This was my new life. Protected with gloves, a hat and a ridiculously warm coat, I made my way through the English winter showers. I put down my umbrella and paused for a minute as gale force winds tore through me. It was a struggle to catch my breath as I watched a middle-aged woman get carried away in the style of Mary Poppins. Stopping short of the train station due to impassible pot-holes with collections of water, a familiar figure appeared with his hood up. Truman.
“How’s it going bro?” Truman asked as we embraced in a bromantic hug.
“Lot has happened,” I started, my mind quickly flashing over the previous six months since leaving my backpacker days behind me. “Where do I begin?”
The first weeks were spent attending parties, nights-out and general catch ups with friends who I had not seen for over a year. The main change that most of them noticed was that my accent had become even more indecipherable with a hint of Australian twang. Among the parties were weddings, a stag night, Halloween, Christmas meals and reunions. One occasion saw me reunited with my friends from the Brisbane YHA: Lynsey, Ben, Branden and Angela. They had all settled back into British life as they had never left their old lives. All apart from Branden who was on one last who-haa before going back to his Nova Scotian Canadian life.
Truman did his best to wipe the droplets from his glasses while protecting it from the elements. We were heading back to my new flat that I had been living in since arriving back in the UK. All those things I came to appreciate not having in my life: a full-time job, utility bills, a permanent residence were all back and grounding me to the floor. After a trip to Ikea I was now the proud owner of a beautiful Swedish dinning room suite. How did this happen? As Tyler Durden once said, “the things you own, end up owning you”.
Back at the flat we fired up the Xbox 360 and got back to our gaming roots. After the former semi-professional Counter Strike player got fed up with the mechanics of Street Fighter, he chucked his controller across the sofa and cracked open the Jack Daniels. “Come on Ryan, hit me with some good stories.” I did so and Truman filled me in on his tales of the seedy Thailand underground where he had a run in with the mafia.
One subject that came up a lot was the subject that I dubbed the Backpacker Blues. This was the period when a traveller comes back home from a year or so of backpacking the world and try to adjust back into the humdrum of everyday existence. “It is tough transition,” starts Truman as his Ryu picks up a KO, “I am used to getting up at 3 pm every day and relaxing on a beach. What am I going to do in society?”
My brother spoke of the same situation when he first arrived home from Port Douglas, Australia. The switch of the beautiful coast of Queensland to the pebble beaches of Rhoose is a shock to the system. There is no other method of getting out of this feeling but to keep yourself busy and constantly surround yourself with family and friends. The idle mind tends to wander back to the weeks of unrestricted gallivanting. New hobbies and routines also helps in getting back to a normal life. Or a piece of Swedish furniture, cast around around your ankle as a ball and chain.
What had struck me was that nothing had changed. Nothing. The buildings looked the same. The gossip was the same. The politicians were still making promises. The people had not aged. Signs of the recession were there to be seen. It was as though the world was trapped in a time bubble. The best analogy I can come up with is at the end of the Lord of the Rings where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin are back in a pub in The Shire sharing a few brewskis. The other Hobbits around them are none the wiser on the experience these guys had gone through. They sit there, in modest happiness of the journey that had changed their lives forever.