After much deliberation I decided to cut this trip 6 months short, and have booked a flight home right in time for NYE. Why on earth did I do that? Well…
Back when I posted last, my head was in a bit of a mess. The dilemma of to go home or not to go home was driving me up the wall. On the one hand I knew that financially I couldn’t stretch my wallet much longer, and on the other I felt that to give up so easily would mean that I’d somehow failed as a traveller. Eventually I set all my options out on the table and took a good hard look at what I was doing, and it turned out my woes boiled down to more than just a dwindling bank account…
I didn’t want to go to Colombia
I mean, I do want to go to Colombia, but I didn’t want to go there for the job I had been offered. At first it seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop my teaching skills whilst immersing myself in the vibrant Colombian culture. Unfortunately as the months went on it became very clear that what I was really signing up for was a job very similar to what I’d already done in Madrid, except for much lower pay and longer working hours, with constant cancellations on top.
A friend of mine already on the programme said himself that the job he liked least, and he was just using it as time to explore Colombia paid for mostly by savings he’d brought with him. I was prepared to challenge myself, but without any savings to explore with I started to doubt whether that was really the best way I could spend half of 2017. Moreover, without a start date or a location to work with I felt like I was in limbo and struggled to organise my life around ‘mights’ and ‘maybes’. Then (finally) at the beginning of December – after many months delay – they announced the starting date would be a month later than I’d expected, and that 4 of the 6 weeks free accommodation had been cut. I officially could not afford to be there, and I was relieved.
I missed home.
Unable to make it as far as Colombia I had two options: attempt to find work in Chile, or go home. The former was tempting but unfortunately as summer holidays came around work was impossible to find, so I went for the latter. I missed home, but more specifically the people there. After two years abroad I was tired of being surrounded by strangers. Real friendships take months to build and cannot be built with just anyone. The constant flow of new people in my life was (especially during the first year) exciting; I quickly made friends with people all over the world, of all different ages, and I enjoyed building a new life abroad. I found freedom in people not knowing about my history, and took it as an opportunity to be 100% myself outside of pre-forged friend circles and the restrictions that came with them.
Unfortunately as none of these people were staying abroad, they each left eventually and I was left to start all over again. Trying to settle back into a place I’d settled into the year before was way harder than I had anticipated, and by the end of the year I was surrounded by a large circle of acquaintances and only a few people close and reliable enough to call my friends.
Then in September, I was faced with a third year among strangers. Round three – third time lucky? Not quite… Meeting people is easy, but meeting your people is not. I don’t have a great big personality – I tend to just hope my kind of people will gravitate towards me and see a nice person on the other side of my icy resting bitch face. Thus far this method has not failed me and I have met some freakin’ awesome individuals on this continent (especially women), but as backpackers, we all move in different directions eventually and the weekly goodbyes have taken their toll. I miss mis mejores amigas, and I want to spend some good quality time at home with them before we drift further apart.
I achieved what I wanted to achieve
Since leaving Peru three and a half years ago I said to myself I would learn Spanish, then go come back and travel through South America. Before I left I was very self-conscious about my language skills and thought I needed way more than a few months to reach a level I felt comfortable with. Well, little after a month of being told by South Americans that my Spanish was great, I finally gained some confidence and my fluency soared as a result. I now feel totally comfortable entering into a conversation and understand pretty much everything that is said to me (accent depending), so I think I can cut myself some slack. Goal achieved. YA HABLO ESPAÑOL (mas o menos…).
And now, I need a break
To travel is my passion, and it is something I do very well. But this lifestyle of constant movement in foreign environments has worn me out. This trip has given me an all you can eat buffet’s worth of food for thought, and I need time to recharge and rethink my next move. I am going home to allow myself space to focus and to work on the things I have neglected whilst I have been away. For example: I want to get my driver’s licence so I can rent cars abroad, take swimming lessons so I can dive into the ocean without fear, and get back into the physical shape I was in before my erratic Spanish timetable added a few inches to my waistline so I can go hike Patagonia like a Girl Boss.
I know there are many travel bloggers who are somehow able to lead this vagabond existence for years on end, but in the words of my wise friend Rebecca – there is no ‘right’ way to travel. Since accepting this fact and ignoring the false reality shared on Instagram, I have felt 100% at peace with my decision and have been having a far better time out here as a result. Moreover, ending this trip here in Cusco – the city that inspired this dream in the first place – feels right.
My love affair with South America is far from over, but after 3 intense months, I need some time to figure out how to make our future together work. I land back in London just in time to celebrate NYE with my two best friends in this entire mundo (one of whom I have not seen in an entire YEAR), AND I CAN’T BLADDY WAIT.