The final leg of the trip! Having spent 3 months in South America it was time for me to come home. I woke up at 4:30am on the 30th December 2016 in Lima and went to bed at approximately 3:30am on the 1st January 2017 in London, and had a revelation somewhere in between all thanks to a dashing wise Mexican.
I never sleep well before a flight. I tend to wake up every hour on the hour in a panic that I’ve overslept and missed my alarm, and this night was no different. I had a taxi coming to drive me to the airport for 5am and my Dad called me at 4:15 am not realising I’d still be asleep. Needless to say, I was tired, but I was excited to get myself out of the questionable airport hostel/ [what turned out to be] spare room in some old dude’s flat (sorry Mum) A.S.A.P.
I downed one of those yoghurt drinks before checking in and wondered if Aeromexico would be serving good coffee and/or free booze. The last time I flew out of Lima I went with Aeroeuropa and promised myself I would never fly with a budget airline long-haul again (if I have the luxury to avoid it). Aeromexico felt like a massive step up but I had my suspicions given just how cheap I got the flight for on studentuniverse.com. Turns out they were decent and offered free filter coffee AND beer – RESULT.
Flying into Mexico City – or as the locals call it Distrito Federal (D.F) – I couldn’t quite believe I was going to visit Mexico!? Before landing I wasn’t sure I had enough money left to leave the airport and figured I’d find a bench to sleep on and spend the afternoon dilly dallying. But then a friendly tourist guide told me that a travel card in and out of the city cost ONLY 2$ on the bus that took ONLY half an hour and that I had to be back ONLY 1 hour before my flight. Exploring a city on a stop over was a first for moi and – although worries about missing my flight slightly dented the experience – hot diggidy damn it was awesome. For less than a tenner I could buy a travel card into the centre and get a 4-course vegetarian meal in a restaurant so fancy a man was even playing piano, AND I had enough time to go sightseeing and panic NYE shoe shopping (could hardly rock the hiking boots). The city itself was a metropolis like no other and I LOVED it. The colours, the food, and the smells: I meandered around the centre and felt inspired by the buzz of it all. I had to put a lot of energy into stopping myself from thinking I SHOULD JUST MOVE TO MEXICO and get back to the airport on time.
The airport, if you were wondering, was awesome by the way. Tonnes of great places to eat, power outlets, and the gates weren’t far past security. I enjoyed some far superior Mexican version of Subway, and later a spiced hot chocolate that I hoped might help me sleep (it didn’t).
I picked up some melatonin tablets in the faint hope they’d help me sleep through my flight anxiety. I’d read they trick your body into thinking it’s time to go to bed? I’m not sure, but given I couldn’t find anywhere serving wine past security I was out of options. I popped a pill right before the flight and I could feel myself drift away not long after take off, only to be abruptly woken up by the word Vino (I figured two glasses of red and a free meal could surely only aid my situation). Then the friendly gentleman to my left heard me speak to the hostess in Spanish and proceeded in striking up a conversation with me, and my opportunity to drift off to sleep was gone.
We chatted at first in Spanish, but by this point, my brain was forgetting even basic English vocabulary. Once he revealed he was studying his PHD in Rainforest Conservation at Oxford University, I blushed at how unintelligent I must have been coming across, but also really appreciated how polite he was to patiently let me try. Needless to say, we switched to English. We chatted about England vs Mexico, the weather, and (inevitably) Brexit. We exchanged ideas on how it all came to this. I told him how I was at a loss with the United Kingdom, how before the vote I had decided I would settle in the UK, but after I felt like even more of a stranger in my own home and I couldn’t see myself living in a place that was becoming more and more inward facing.
Then he did the thing I always secretly want people to do: he poked holes in my reasoning, challenged my “I don’t like it here anymore so I’m going to runaway instead” attitude, and in turn made me have one of those ohgoshdarnit moments where you finally quit the chase and face up to what you really want from life, and realise now is the prime time to do it.
Since graduation I have been doing a bit of an escape act, doing the whole traveller shindig and focusing more on scratching countries off a map than the things that I used to consider to be defining parts of my being (whatever happened to the vegetarian that slept in the principle’s boardroom to fight against cuts hmmm?). Of course, the trips I made weren’t pointless; the whole purpose of me moving to Spain was to learn Spanish so I could go to South America and really immerse myself and learn about their culture. But after having achieved just that, I was at a loss. On the flight home, I was hyper-aware that I was going into unknown territory. Instead of facing something new I held onto the idea that I would just find a job, save money, and go straight back out – because what better way to move forward than to latch onto an expired dream…Right?
Wrong. As much as the recent phenomenon of “digital nomads” and becoming a blogger travelling the world for free seems like the dream, the reality (IMO) that they fail to tell you is after spending weeks on end seeing beautiful things, you become desensitised to them. You’re stood in front of monuments that some people could only dream of visiting and aren’t moved by them anymore – and how god damn obnoxious is that? Perhaps there exists a certain breed of traveller that are in a constant state of wanderlust and never get bored with beauty, but I am yet to meet one and know I that unfortunately, I do not possess the power to remain forever in awe. I also cannot commit myself to a life attached to my laptop, chasing instagram followers and hoping someone sponsors me to wear their gear or recommend a product I’d never actually invest in myself. For those more entrepreneur-minded nomads the blogosphere is a perfect opportunity for them but, alas, that is not the life for me!
So what does a young lady who branded herself as The Candid Nomad do next? Plan another trip? Move to Mexico? Nope. The thing that popped back into my mind after the Mexican (I never got his name) went to sleep wasn’t more travel, it was the masters I keep putting off. After graduating I said to myself I would only go back to University to study a subject that I couldn’t bore of (sorry Classics), and if I felt it would enhance my job prospects. I may have graduated with a degree in Classical Studies, but I think working on the National Citizen Service, teaching students ages two to sixty something in Spain, and volunteering for NGOs in Peru and Chile has made me pretty darn sure of my calling in this world. A year or so ago I read the suggested reading and found my head brimming with questions and ideas I wanted to explore further, but I kept making excuses and shoved it to the back of my head to think about another day. Turns out that day was 31st December 2016 and I made my decision. Over the next year, my goal is to seek more work experience in education here on home turf before applying to study a Masters in Youth Studies, and I can’t bladdy wait!
As for the travelling: this is not me giving it up, no no no. In fact, my whole desire to discover new places and immerse myself in other cultures is integral to the work I hope to one day pursue with young people, but I won’t delve into the details because I haven’t fully figured those out yet (hence the Masters). In the meantime I’m looking into shorter getaways to both new and familiar places, and am keen to share some of these experiences with friends.
So yeah, that was a mighty revelation I had flying somewhere over the Atlantic. I spent the night tossing and turning, unable to get to sleep. When he woke up we chatted some more about his upcoming trip to Uganda, and how worried he was for his girlfriend working in an area of high-risk malaria (if you thought this was going to turn into Eat. Pray. Love kinda romance, you were wrong). Flying into England the sun was beaming, but once our decent began the grey clouds and bumpy turbulence gave me a characteristically British welcome home. I grabbed some vodka at duty-free and made my way to Stamford Hill as quick as I could to ensure I had optimal time to catch up, shower, and get tipsy enough to rock a green velvet body-con dress…
Upon arrival I pounced on my two favourite ladies, only for Robyn to kindly respond:
Note: I am aware Mexico is not in South America. This post has been grouped with my other “South America 2016” entries as it is about my return from that trip and how I felt coming back, rather than a post dedicated to the 6 hours I spent in central America…