When you are abroad, home becomes a fairy tale place. One you sink into when you fall asleep. Drifting in and out of consciousness. Remembering your best friends, family, favourite places. Drinking tea at the kitchen table with your mum. Driving around with your friends, singing your favourite songs. Watching crime show after crime show on your parents’ Sky box.
It is only on returning that you realise home is not how you remember it. Home is another version of reality. One you have so skilfully avoided for months.
You return and you are faced with problems, dramas, traumas, issues, everything you had erased from your conscience. They all come flooding back. You expect your best friends to be shiny Disney versions of themselves. Everything going well, everyone happy, everyone healthy, everything good. But it’s not. You return and you find that those you love are unhappy or sick or facing difficult life decisions.
I don’t know why I expected everything to be perfect. Everything to be magical and fantastical. This is a life I once lived and it wasn’t perfect then and it sure isn’t perfect now.
Those I love are facing problems with family, lovers, health, university, work, and even visas. A part of me feels sad that home is not how I remembered. But another part of me feels guilty for not being here for everyone.
The future looks scary. And who am I to leave again when they need me the most? It doesn’t seem fair. That I can just disappear and return whenever I please.
But another part of me feels glad that I can escape. To avoid responsibility and deny that I have a role to play on this side of the world. Of course, I feel guilt for that as well.
When you are abroad, people say to you “Don’t you miss home?!” They say how they couldn’t do what you have done. They couldn’t leave. They would be too homesick, too lonely, too afraid.
But a part of me is beginning to believe that they are the brave ones. They remain while I leave. They persist while I escape. They stay where they are needed. They support and help and stand strong while everything around is falling.
Nothing is how you remember. Home is not a fairy tale place. Home is the reality, abroad is the fantasy world. Perhaps that is why I love it so much. While I am away, I feel how you do when you read a story and you are transported to another land. Once you close the book, your memories are fuzzy and warm and you lived in that world for a while. But now the story is done and you must return to your reality. This is how I feel today. Maybe this is a depressing take on travelling, but it is a frighteningly honest one.
One I can barely even admit to myself.