Oh hi there England

‘What the hell just happened?’

This sentence goes over and over in my head whilst I sip on my jasmine tea from Hong Kong.

I’m not in Hong Kong. I’m in England, North Yorkshire, Dishforth village, parents’ house, kitchen. I’m sat on one of the six wooden chairs around the wooden table that we’ve had for as long as I can remember.

I stare out of the window. The window to the right of the home-phone and the drawer with the address book in. It’s the same window that I used to stare out of to see if I needed to wear a coat to school. The same window that Dad bangs on to scare away the cat from eating the bird food.

I stare at the bird-feeder (which is the same). I stare beyond the bird-feeder and my pupils absorb a collage of greenery – the fields and hedges merge into one (possibly due to the dizziness, due to the jet lag).

My flight went OK, thanks for asking. Hong Kong > Bangkok > Dubai > Manchester. 21 hours in total. Easy breezy. Lots of things seem easy now, which is nice. I mean, I had to get home and so I had to take a long flight. What good would complaining do? Just get on with it and try to enjoy.

I thought it would be different though (the flight, that is). I thought I would end up speaking to somebody about my trip and get all emotional looking back on it. Or I envisioned myself, sitting there in silence, listening to music and welling up at the incredible, life-changing moments…

Neither of those happened. It was just a flight. I think actually I was trying too hard. I was trying too hard to feel something, I just felt numb.

I slowly sip on the jasmine tea and I still feel a bit numb.

‘I’m unemployed.’ That sentence rolls around in my head a lot. For those that know me, I can’t sit still for 2 minutes. I’m hooked on doing new things and achieving new goals and so that word ‘unemployed’ makes me feel a little bit sicky. Over the past 4 months there has been 14 flights and each time on the immigration form when they ask for ‘occupation’ I put ‘Writer’ as my pride can’t quite take ticking the unemployed box. I was going to write ‘Astronaut’ once because, well, that would amuse me. Even better, ‘Body Builder.’

I think in the next few days, things will sink in more. I’ll meet up with friends, eat lots of Mum’s home cooking and I’ll embrace the job hunt.

I’m determined not to be sad, but to think fondly of the trip. Although right now, even that’s a struggle because I can’t seem to digest that it even happened. Already, it feels like a dream.

14 flights, 22 boats, 4 sleeper trains, 52 buses. A huge cluster of cars, metros, tuk tuks and scooters. A long list of adrenaline activities, breathtaking scenery and strange foods, delicious foods, seeing people with no food. A concoction of paradise and poverty. Swinging from silk blankets and room service to dirty sheets, no sheets, sleeping on the floor. Being so hot, your scalp is a fountain and not an inch of your body is dry. Feeling true exhaustion. Feeling every amplified emotion under the sun: excitement, hope, anxiety, fear, love, sadness and complete joy. Speaking of sun, I am now a different race. 4 and a half months of backpacking have seen countless memories, mosquito bites and life-long friends. THANK YOU to everyone who has made my trip so very special.

I’d also like to thank people who have kept up with my travels via the blog, and thank you so much for all of your kind comments, it really means a lot.

I plan to keep this blog and do some more posts (tips for first-time travellers, why solo travel is the way forward, etc…)

As for now, it’s time to inhale a roast dinner (and then probably sleep for 24 hours straight). IN MY OWN BED!!! How can I be sad when home luxuries are so incredible? And when I say luxuries I mean – toilet paper, being able to drink out of the tap, having various clothes to choose from, a fridge full of food, tight cuddles, dog slobber from an excited Syd…

Something that stuck with me when I was away and feeling homesick was, “It’s good that you’re missing home. It means you’re lucky. It means you have something that’s worth missing.”

Humidity, Homesickness and more Homesickness

25th March

Brisbane is hot and humid. I’m craving a run but I’m also too tired and headachy. Did I mention that I’ve just done an 18 hour bus journey from Sydney? I feel both foolish and accomplished.

My hostel is like an oven.

Pack in the complaining, Liv. You’re supposed to be having the time of your life. Let’s try to see the positives… Ah, my room has air con!

Air con doesn’t work.

Let’s buy some nice food to cheer you up!

It’s Good Friday. Practically everything is shut.

I decide to explore Southbank. It feels similar to London which is nice. The botanical gardens are nice too. Apologies for using the rubbish word ‘nice’ two times in a row, but I’m not very happy right now. I’m feeling lonely. Travelling is amazing because you meet so many people and you become close very quickly… But everyone is on the move, so before you know it, you say goodbye. You then have to be all upbeat and friendly to try and make new friends, but knowing it will only be temporary. It’s emotionally exhausting. Right now, I want to go home. Correction, I want to BE home. I don’t want to just pack it all in.

Whilst alone in the anti-social hostel, the TV grabs my attention. It’s the Antiques Roadshow theme tune! Hi Fiona Bruce!!!! I smile, as it reminds me of home.

Before I know it, some rude German girl storms over and changes the channel. Rudely interrupting Fiona explaining the history of a duck-egg-blue vase. “What is this crap.” She says.

Back to sulking into my pasta…

***

Next day, I meet a lovely girl – Sarah, who is on the bus with me to Noosa. She praises me for lasting this long without feeling my first wave of homesickness. She convinces me of how normal it is, which makes me feel a bit better.

***

27th March

Happy Easter! Noosa has the potential to be gorgeous. But it is jam-packed with it being the Easter weekend. It is also very grey and rainy. What a shame.

I had breakfast with an Italian guy. He is surprised that I am English. “You are too small to be English.” (I’m not sure what that means). He also said, “you look too sophisticated to be English.” I’ll take that, good sir!

Things turned weird when we were washing up. “Can I try something?” He said. The way he looked at me, I genuinely thought he was going to kiss me. Oh good God, no. How cringe. Please no.

Instead he said: “your legs are so muscly. Can I touch them?”

In shock, trying to find an appropriate response, there he was, poking my thigh and laughing, saying “wow! Cool!”

***

The horrid weather is frustrating me and encouraging the homesickness again. The family day, Easter Sunday was a difficult day.

***

28th March

Feeling more positive. The sun has finally come out. What’s more, I’m a very lucky girl and going to Fraser Island tomorrow. Let’s do this!

Car Crash, Crying and Chicken Nuggets with Satay Sauce on Toast

16th – 20th March

It feels great to be in a routine now. Travelling is ace because it encourages the unexpected. But having a job gives you purpose, and that’s pretty rewarding too. The jobs that MUST be done everyday are the morning feeds, morning medications, hay, poo pick yards, evening feeds, evening medications. To give you an idea of how long this takes, with one person (going like the clappers) it would be 6am – 6pm with 1 hour for lunch. May I remind you again that there are 110 horses. However, with two of us, we end up with a couple of hours spare to do other jobs / have a ride.

Connie rode Fabio and my baby RJ today. I have fallen in love with RJ. He was almost sold as horse meat, but Shelia rescued him from the sales. He has the sweetest nature I have ever known. Kind brown eyes with a glowing bay coat – he reminds me of my old pony, Maisie, which in turn, makes me think fondly of home in North Yorkshire.

I want to buy RJ so badly. I genuinely researched how much it costs to transport a horse from Australia to UK.

Up to $30,000. Maybe not.

***

It had been a hard day. Our backs were sore and our heads were tired from the sun. We finished late but then drove into town to do some grocery shopping, buying lots of nice food and looking forward to cooking up a storm in our cute cottage kitchen. After the day we had had, we were starving so very ready to get back. Oh wait. Who do we see in the supermarket car park? Shelia.

Shelia had been out all afternoon getting the horse trailer fixed. On her way back to the farm she crashed the car, wrapping the trailer around a post at McDonalds making it impossible to drive. She asks us to give her a lift. She wants to get a big hammer from the house to then have us drive her back to the trailer to try and fix it herself. Oh Shelia. “First let me just pop into the $2 store and see if they will sell me a hammer.” You’re kidding right!? Shelia was not kidding.

Surprise, surprise, the $2 store did not sell any equipment worthy of fixing a car crash.

After watching Shelia use her own brute force (her foot) to try and fix the dents, she eventually let us drive her home. We then felt pretty sorry for her. “This is the worst day of my life” she moped. “What else could go wrong!?”

Within seconds of her saying those words, Connie and I smelt smoke and struggled to contain our laughter. The timing would just be too hysterical. Turns out, the air con makes the car overheat (of course it does), so flicking it off soon sorted out the nasty BBQ stench.

Defeated, Shelia eventually called it a day. We finally started our dinner at almost 9pm. What a day!

***

I can’t work out Shelia. Sometimes she is so predicable – for example, it’s a classic Shelia thing to think she can fix a car with something from the $2 store. And it’s classic Shelia to have leopard print wellies and have lipsticks and mascaras amongst the head collars in the back of the truck. However, she can also really take you by surprise. She is very, very involved in the farm and really gets her hands dirty. Even though she’s scared of most of the horses, you’ll see her working all day, fixing fences etc. I have no idea how her false nails stay on. Also, even though she’s a little crazy and I’ve never met anyone quite like her, I respect her a lot. She’s an extremely independent, kind hearted woman.

***

Sweet Shelia gives us wooly hats, fluffy socks and big rain coats on the day of the storm. Who’d have thought it was 32 degrees yesterday! Today our toes are numb and our lips are blue. Before Shelia came to the rescue with winter clothing, we were in our summer gear and trainers. Torrential rain all night meant the fields were a bog. We were cold and miserable but moods were soon lifted when Connie dramatically slips under the Ute when trying to get in. I swear I pulled a muscle from laughing so much.

Laughter continues when the Ute gets stuck going up a hill. I’m out in the pouring rain, trying to push as black smoke comes from the engine. A good 10 minutes later we’re free and Connie calls out, “oops! The hand break was on!” Sorry Shelia.

***

Last day on the farm – emotions were running high. I can’t believe I cried when I said goodbye to RJ. Nothing else has made me shed a tear this whole trip, but something about saying goodbye to that velvet nose, brown eyed beauty really got to me. We had a really strong bond and he reminds me of home. Perhaps it was also the realisation that this incredible experience with Connie has come to an end? Perhaps they’re happy tears too. I’m having the time of my life and feel incredibly lucky.

Now we can’t end a crazy week without having a crazy last meal. We had run out of food but couldn’t be bothered to go into town. I had baked beans. Twice. Connie had chicken nuggets with satay sauce on toast for lunch and for dinner she had chicken nuggets with satay sauce and a frozen vegetable pasty. The best thing is, we did not buy these bizarre ingredients… We stole them from next-door’s caravan!