Monday, 7 May 2007

Found yourself, came back to England, and now you want OUT?

If you feel as though you can connect with the following situation, then my heart goes out to you.

Many Brits take a gap year to explore themselves and the rest of the world. Whether it’s taken between school and university, taken as a career break for the older generation, or whether it’s taken in an attempt to find that “something else” you’ve been looking for – whatever the reason a large percentage of Brits will travel at some stage in their life.

Somehow though, it’s a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. Once you’ve seen and experienced a variety of different cultures, lifestyles and places, returning to England and your “previous” life can be quite torturous, and could potentially be one of the most difficult and pivotal times of your life.

Are you someone who has travelled and started out with the view that it was a once in a life time experience, something that you needed to get out of your system before you settled down? Whether you would be attempting to settling down for the first time, second time or third – the chances are that you did anticipate that your travelling period was a temporary phase that you only had the luxury of enjoying before you entered the permanent state of “settled” life. Certainly it is true that the “normal” and “accepted” belief is that travelling is an opportunity to temporarily “escape” from reality and responsibilities, a time to throw caution to the wind, living a carefree and exploratory existence, with no pressures or concerns greater than trying to decide which idyllic island to visit next.

However, once you have witnessed places where people don’t have much in the way of material possessions, but are nevertheless happy, it can be difficult to adapt back to accepting the consumerism of the west. The rapid pace of western society can seem pointless and meaningless once you have seen and experienced life where people operate at a much slower pace, because enjoying the day takes priority over running an efficient system.

After a period of travel your values, principles and ideals can change quite dramatically, and in many cases, returning to England can prove to be the largest culture shock of your life. Returning to your previous life may no longer be an option.

People generally tend to move in one of two directions at this stage. They will either sail through the transition, find work and adapt back to life in England, or they will struggle immensely, with an ever returning desire to get back on the road again.

I have returned to England on numerous occasions now, and each time I have always tried to enter into “the kingdom of settled life”, the normal, commonly accepted, structure created for a society quite different to the one we live in today. Every time I fail. No matter how much I adopt a positive mentality towards England, I still have a burning urge to leave. I have seen friends return to England and go through the same battles, with financial security and the pressure of what is expected of them by society and family, top of the list of worries.

If you are one of these people I hope that you find some comfort and inspiration in this blog. I personally believe that it is imperfectly normal to want to continue to travel, and that perhaps being “settled” for some of us, may mean not necessarily mean “settling down” in one place, but being settled and content with our need to explore, travel and embrace new experiences and places. I also believe that with modern technologies it is possible to sustain financial security, and also bring up a family, whilst enjoying the freedom of travel. I just think that we need to be creative in carving out our own lifestyles. We need to boycott traditional thinking, stop behaving like sheep – and think outside of the box to create a lifestyle suited to our own individual needs.

I hope you join me on my journey. As likeminded individuals we are more likely to reach workable solutions for freedom, if we share our experiences, views and ideas.

1 comment:

Life Out East said...

I can relate to what you're saying, I've felt that many times on returning to England. However, where I differ is the idea of other cultures being less money orientated and somehow more idyllic.

I've spent many years in Thailand. There's lots on the internet about Thailand being a kind of paradise where people are happy and don't worry about money. This couldn't be further from the truth. If anything I found the Thai desire for wealth and consumerism far more extreme than it is in England, especially in Bangkok.

I can't explain what it is exactly that makes me want to leave here. There are many factors and many contradictions. I hate the miserable weather here but then I also love the changing seasons and the unpredictability of the English weather. I like food in other countries but I think England is one of the best places for food. I deplore the way England is rapidly becoming a nanny state but I think we're lucky that there are so many consumer protection laws in place.

The best thing about living in a new country is that everyday is a new day in every sense. Every day you see something that is unusual, that you wouldn't see at home and it feels like you're discovering something almost on a daily basis. The most simple and mundane chores seem so much more interesting in an alien land.

I'm back and currently on what I can only describe as a honeymoon period. I'm still happy to be back and feeling quite positive about life in general. I'm back here with my daughter and effectively a single parent as my wife is still working in Bangkok and will be there for most of this year. This makes it more of a challenge and more interesting to move back here.

However, I'm sure that I won't be staying here for good. I'm sure that in a year or two I'll become disillusioned once again and want to move. In fact I came back with the intention of one day moving abroad again. I just like living abroad, I like being the minority and I love learning about the country I'm in. One day I'll find what I'm looking for in a country and become settled.

BTW I'd be up for an interview, as per your comment on my blog. Feel free to drop an email. I've added the email subscription link too.