Each time I travel for an extended period I fall under the disillusioned spell of believing that when I arrive back home, everything will be exactly as I left it; every book perfectly in place on my bookshelf, my winter jackets hanging dutifully in my closet. But somehow whenever I arrive home, windswept and tanned, the spell book snaps shut and I am met with a reality completely different to how I left it. The first time I truly realised that was when I was about 8 years old and went away for a school camp. I came home to my sister who had 3 stitches in her chin. I couldn’t quite fathom that while I was away she had managed to distort her little face without me (in case you’re wondering how, she cycled into a wall). Fifteen years later, she still has a thin, silver scar.
The following is a collection of small anecdotes on coming home.
My Childhood Room got Turned into an AirBnb
This change I actually encouraged but still experienced a dull ache in my heart when I stepped into my childhood room after a trip to Reunion Island. I was coldly greeted with the clinical crispness of a hotel en suite instead of the graffiti plastered walls and the colourful knick-knacks that defined my high-school years. My mother had disfigured it completely, even adding a small kitchenette.
However, material things have always been the easiest for me to let go of and I gladly helped my mom put the finishing touches on the room by donating some of the my old things to charity and helping her take photos for the AirBnB account. Her superb hosting skills soon assisted in turning her into a super host and if you'd like to check in to her awesome AirBnB in South African (and my ex-childhood room) you can do so here at at Nahoon Beach Self-Catering Studio.
The Worst: 3 Pets Dying While I was in Sri Lanka
By far the worst, yet inevitable, phone call I received while away on a trip (in this case, Sri Lanka) was the call from my mother announcing the death of my childhood best friend: my dog, Todd. Oh, if I only knew 5 months before when I was last at home that it would be the last time I’d see him, I would have not let him out of my sight.
Barely two weeks later I got news that my cat had died unexpectedly and barely two weeks after that my mother called again with the news of another family dog, Lucky, had died peacefully in her sleep at the ripe old age of 16 years old.
‘Best’ Friends No More
This is one that I know a lot of travelers struggle with. It becomes harder and harder to keep in touch with school friends as your paths diverge further and further in opposite directions. The next thing you know, you’re going one way and they are going in the complete opposite direction. While some friendships can still survive under these testing conditions, most of mine have, unfortunately, crashed and burned or simply fizzled out.
The thing is that true friendship can survive any distance, and those that are still there for you when you get back and are not sulking because you couldn’t make their birthday party, or you forgot to reply to a few messages - those are the keepers. The ones that fall by the wayside make space for more meaningful friendships to come your way.
Luckily, as travelers, we are, for the most part, flexible and resilient, adapting to changes more fluidly than our more sedentary friends and family. And there are thousands of tiny little things that change: a few more strands of grey in your parent’s hair, a leak in the roof, a potted plant you can’t quite remember being there before, a new restaurant down the road or your favorite restaurant torn down. Sometimes it may be hard to accept but there’s a reason why ‘change is the only constant’ is such a popular saying. No matter who you are and where you are in the world, it’s always true.