Notes from a traveller: part 13

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Kaye’s adventures in North and South America are over – for now. Read the final instalment of her ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, only on Just About Travel

Continued from last time

I’ve landed back in London – albeit, dear reader –  a little reluctantly. I left the UK in state of nervousness and excitement about entering the unknown. But returning to the capital – where it’s cold (even in August), grey and familiar  – has proved to be the  hardest part of the whole experience.

The last five months have been fantastic only now – as  with any great party – the hangover has taken hold. I was aware that  I wouldn’t fall in love again with London immediately and two tube strikes in as many months, plus engineering works every weekend on the much maligned Metropolitan line certainly haven’t helped matters.

But it’s more than this. Tube troubles aside, life in London – after my colourful experiences and adventures overseas – feels monotonous. It’s only been a month but already I am feeling stuck –  a small cog in a big machine – and can’t help but question: surely reality shouldn’t bite quite so hard?

Catching up with friends in Cahoots

Catching up with friends in Cahoots

Nothing appears to have changed: the Daily Mail still bangs on about immigration, the foul fly-tipping outside my flat hasn’t stopped (despite repeated cries to the council for help),  the cost of living continues to be crazy and it remains incumbent upon me to organise every single social activity for friends and family (whereas overseas my expat friends and I took it in turns). Outwardly I might be smiling but inside I am screaming: London show me a little love!

And yet, while on first glance everything seems the same, the reality is that life at home has moved on without me. I’ve had adventures – new sights, sounds and smells – but I’ve missed out on seeing friends and family marry, move house, become parents, get promoted….

108 Brasserie in Marylebone

108 Brasserie in Marylebone

But arguably what’s changed most… is me. I used to get my strength from London. Once upon a time, an afternoon spent  wandering around the capital – with its brilliant bars, restaurants, parks, carnivals, museums, theatres and art galleries –  energised me. I spent my first weekend back in town revisiting old haunts but alas – far from feeling alive and thrilled, I just felt jaded.

It’s dawned on me that while I do love multicultural London – nowhere else in the UK even comes closes –  I am no longer in love with the capital. My time abroad has shown me that that life outside of London is just as valid as life in London.

Bottom line? The logical and personal conclusion of everything I have seen and experienced in recent months is this: London is simply better from a distance.  Or in the words of the late Chinese writer Lin Yutang: “No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

High Society at the Old Vic

High Society at the Old Vic

I know now that I was born a wanderer – I feel caged when confined with the same people and surroundings. I don’t know where I will be when my life ends but it won’t be in my hometown of Harrow.

This recent epiphany is one of the things I love most about exploring: on every trip I learn something new about myself and it’s this that makes travel so personal and exciting.

The American Bar at The Savoy

The American Bar at The Savoy

All of which means that I am beginning to think very seriously about taking a leap of faith and relocating to either Buenos Aires – the heart and turbulent soul of a great country – or Honolulu (my happy place).

Is this normal behaviour? No. Normal, as the American journalist Ellen Goodman, put it “is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it”.

But then again normal has never held much appeal for me. Or as JR Tolkien termed it: “Not everyone who wanders is lost”…

Kaye loves London but she is no longer in love with London

Kaye loves London but she is no longer in love with London

Working remotely overseas is hard work, but immensely rewarding. Here’s five things I learnt…

Travel light
Locals have to buy clothes as well you know and they’ll be more climate/culture appropriate and cheaper too. Lugging a heavy backpack on and off buses, trains and planes isn’t fun. It’s better to own little and see the world, than own the world and see little of it.

Drink bottled or boiled water
And plenty of it. I got a little too gung-ho in Colombia, inadvertently drank contaminated water and contracted giardia, a parasite that subsequently saw me suffer from sickness, severe abdominal pains, diarrhoea and dehydration. Grrrr!

Go with your gut feeling
Trust your instincts. If the taxi driver seems shady, he might be. If the bus driver seems drunk, he probably is. If the Airbnb owner strikes you as being untrustworthy, find an alternative – even if it’s more expensive. Speaking of which if a deal appears too good to be true, chances are it is.

Treat your hosts and yourself
There will be days when you feel a long way from home and a little treat can make a big difference. If dorm rooms are becoming a drag, a night in a private room can restore your sanity. Body battered and bruised from too many overnight bus journeys? A massage works wonders!

Reverse culture shock
Be prepared for this. Coming back home to the drab, grey and familiar was the hardest part of my whole ‘working remotely’ experience. Have some funds set aside while your abroad (and resist from touching them) to smooth your way.


London, it’s over

To read part one of Kaye’s ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, please click here

To read part two click here and here

To read part three, click here

To read part four, click here

To read part five, click here and here

To read part six, click here and here

To read part seven, click here and here

To read part eight, click here

To read part nine, click here and here

To read part 10, click here

To read part 11, click here

To read part 12, click here

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