At the beginning of the year I set off from Australia with the aim of travelling the world for a year and parking myself in the UK to live and work, and despite all the challenges I’ve given myself in the last month I’ve spent here, the most important thing I’ve learned about myself is that the UK is just a little too comfortable for me.
I have spent the last month hitchhiking and couchsurfing my way around the UK, from London to Cornwall to Birmingham, the North and Scotland with many more stops in between. The UK is an incredible country, really. I began this blog almost 2 years ago while studying in the British Midlands. But this time around I cannot help but find myself… I guess… bored. Let me explain.
I reattended Reading Festival, surfed in Cornwall, camped on the South-West Coast Trail, visited the Beatles Story (Museum), rode in a Lamborghini, been accosted by police, hiked in the Highlands and been into Glasgow’s famous SubClub. On top of this I have had amazing experiences catching up with old friends. For all intents and purposes it has been a very busy and eventful month.
But something is missing.
I challenged myself to hitchhike to add another experience to my travel repetoir. I couchsurfed along the way to meet new and inspiring people who, in turn, reshaped my trip thereafter. But it just isn’t enough of a challenge. For the (vastly) better part of 246 days I have been in strange, foreign and exotic lands all of whom speak limited (or no) English. On top of this, the culture varies to a degree which makes it both difficult for me to get around and, more importantly, it takes a lot more work to have a meaningful interaction with someone. Sometimes though, the interaction alone is enough to bring a smile to all involved even if you don’t share a word in common.
I think I set out with the goal of challenging myself for a limited time and returning to living comfort thereafter. But now I believe I have internalised difficult and challenging environments as my new norm and the UK is simply too similar to Australia. The language and slang, attitudes and perspectives, the look of the buildings and the names of the streets, the types of food, the easy availability of comfort items, and perhaps most noticeably a climate that shares a certain dreary affinity with Melbourne’s winter.
In other words, I am simply slipping into complacence. I am less motivated, I too easily resort to the comforts, I have generally less ambition and most strangely, I fit in everywhere. Half of this bunch over here thinks I am English until I drop a word or two that indicates I’m from a country that likes swearing and shortening everything.
Side note: I believe I have subconsciously adopted what the Glaswegian jet-setters call ‘the travellers accent’: an overall neutralisation of your home accent for the purposes of travel. Where for them its more about being understood, I am trying to free myself from the standard Australian travellers’ narcissism. Aussies say things like ‘When you travel you end up coming home more Australian’, in one sense because travel helps you realise what parts of your twang are Aussie, but secondly and less obviously, Australians abroad derive a great deal of ego from being Australian. Extra points if you can out-Aussie the other Aussies in your setting. For example, you may find an Aussie loudly proclaiming how to use the C-bomb in a casual manner in a hostel foyer or proudly boasting about the existence of goon on an overpriced pub crawl. I suppose I don’t want to be part of the rat race to sterilise my personality to get the most people points. But who knows? I travel with an Akubra after all.
The UK has been a blast and I have pushed my boundaries as far as I can but it does not reward me with the rush of achievement you get when you order a sandwich in German or successfully get directions from an old Spanish campaigner on the Camino. I think I need difficulty in my life to thrive and England is just too easy for an Australian. And understandably so. We were England not so long ago (in the white part of our land’s history).
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t done a whole lot of living in the last month. I have been very lucky to be here. But it’s about time I move on.