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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.