So tonight is my last night in Europe, after almost two years of living on this side of the world. And in two weeks time, after our last little hurrah in the Philippines, I’ll be back in Australia. For good. After almost eight years of traveling the world, living in both the UK and Canada and backpacking over 60 countries across all seven continents of the world it’s finally time for me to hang up my backpack and go home. To live a normal life where I live in a house, city or country for more than a year. See my family weekly and have a relationship that’s not based on FaceTiming every few weeks and seeing each other every couple of years. To have friends I see regularly. Buy a car, furniture and, hopefully one day, a house. Have nice, good quality clothes that aren’t constantly stored in a backpack. To be able to join sporting teams or the gym. To not feel guilty about spending money on buying clothes or going to the cinema or going out for dinner because from the age of 16 (over ten years) I was constantly stressing over having enough money for travel, always prioritising it over any other part of my life. Regular things that most people probably take for granted but things I crave. Because it means that I’m in one place, that I’m settled. Something I haven’t had in over eight years.
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t always so ready for this ‘normal life.’ Every part of my soul is a wanderer, a nomad, a gypsy. Exploring new cities and countries and constantly being on the move is really the only adult life I know. Its my ‘normal life,’ it’s what feels safe and familiar to me. I don’t know how to live any other way. And it scares me to my core to start this new chapter. I’ve had to start new chapters in new countries twice before (the UK and Canada) but neither scared me anywhere near as much as this one, moving back home to Australia. It sounds ridiculous I know. But it hasn’t been my home in a very long time. And even though I’ve been back a few times over the last eight years (to work for a few months to save more travel money) I feel like I was never really home, never truly present in the moment, in my life there. Always feeling like I should be elsewhere, always chasing the next country, the next experience, the next adventure I was never really in the moment, appreciating my home, my family, my friends. I didn’t see it then, but I do now.
I’m scared to go home because it feels like I’m going to a foreign place, having to start completely fresh. Home is different now. Normally when I return home it’s always the same, as if I never left, as if time stood still whilst I was gone. But so much has happened over the last few years and nothing is the same as it was. Everything is different. And the Sasha that’s going back is a very different Sasha to the one that left.
I’m scared that I will get itchy feet, that I will get restless, that I won’t be able to handle the routine, the creature comforts that come with being settled in one place. Yet on the other hand I crave all of those things. It’s a classic example of wanting your cake and wanting to eat it too. I want both, but I can only have one.
My boyfriend Andy is especially ready to settle. Being younger than me it always surprises me how much more he wants to settle down, to start ‘adult’ life. Society makes us believe that it’s always the women who are the ones eager to settle down but from my experience, as well as many of my friends, it’s the guys who actually are. Andy and I both traveled quite a bit before we met and as much as he has enjoyed traveling the world together over the last four years (over 46 countries as a couple) he isn’t a nomad like me. He has been craving routine and a comfortable life for quite a while. Out of the both of us he definitely struggles more with the sacrifices you have to make to live this travel lifestyle. He misses having a friendship group that he sees regularly, he is tired of having to make new friends every few months and then having to say goodbye a few months later. He wants to join a football team. He doesn’t just want to live in a (share) house, he wants to live in a home. He wants a car, a dog and a family. And I can no longer drag him around the world with me when I know how much he wants a more stable lifestyle. And so at first, when we decided that we were going to end our nomadic lifestyle and make a home for ourselves in Australia together, I was hesitant, nervous and scared. But the closer we get to arriving home the more sure I am in this decision.
There will always be more countries, cities and place to explore. No matter how much I travel my list constantly gets bigger, never smaller. But I’ve been on this journey for eight years, in a few days time I turn twenty-seven. I no longer want to spend my days carrying my life in my backpack, having broken sleep in hostel dorms and barely seeing the ones I love. I no longer want to spend so much time researching places to go, sitting on buses for ten hours or stressing over money (because I’m always trying to stretch my small amount of money much further than it should be humanly possible to).
I’m currently staying in my friends beautiful apartment in Munich. It’s cosy, clean and feels like home. All weekend we’ve been getting excited over the most mundane things, like not having to share a kitchen with multiple people, not having to wear headphones whilst we watch tv on our laptops, being able to relax and have our own space. It’s so nice! And in this moment I’ve never been so sure of our decision to return home.
I’m not saying I’ll never travel again, there’s too many places yet to see in this beautiful world, but it’s the end of this lifestyle. It’s the end of backpacking for months/years at a time. It’s the end of traveling on a backpackers budget and staying in dormitories. Next time I travel I’ll stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and have enough money to enjoy it more. I may have traveled over 60 countries but I haven’t had a holiday since I was 18. People have this idea that traveling is one big holiday, but I assure you it’s not even close. In the future when I travel, I will be going on holidays. And I’ll relax. And it will be glorious!
As Andy is British, and has already used his working holiday visa, we are about to start the long and expensive process of applying for his permanent residency. And whilst his application is being processed (which can take up to two years) he can not leave Australia. So our decision to come home and settle down for good has not come lightly. It means that I will most likely not be traveling overseas in the foreseeable future, but instead holiday in my own backyard of Australia (there’s worse places to travel, hey?). But don’t worry I still have a million blogs to write as I’ve been too busy having fun to really write anything for months. And we really have had the best time on this trip, we knew it was our last ‘backpacking’ adventure and have made the most of it, we’ve enjoyed every single second and I’m so glad we got to end this chapter of our lives on such a high.
I’ve had the most incredible eight years traveling the world. I’ve seen and done things most people only dream about. I’ve made the most amazing friends and met incredible people. I’ve skydived over Hawaii, I’ve bungee jumped and hiked glaciers in New Zealand, hiked volcanoes in Chile and Nicaragua, camped on the ice in Antarctica. I’ve swam/snorkelled with dolphins, turtles and sharks in more reefs than I can remember. I’ve watched the Northern Lights dance over my head more times than I can count. I’ve had picnics under the Eiffel Tower and explored Castles all over Europe. I’ve worked at two summer camps in the USA. Built houses and classrooms with my bare hands in Africa. Taught street kids in India. Trekked the Great Wall of China. Partied at Carnival in Brazil. I’ve swam with alligators and Pink River Dolphins in the Amazon. I’ve wakeboarded, sandboarded and snowboarded all over the world. I went white water rafting in Chile. I accidentally died my hair hot pink during Holi festival in India. Rode Camels in the desert and slept under the stars in the Sahara. I cycled down the death road in Bolivia and caught many sleeper trains in India. I got food poisoning more times than I can remember. I befriended a Monk in Dharamsala and admired Uluru at sunset. I kayaked the Lake District in Patagonia and went camping in Switzerland. I danced with the locals watching a Bollywood film and during the closing of the borders ceremony in India. I learnt how to Salsa in Chile and Samba in Brazil. Almost died in Colombia and almost got robbed at gunpoint in Kenya. Watched Orca whales in Canada. Explored Ireland and Iceland by camper van. Went zip lining in the Costa Rican jungle and went exploring underground rivers in Guatemala. Wandered through the Souks in Morocco and saw the Big 5 on safari in Kenya. Spent a few days living on a remote island with the local Guna Yala people in the San Blas Islands. Went surfing in Cornwall and hiking in the Peak District. I swam in between two continents in Iceland and lived in both one of the biggest cities in the world (London) as well as the most beautiful National Park in the world (Banff). Ate the craziest foods and met the most amazing people. I’ve traveled all seven continents, seen hundreds of the wonders of the world and explored over 60 countries all on a backpackers budget. I traveled for four years as a solo female traveler and four years traveling as a couple. I’ve seen and done more than I’ll ever be able to remember and for that I am so grateful. I am so lucky to have been able to live this most amazing, adventure filled life over the last eight years. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s always been worth it.
It’s bittersweet saying goodbye to this chapter of my life but I’m so excited to start this new, exciting chapter with the man I love more than anything.
See you soon Australia!