Travelling extensively is something that few people get to do, unless you are fabulously wealthy and can take a lot of time off. And taking a year off to do nothing but travel is something that even fewer people ever get to do in their lives. Luckily I was one of them, but now my year on the road is officially coming to an end. I finally have big news — after months of uncertainty and wondering what the next move will be, finally life has direction again.
We are moving back to Hong Kong! Surprise!
A nice new job awaits, and we go in just four weeks. It is an incredible relief. I am definitely looking forward to returning to a normal life, re-joining a group of wonderful friends, finding a new job, and just getting on with the business of regular old living.
The past 15 months or so have been some of the weirdest and hardest of my life. In fact, since we sold everything we owned and left Hong Kong a little more than a year ago, let’s just say nothing has really worked out. Or, perhaps in a strange way things actually HAVE worked out, and going back to Hong Kong is simply the closure of this cycle of change.
So today I want to talk about the downside of travelling, and trust me such a thing does exist. When I was a cubicle slave, I dreamed of the day that I would unshackle myself from my desk, burn my black suits, and take off for some little piece of paradise and do nothing but sit under the coconut trees and swim in the sea.
When I had enough savings, I did just that. It sounded like a good idea — to take a year off ‘to travel’. A vague and very nondescript plan. Something that I thought was a golden opportunity. Something I might never get to do again in life. I had no mortgage to pay, no kids to support, and enough dollars in the bank to take the time off. I figured it would be fun, so I gave it a try.
Well, be careful what you wish for. Sometimes fantasy is better than reality.
We packed up and we left and rented a little house on the beach in Thailand. Sounds nice, right? But what did I learn? I learnt that 30 is much too young to drop out of the real world. Thailand is a wonderful place to live if you are a 60 year old retiree with a pocket full of Viagra. But what was I doing there? I went to Thailand, but real life simply continued without me. I had no job, all my friends were back in Hong Kong doing their thing, and I was just bumming around on the beach, wondering what to do with myself.
What ensued after leaving Thailand was months of living out of a suitcase. I had a great time visiting friends in England, China, Japan and so on. I spent five amazing, incredible, dream-like weeks in France. But after a while, what I really started longing for was just to have my own home again. To not live in a hotel any more. To wake up and cook breakfast in my own kitchen in my buss-up pajamas. To walk around naked in the living room. To sit on the couch and watch a movie. To call up a friend to go liming. And when you’re constantly moving every few weeks, you just can’t do those things. Life has no stability, no real direction. And we humans, are creatures of habit.
Here’s another thing you don’t realise about a life on the road — you get fat! When you don’t have a real home you don’t have a real kitchen, which means you end up eating out all the time. And you are not a member of any gym either. It starts off innocently enough. You think, oh man I am in London! I better eat some yummy fish and chips! Then it’s oh wow I’m in China! I better et some dumplings while I am here! Next thing you know, you’re buying a new pair of jeans to cover up your fat ass! You read the book ‘Eat Pray Love’? Remember how she puts on 10 pounds in Italy? I can vouch for this phenomenon!
After the six or seven months of travelling, The Husband got The Job in Dubai. I wasn’t keen on going, but I had to admit it sounded pretty good, and I was ready to settle down somewhere (anywhere!). Dubai gets you with what are called the Golden Handcuffs — the perks and the so-called sweet life that you just can’t give up because you could probably never afford that lifestyle back home. Our house, fully paid for. All the bills paid for. Interest free loans for cars. If we had stayed and had babies, we would not have paid a cent of tuition until they turned 18. It is no wonder people are flocking to the Middle East for work. Those Golden Handcuffs sure are shiny.
But god how I hated Dubai. I thought it was a horrible place, for a number of reasons I won’t get into here. I loved where we lived, I loved having four toilets, I loved our massive living room and all the new furniture and appliances we bought. But overall, no I did not like Dubai one bit. Then what happened? A disaster and a miracle of sorts. We left after just a few months! The job didn’t work out, and if you ask me, it was the best thing that could have happened. I didn’t really want to spend three to five years there, deep down. We spent a few very stressful weeks frantically selling everything we had just bought, but when the plane took off from Dubai International Airport, I never looked back.
So for the past three months we’ve been in Tokyo, doing an intensive international job hunt to try to find our next home. We both sent out dozens and dozens of resumes to different countries, from Malaysia to Mauritius to Malta. But somehow, deep down, I just knew that Hong Kong would be the place we would end up in again. I’ll be honest, part of me wasn’t 100% sure about going back to those crowded noisy streets and the endless hustle and bustle and pushing and shoving. After all, we had tried so hard to get out of Hong Kong just a year ago! But finally, two days ago, the job offer came through, and I received the news with a huge sigh of relief.
So in conclusion, what have I learned from this mad, insane, ridiculous year of constant immigration?
I’ve learnt first and foremost that as a young person you need to have something you care about to do every day. You need to be productive. You need to be needed, to have people depend on you, to have challenges and successes and milestones.
I’ve also learnt that having a good group of friends you can rely on is incredibly crucial, because no man is an island. Travelling around for a year was actually very lonely because life goes on with you while you are off gallivanting.
I’ve learnt there is no perfect place, but once you have a job to do every day and good liming partners, then life is pretty damn good and you should be grateful.
And last but not least, I’ve learnt that travelling is a fun hobby, but is not a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally.
I asked myself, do I regret this year of never ending homelessness? Absolutely not. But will I ever take a year off again? NO WAY IN HELL. My moving days are over, officially.
Everyone needs a place to call home.
Looks like Hong Kong will be home, once again.
4 thoughts on “The Downside of Travelling”
Oh I so totally agree! I’m off to Azerbaijan soon, chomping at the bit to get there AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to stop living out of a suitcase. I’ll only be there four months, but then something else will come along and hopefully I can settle down. I’ve been peripatetic for 2 1/2 decades and I’m ready to call it quits on that!
Wonderful! Hong Kong will welcome you back with open arms, I’m sure. 🙂 We should organize a welcome back hike for you in celebration.
So glad something has come up. Please e-mail us your mailing address when you have it.
So happy for you Em, and so happy that I’ll be joining you on this new adventure!