I recently came to the unnerving realisation that it has been over a year since I returned from India, and from my nomadic lifestyle. The thought presented itself suddenly, delivered with a sharp stab of icy fear. I fought feelings of nausea as I forced myself to consider the truth, that I have been living as a settled person, a caged bird, a conventional human for more than twelve months.
I pictured where I was a year ago, waking at dawn on a rumbling sleeper bus from Goa, my stomach flipping as I sat up to steal my first look at Mumbai, the city I had longed to visit for some time. I was hot, sticky and dirty. I was tanned. My stomach was as flat as it had ever been, and the smell of Indian spices lingered on my skin.
At the time, my mood was a near hysterical excitement combined with a borderline manic panic to take it all in. A giant, loud clock, an ever-present reminder that my time was running out was a constant presence in my mind. My adventure was drawing to a close, and my heart was doomed to be crushed by the debilitating weight of the ordinary. Not to mention the uncertainty that would come with moving back home, finding a job, and adjusting my lifestyle so drastically.
I cried during the long layover in Kuala Lumpar. I didn’t want to leave India, a place that had somehow lived up to my exceptionally high expectations. I didn’t want to unpack my backpack. I didn’t want to return to normality.
And then I was home.
And it was hard.
A last minute, irresponsible change of plans to meet friends in Amsterdam helped with the transition from nomad to returning emigrant. As did the fact that Ireland was blessed with rare great weather. There were barbecues and long summer nights. And the joy of rediscovering Dublin.
But there was that nagging feeling, the undercurrent of panic that just wouldn’t go away.
There was the uncertainty. We had to move back in with our parents, an adjustment. We went from being side by side to having to arrange times and days to meet up, our non-existent budget providing a challenge.
There was the peculiar feeling of not quite knowing where you fit. Of readjusting expectations of friendship and family. Of seeing how things have changed and evolved without you, and at times wondering why on earth you came back in the first place.
There was a lot of soul searching and sleepless nights. Anxiety about the age old question, what are you doing with your life, and the feeling of being placed in a box that didn’t quite fit fed my insomnia, along with the painful longing to be on the road again.
And then, life got crazy busy. Gone were those hazy nights spent swatting mozzies on hammocks, or watching sunsets in the oven-like air of Adelaide’s summers. Instead, there were long, varied days at a new job, and even longer and at times exhausting nights spent in a classroom. There were assignments that reignited my petulant, procrastinating inner child. There was the intricate juggling involved in keeping up with my two sites while working and studying and making time for Sean and friends.
Time began to fly. I found myself able to read travel blogs again, without feeling on the verge of depression.
It’s always the way though, isn’t it? With breakups and changes, time really does ease the pain.
With very little funds, Sean and I booked a trip to Berlin. I felt a weight lift. It was the exact same feeling of relief that came when we decided to leave Australia and go back to Asia. The feeling of travel on the horizon always causes my spirit to lift.
Travel is a tonic, a reward, a promise of exhilaration and adventure.
Berlin sustained me for a few months. It reacquainted me with Europe, the wonderful place of history, art, architecture and food that we Europeans are lucky enough to call our own.
Summer came again. I started a new job where I write all day, and Sean and I moved in together again. I still struggle to save money to travel, as I always do. A wedding in Las Vegas brought with it great times with friends and the opportunity to sneak in a visit to Philly.
Autumn brings with it cosy nights, new scarves and hats, and airline sales. I continue to be grateful to live in Dublin for its food scene, the culture and the familiarity found in the city streets I call my own. I dream of Christmas markets, another trip to Amsterdam and visiting a new country by the end of the year. All on a budget, of course!
The urge to go, to explore, to take off – it never leaves.
But the distractions of an overwhwelmingly busy schedule and a lack of money means that I have no choice but to stay put, my wings temporarily clipped.
And perhaps that is the key to keeping a wild bird grounded. Remove the possibility of escape and one becomes, in some ways, institutionalised. But give that bird the means, and the money to take off, and all that would be left would be a few stray feathers.
To all my fellow birds who find themselves with clipped wings, rest assured that it does get easier, and the wanderlust gene will always find ways to get its fix. Rediscover your own city, plan your next travels and remember that the future holds the whole world in its hands. There will be more travel ahead, I promise!