Our initial plan for the journey this year was to travel around the world for a year, with a six month stopover in the middle to work in the UK. The basic plan was to travel through South East Asia, then head to Europe, the UK, possibly Scandinavia and then off to South America after.
As we were preparing to head off overseas the support from our friends, family and workplaces was invaluable. They backed us, believed in us and wished us all the best with taking this chance to explore and learn about the world and ourselves. This encouragement is something that makes us feel extremely privileged , even more so than having the opportunity to actually travel.
We have our working visas and had spent a good amount of time preparing everything to enable a seamless transition to work overseas, whilst back in Melbourne. Documents were readied, identities were proven, ability to work was demonstrated. We were lucky to have a friend of friend working as a recruiter, who had come from the UK and was working in Sydney, assist us with everything.
Then in Vietnam, we began to change our itinerary, deciding that South East Asia was not for us at that stage. We redefined what we wanted. One of the things that was strongly pressing on us was missing the connections of home. Of family and of friends. Of our puppy. Of our meaningful jobs. Of our regular physical activities and healthy habits. Travel was showing us a lot of things about the way life works in this part of the world, but having both traveled prior, it was not any sort of a revelation. If anything it just reconfirmed how lucky we are to come from Australia. We felt an ethical conflict; we were wealthy and priveleged enough to take time of work and to travel to this place, and whilst immersed in it, realised it was not at all what we wanted at this time.
What we missed from home was the meaning that is created by having regular family contact and expectations, juggling the social aspects of maintaining our friendships, working in communities of other passionate people who prioritise learning and growth. There was the pull of family ties that we felt, the worry for sick and injured family members. There was a desire to be at home for significant family and friends events – weddings, first birthdays, events which cannot be repeated.
We headed to Europe earlier than planned, and as a result got to experience the end of a European winter. We experienced an immediate increase in the quality of life. People had more freedom, more space and more health. We were exposed to a history that had been venerated for many years, retold and modified, but also protected and celebrated. It felt like this had not been happening in the same way throughout Vietnam.
We spent some two months soaking up what Europe had to offer. Throughout this time we enjoyed the history and culture we were exposed to, the language, the cuisine, the social expectations and values that varied from home. At the same time, the overwhelming privilege of being a traveller began to weary us. Every day is a feast at the smorgasbord of opportunities that await the traveller. We strongly felt an absence of purpose, of meaning, of being involved with what we are passionate about.
We also realised that despite picking up short term work teaching in the UK, it was not going to match what we do at home. We would be in between different schools with no local understanding of the situation. Whilst this may develop over time we did not see how it would work for us.
What became strongly apparent was that we have a sense of balance at home. While we like to enjoy time off work, to explore different experiences and make adventures, doing this for months on end was not quite what it was cracked up to be. There is a feeling like a lack of agency, an impotence in being a constant consumer and not contributing. This is starkly contrasted to home where support and are in turn supported by family, friends and colleagues. These networks make meaning for us.
Initially we struggled with the idea of changing our plans. It was confusing and frustrating to think that we had sacrificed and made of a lot of changes to get overseas and then so quickly found that it was not what it was meant to be. We struggled to name the feelings and to deal with the need to justify what we were thinking.
Eventually it became clearer. We were going to head home to Australia earlier than expected, without working in the UK. Allowing ourselves to feel this and to acknowledge this was a weight off our shoulders. Once we had realised and admitted it we needed to start some changes including letting our recruitment friend know that we were no longer planning on working in the UK. We also needed to work out what we would be doing for the rest of our now abridged version of round the world travel.
Our decision was to spend quite a bit of this time traveling through Europe to visit places we felt strongly drawn too, particularly Italy, Spain and Germany. We knew we were also flying to Buenos Aires and out of Santiago so would need to factor this part of the trip into our revised plans.
Where it currently stands we will travel for just over four months, experiencing fourteen different countries. We will go back home, humbled at having learned more about ourselves and about the world we live in. We will go back home speaking more German, eating more like Spaniards and Italians. We will go home feeling awfully lucky to live in the lucky country and to be privileged enough to be a traveler. We will go home thankful for the warmth of friendship and hospitality provided by many along the way. We will go home hungry to spend time with family and with our puppy. We will go home to be home. And I can’t wait!