Freaking out about returning home after nearly three years away

It has been nearly six years since Dave and I spent a Christmas in Australia with all of our family around us. Six years! Sometimes I find that difficult to believe myself.

The last time we were home in Australia was nearly three years ago when we went back to get married on a swelteringly hot 40 degree day in Perth.

At our wedding nearly three years ago

At our wedding nearly three years ago

Being away from our families and friends

We chose to fly to Canada after we quit our jobs in London rather than fly home to Australia. And after already living in London for nearly five years, and choosing not to go home, you might think that’s a little odd. Or that we’re simply not very close with our families.

But we are extremely close to our families and we miss them terribly when we’re away. For us, it’s the hardest thing about travelling for so long.

Not only do we feel sad for missing them, but we also feel pangs of guilt because we know they miss us too.

Me with my dad Double-Barrelled Travel

Me and my dad

Sometimes (and not too often, and for that I’m thankful) our families ask us when we’re going to stop travelling. It’s a difficult question because we honestly don’t know the answer. Although we’d love to pick a date and say, ‘Oh, in six months’ time’, we really can’t give false promises because we know they’ll cause more harm than good.

Three years away from home is too long though. After doing it, we know it. We’re going to try and fly home at least once a year from now on. Because as much as we love travelling, we also love our families and we want to keep the ties strong. Skype is great but it’s not the same as being face-to-face.

Dave and Vanessa Croatia Double-Barrelled Travel

My mum and Dave. Dave is pretty stoked he has her as a mum-in-law

Apprehension about returning

It sounds silly but Dave and I were feeling really nervous about returning to Perth.

Even as I write those words, I realise how strange they seem. Why wouldn’t we want to return to our hometown?

I think the main reason is because we’ve changed.

Our outlook on life is surprisingly different to when we started travelling 18 months ago. We’ve changed from wanting a four bedroomed, two bathroomed home in the suburbs complete with flat screen TV, to a vision that doesn’t include a house or a specific location but is more about an ideal lifestyle we want to live. And that lifestyle could encompass many places and many homes (all of which we’ll probably rent).

But it’s not just our outlook that’s changed, our core values have been drastically altered in a way in which we’re not sure our friends and family will be able to understand.

We now want to travel long-term with our children (if we have them) because we want them to grow up with their eyes wide open to the world. And we want them to learn not simply from what they read in a book (or a newspaper!) but from what they experience first-hand. We’d love for them to be bilingual too.

Dave with his parents Double-Barrelled Travel

Dave with his parents in Croatia

We don’t really think owning a house, or a car, or a TV, or a closet full of clothes is important any more. We could go the rest of our lives without these things and I think we’d be happy.

It still feels strange for me to write that, but I know it’s the truth. I never would’ve felt that way 18 months ago – I was aspiring, in some ways, to work up to owning a big home with lots of shiny objects adorning it, but now I don’t want that at all.

In fact, the thought of giving $500,000 (the average house price where we’re from) to a bank now for a house – quite frankly – scares me. Debt has always been a frightening thing for both me and Dave (Dave famously bought his Audi in cash a number of years ago, and we still don’t own credit cards) and it’s something we’ve avoided all our lives.

Now we’ve been seriously doubting whether home ownership is really for us. But anyway, that’s a post for another time.

In some ways I feel owning a house and thousands of objects would just be a headache. In the West we put so much emphasis on object-ownership as a representation of success but many of us live in debt to get there. Often people are fooling themselves about what they truly ‘own’, making repayments each month to keep all their things in place. To have lots of bills to pay each month is something that doesn’t appeal to me.

Currently all the bills we pay are for Spotify and Netflix.

Last Christmas in Dominica - although it was great I can't wait to sit on my local beach at home this year!

Last Christmas in Dominica – although it was great I can’t wait to sit on my local beach at home this year!

Unconventional lives

And I guess these unconventional views are different from our friends’ and is probably what was causing me the most apprehension about going home – that we’re not going to be understood.

Sure, with books like The Four Hour Work Week and The Art of Non-Conformity, the concept of working remotely while you travel the world isn’t that new anymore. It’s still a little unusual though, and it does get some raised eyebrows when we explain it to other people we meet on the road.

Lots of our friends (and our family – like I mentioned before!) have asked us when we’ll be returning to settle down in Perth. I guess some of them think that perhaps we’re taking an extended Gap Year, spending all our money and living the dream. Well, they’d be right on the last count, but not the first two.

Me with my wonderful in-laws. Not only do I get along with my in-laws and Dave gets along with my parents, but both sets of parents are really good friends - they even go on holiday without us. We're blessed.

Me with my wonderful in-laws. Not only do I get along with my in-laws and Dave gets along with my parents, but both sets of parents are really good friends – they even go on holiday without us. We’re blessed.

And the truth is, we’re not sure we ever want to ‘settle down’. We might just keep the lifestyle going – and for some people that’s hard to understand because it’s so different from the norm.

But over the past few weeks my anxiousness has begun to abide. That’s fine if our friends don’t ‘get’ why we want to keep travelling. I don’t think it’s going to change the way they think about us, so why does it matter if they don’t understand? We love knowing we can just grab Thomas Cook flights at the drop of a hat, that we can up and leave, and explore the next city on a whim.

I don’t mind if they live their chosen way in a gorgeous home and the stability of being in one place for their whole lives. If they’re happy, that’s all I care about.

And thankfully, I think that with our friends and family the feeling is mutual.

Have you ever had apprehensive feelings about returning home?

This post was written as a collaboration with Thomas Cook Airlines. But my thoughts on my anxiety about returning home are certainly my own.

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

8 comments on “Freaking out about returning home after nearly three years away”

  1. Andrea Anastasiou Reply

    Great post. Definitely resonates with me. We’re heading to Cyprus to spend Christmas with my mum and family, but I’m not really apprehensive about that – they’re very open minded and don’t really question me much. But in India (Ankit’s home country) it was a little different. I got the sense that a lot of people thought of what we are doing as one long holiday, and wouldn’t take the fact that we actually work while we’re on the road too seriously! I tried not to let it get to me, but I have to see it irritated me! I don’t question other people’s lifestyles, so why should mine be questioned?

    I then realised that you cannot control what other people think about you, so there’s little to no point even worrying about it! So you guys just enjoy your time at home and sod what everyone says 🙂
    Andrea Anastasiou recently posted…Has Travel Made Me Happier?My Profile

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Hi Andrea,

      It’s so true – and I bet it’s tough in places in India where it’s still very traditional. But you’re completely right – you shouldn’t let it bother you, as tough as it might be!

      Thanks for your comment,

  2. Jean | Holy Smithereens Reply

    Hi! First time to comment here! I can totally understand your thoughts about returning home. I too have a goal of making travel as a way of life rather than a yearly treat. I guess I’m half – half wherein I have ‘settled’ and bought a house, and have a home base in Sydney (and Canberra)– and yes the HEADACHES of purchasing property and all the other commitment that comes with it. In a way I’ve worked out how to constantly travel while keeping a base somewhere. And I too find it annoying how people expect a formula for your life. (ie. that once you get married, you Must have children and settle down). To each their own, there isn’t just one path or way to live life. Anyway I wish you all the best and just enjoy being home for the moment 🙂
    Jean | Holy Smithereens recently posted…Exploring Rome in a Vespa with ScooteromaMy Profile

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Thanks Jean! Yes, part of us thinks it would be lovely to buy a house as a home base too, but Perth is so far away from everything (it’s the most remote capital city in the world after Honolulu!) that it wouldn’t be an easy point to travel from.
      My parents are always saying how important it is to get on the property ladder and perhaps we just need to think about it a bit more… although I don’t think that anxiety will go away easily.
      Although keeping a base somewhere is certainly comforting…
      Yes, totally understand the prescribed lifestyle people expect. But yes, to each their own 🙂

  3. Valerie Reply

    Hi Carmen, hi Dave!! I hope you’ve both been well since I last saw you in September 🙂

    My thoughts: our parents’ generation (even though from different countries) was told that property was a necessary part of security in older age because it becomes an asset whenever you finally pay it off–I think we’re going to see the rise of ‘alternative’ older-folks housing: apartment and condo complexes that cater to people like us who didn’t buy property and don’t feel the need to.

    I would say, if you’ve genuinely thought about it and you’re not sure it’s the right time, wait. In the US (probably you guys felt it a bit too), the housing market bottomed out and people got stuck with homes or bankrupt–that’s a huge risk for a huge commitment. I’d rather spend that money investing on other assets that are important to me!
    Valerie recently posted…Black Friday, Cyber Monday, & Everything BetweenMy Profile

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      You’re totally right Valerie! Thanks for being in touch and it’s lovely to hear your thoughts.
      Yep, I certainly think our parents’ generation think a little differently about property ownership – and for sure it’s not the stable investment it once was!

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