I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time now. I’d actually had it all planned out before I went travelling – with exactly the same title. I’d imagined returning home and gushing about how going away had transformed me, how it had changed my life. How seeing the world had filled me with purpose and that I’d ‘found myself’ in an Eat Pray Love sort of way.
Travelling did all these things, but not in the way I thought it would.
It was late 2017 when I made the decision to go to Australia. It was something I’d always wanted to do so I thought, why not now? I’d been living alone in the North East for a year and had recently moved back in with my parents. I wasn’t happy in my job, I’d been through a rough breakup a few months prior and I was feeling restless and deflated. I felt as if everyone around me was hitting milestones – buying houses, getting promoted, having babies. I wanted to do something exciting as well, so I handed my notice in and booked a one-way ticket to Sydney.
As the day of my flight loomed closer, I remember the feeling of dread in my stomach. It surprised me as even though I’m close with my family, I’ve always been fiercely independent. I’d moved away countless times before and had always been content enough. I simply put it down to nerves and told myself that I’d soon be in glorious sunshine, sunbathing and having the time of my life!
I arrived in Australia in early Feb. I did some incredible things those first few weeks – I jet ski-ed around Sydney harbour, ate beautiful food, petted kangaroos in Anna Bay and lounged around in 35 degree heat. Australia was just as amazing as everyone had said it was; the beaches were stunning, the weather was incredible and there was so much to do and see. Anyone following me on social media would have thought I was in my element. Sadly, the reality was somewhat different.
I’m not sure when it occurred to me that I wasn’t having a good time. I felt ridiculous, not to mention ungrateful. Here I was, in one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, seemingly without a care in the world – yet I felt desperately sad.
The jet lag didn’t help. I spent many of those first nights lying wide awake, wondering what my next move would be and almost wishing I’d never left home. My friends back in the UK were living vicariously through me, texting to say how jealous they were, and all I could think of was how much I wanted to trade places with them.
Despite my worries, I tried my hardest to enjoy myself. I stayed in Sydney for just under three weeks and then took a Greyhound bus to Byron Bay. From there I travelled to the Gold Coast and Brisbane before finally flying down to Melbourne.
The one thing that stuck out to me the whole time I was away was how lonely I felt. I was staying in hostels and therefore meeting other travellers constantly, but as everyone was moving around so often, I was saying goodbye to people just days after we met. If I felt particularly down in the middle of the day, I couldn’t speak to anyone back home due to the time difference.
As the weeks went on, I gradually became more and more depressed. The homesickness was unbearable. One day I remember bursting into tears and pouring my heart out to a kind shop owner in Surfer’s Paradise. Another time I spotted a Frenchie who was identical to my little Frank and it felt like torture (I know this sounds dramatic, but if you have a dog then I’m sure you understand!). I looked through Insta pictures of other people I knew who had gone travelling, and they seemed to be having the time of their life. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel the same.
I was on the flight from Brisbane to Melbourne when I had an epiphany. I was watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I’d got to the scene near the end where Paul and Holly are in the taxi. Paul is confessing his love for Holly and recites the famous ‘wild thing’ quote:
“You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.” – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
I know it sounds dead cheesy but the quote really resonated with me. I wasn’t happy, and no matter where I travelled to, I would never be able to escape ‘myself,’ so to speak. Dropping everything and booking a one-way ticket wasn’t going to stop me overthinking, or fix my low self-esteem, or make me feel any less anxious. Yes, it had provided me with some amazing experiences, bit it hadn’t magically erased my problems. I felt as if I’d simply stuck a band aid over a large wound, and I needed to face my issues rather than burying my head in the sand.
I spent the next few weeks thinking long and hard about what I wanted to do. I’d been job hunting since I arrived in Aus and had recently been offered a position at Estee Lauder in Melbourne, so I knew I needed to make a decision. I remember sitting on St. Kilda beach, crying to my sister on the phone and telling her I just wanted to come home. It felt so drastic and final, but I made the choice then and there to cut my trip short. A few days later, I packed up my things, said goodbye to the friends I’d made and flew back to the UK. I’d planned on staying in Australia for two years, yet I was leaving after only two months.
On the flight home I asked myself constantly whether or not I was making the right decision. I felt like a failure. I was broke, with no plans and no job. It was only when I arrived at Heathrow that I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt as if a weight had been lifted, and I knew in that moment that I’d done the right thing.
The next few months were a struggle at first but I soon slipped into a comfortable routine. I managed to land myself a job that I enjoyed, I got back into blogging and I started exercising regularly again. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for me, however, was coming to terms with my mental health. After years of putting it off, I finally saw my GP and from then on I was able to begin my healing process. I’m incredibly lucky in that I have an amazing support system around me and after a while I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I still have my dark days – everyone does – but they are much fewer and farther between. Nowadays I have a much healthier relationship with myself and am feeling more fulfilled and accomplished than I have in years.
Of course, I don’t want to sound ungrateful when I say I didn’t ‘enjoy’ my travelling experience. I recognize that I’m very privileged in that I had the opportunity to go away. Australia is an incredible place and I’d recommend it to anyone. I would love to return for a holiday now I’m in a better headspace – there’s so much I never got to see!
Despite my parents grumbling about me ‘wasting my money,’ etc when I got home, I will never, ever regret my weeks in Aus. It taught me so much about myself and pushed me to finally get the help that I needed. We’re constantly told that social media isn’t real and that life is not a race, but my trip was what I needed to really drive that home. I’d wanted to travel, yes, but it was more the idea that appealed to me. I was desperately trying to find something that would bring me happiness, rather than recognizing the root of the problem.
If you’ve made your way to the end of this post, then thank you for reading. I hope it was interesting or helpful in some way. As I said, I’ve been meaning to write this for ages and typing it all out has brought back so many memories! I really enjoyed looking back through my photos, too… although the trip didn’t go how I’d planned, I’m glad I have some beautiful pictures to cherish.
Of course, this is just my experience and I’m in no way characterizing travel as ‘running away.’ My advice would always be to follow your gut – if something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Mental health is something that’s very close to my heart, so if anybody wants to talk, my inbox is always open.
All my love, Kate xx
First photo via unsplash.com