Just over a year after I left Hong Kong, and around ten months since returning to the UK, I have found myself reflecting more on the changes the past twelve months have brought to my life.
I left my home of three years, my first 'proper' job as a post-grad, an amazing group of friends and a fantastic, if at times excessive, lifestyle. To come back to.. family and friends of course, but not a life of my own or any real plans for what I wanted to do next.
Why did I make the decision to come home? That trusty old instinct. It just felt like the right thing to do. Hong Kong and its craziness was starting to grate on me, I wasn't sure if teaching was for me.. I needed to take a step back and reflect. Something which is difficult to do amidst the fast-paced 'work hard, play hard' lifestyle in Hong Kong.
Before coming home, I went on my first big backpacking trip, which for six weeks consisted of the most amazing, eye-opening experiences. We planned very little and ended up doing so much.
But things didn't go to plan. My boyfriend contracted a serious illness, ended up being hours from death and very nearly lost his leg. After a three-week stint in Bangkok hospital, a crazy GoFundMe campaign, a fourteen hour, medically assisted flight to London and an air ambulance, we were home (well, almost home - for me). At the same time our faces were in tabloids around the world.
I guess I haven't exactly had the most normal 'coming home after travelling' experience. It was always going to be difficult, and I think it's only in the last few months I have really appreciated how difficult it has been. I made a decision to move to Hong Kong at the age of 21, a fresh graduate with dreams of foreign lands. I came back following a pretty stressful ordeal with no career or job to come back to and only very vague ideas of what I wanted to do. My main reason for leaving Hong Kong was to give something different a go. I still had (and still have..) it all to figure out.
Despite my move back being more difficult than expected, in more ways than one (WAY more difficult than my initial decision to move to Hong Kong in the first place), I feel that i'm in the right place. The first six/seven months were pretty hectic, I was between Belfast and home, trying to balance spending time with family, friends and my boyfriend. I took up driving lessons (and did, eventually, pass) and made a lot of summer plans with friends I hadn't seen much of since i'd been away. I was also trying to freelance on the back of nothing experience-wise and hold down a (minimum wage) job and a remote internship. It was probably a bit much to take on, I exhausted myself physically, mentally and financially. It was the opposite of what I came home for.
It's only really in the last month things feel like they have started to come together. I finally found a 'proper', reasonably stable job and made the decision to settle at home for a while. I'm slowly getting into a routine. Plus most of my closest friends from Hong Kong are now back in the UK too which is great. For the first time, I feel content. It's been exactly what I needed, a slower pace of life; and for the first time in what feels like forever, a routine.
I do feel like things are clearer now, I've finally found some direction. I'm sure, after a couple of 'slow' months, some quiet time at home and topping up my piggy bank again, I will be ready to consider my next move.
I still haven't figured everything out, but I'm getting there. Do I regret coming home? Not a bit. I followed my instinct and things are slowly coming together. In all honesty, I've probably gone through more of that stuff people do travel for.. self discovery, reflection, and even growing up.. through coming home than I did during three years in Asia. In some ways, coming home after travelling has been the most challenging journey of all, and I'm sure it won't be the last.