s not that bad, and you will build your life back up again in time. Expect to feel like crap and don’t fight it, it’s part of the process. You’ve just come from having a dreamy lifestyle with loads of freedom, friends and good weather and now here you are - on the tube, your face in someone’s armpit trying to ignore all the ‘new home for summer!’ Instagram posts while you realise you forgot your umbrella and it’s raining. Let yourself wallow, you’ll be fine, you won’t feel like this forever and if you really want to go back – you can – there’s always jobs. Also lets be honest, you know it’s not always as good as it looks anyway. A lot of the same problems – just better weather.
4) Curb the Social Media. For your sanity, shift your focus and turn down that noise. At least until you’ve got your next plan. It’s a great way to keep in touch but everyone you met will still be there if you take a week or two (or even a whole month!) off. You don’t need to see how gorgeous the mountains are or how amazing this persons #beachlife is. You’re not there anymore and you might not be going back for while so don’t torture yourself.
5) Get outside. Ok, you’re giving social media a wide birth, you’ve wallowed on the sofa telling everyone who will listen how doomed you are, to which they’ve replied sympathetically; “yes yes you are poor you” - and now you’re just bored of yourself. One of the biggest attractions and the main thing I loved about travelling and working the seasons was how active it was - you’re always outside and you’re always using your body. In Meribel I had to ski to my meetings and hotel visits and every time I went on a night out I’d have to hike up a hill home. In Italy, again with all these hills, we had bikes to get to work on. Physical exercise is a very big part of my life and city living does not always lend itself well to this. One of the greatest things about living in the mountains or by the beach is how much you get to move your body – as part of your daily life. It’s AMAZING. So quit wallowing, get of the sofa, burn that dressing gown, go outside and move yourself.
6) Something good will happen. Maybe you’ll get a job you’ve wanted for a while or finally publish that blog you’re been working on for too long (!), or just find yourself having a really great day - and then you’ll realise home isn’t so bad. Give it a few weeks, and you’ll start to feel like you’re not quite back where you started after all. After working abroad for a period of time, people rarely come back the same as they were before they left. Even if it feels that way when you first get home, give it some time and you’ll realise you’re different – lots of new extra added good bits!; confidence, resilience, funny stories and skills you didn’t even know you’d acquired. This only means the life you build from here on will be different too, and if you want it to be, much better than the one you left behind.
7) Or maybe you’ll decide to go back and carry on. I am yet to rule out doing another winter season and I'm definitely not done with the travelling. Maybe you’ll go home for a while, give a few things a go and then decide you want to go back. Either way, coming home is not always easy. So give yourself a bit of time, a lot of self compassion, don’t be afraid to feel like crap (it will pass) and trust that, if you’re honest with yourself about what you really want from life, the path your supposed to take will unfold for you – regardless of your location.