Back to Life, Back to Reality

After 348 nights of living out of a backpack, we’ve finally made it home.

The first week has been an absolute whirlwind of seeing long lost family and friends; a frenzied and relentless need to keep unpacking; the panic buying of school uniform and shoes; working 2 days in a brand new job; studying 5 days in a brand new class at school; doing about 67 loads of washing; dedicating an entire room in our house just to our unopened post; making scores of phone calls to reconnect various utilities and services; and finding a new appreciation for very simple things, like soft pillows and tap water you can drink.

What has really made it special though is the kindness of friends and family who have helped us. We’ve had a birthday cake EACH for the children (thank you Nana Avril); there were brownies, cakes, biscuits, tea, coffee & milk on the doorstep (thank you Sam); a lift from the bus station and a home-made lasagna (thank you Kate); a car full – FULL – of redirected, unopened post that my parents have stored for us, including a rather large number of parcels that we posted home to ourselves (thank you Mum and Dad); and a trip to toy shop for belated birthday presents (thank you Uncle Kieran); not to mention the countless people who have stopped us and told us how happy they are to see us back. It is very moving to have people around who show you that they care about you. We feel very lucky.

So how does it feel to be back? Somehow, it manages to feel both utterly bizarre and completely familiar at the same time. It’s so quiet, so well organised and so clean. The cars move in straight, orderly lines along the roads, like they’re on tracks or controlled by robots or computers. There’s no chaos, no crowds of people or shouting in the streets. Where is everyone?

The colours are different. Muted, like if you turn down the colour on the TV to almost black and white, yet beautiful all the same. Walking out from our home you can see fields and hills, cows grazing and birds in the trees. It’s really nice round here. I don’t think I’d noticed that for a while.

And our house: it’s enormous! I keep walking from room to room, wondering at the luxury of having a choice, of having personal space again.

I know I’m going to miss some things about being on the road. After we dropped the girls off for their first day back at school, I thought I’d gone deaf. I could count the number of hours I’ve been without them during the last year on my fingers. I think we’re all finding that a bit hard. Plus, after all that time away spent craving English food, I’m already craving Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) for breakfast. Ah, that greener grass is calling again!

We have another milestone to come this week. Ferg will turn 40 on Thursday, marking the official start of the slippery slope into middle age. Some birthdays just seem to mean more than others; and coming at the end of this trip I guess it’s made me think about how little time we actually have to call our own. It seems unlikely we’ll ever get another year like this one. And our children will never be 8 years old again.

But right now the overwhelming feeling is one of being incredibly lucky to have seen the things we’ve seen, been the places we’ve been, and have all amazing luxuries and friendships we have to come home to. And one thing is for sure: it’s better to have gone and come back than to never have gone at all.

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