I did it. I had my vaccinations. I said goodbye to all my friends and I packed as much as I could into my backpack. I bought over a years worth of malaria tablets and even invested in some travel insurance. I endured the 17 hour flight to Cambodia and after just under two weeks I'm on my way back to the UK. I had every intention of this trip being it. I wanted to step onto the beach and to be encompassed by the feeling of home. It didn't happen. After a years worth of learning and learning and growing and learning, once again I was faced with the most inevitable truth that I've learned so far. That one of the few certainties in life is that nothing is ever certain.
For as long as I can remember I've been searching for home. When I was little I'd often announce that I wanted to go home, nearly always sat in the house that I've lived in since I was 18 months old. It was more than likely a comfort thing, something I'd say without thinking because of course that was my home. I know every crease and crack of that house, I know which floorboards to step on if I don't want to make any noise, and I know if I don't pay enough attention when brushing my teeth, I will inevitably get my hair caught in the light switch (which can be ridiculously hard to free yourself from). Yet I've always been asking to go home. Part of me truly believed that I'd found it.
I've been drifting for a long time. Drifting in and out of education, from job to job to job to job to no job, then from country to country. I haven't known what I wanted (I still don't) but when I was travelling last year some things started to make sense. When you're away you meet people there's no way you'd meet in every day life back in your hometown. You hear incredible stories of crazy adventures and realise you have an equal story to share. You start to reinvent yourself, you can share things that would usually be kept quiet because you realise there's no shame. People are interested and through sharing you, in turn, reevaluate some things and their importance (or not as the case may be) in your life. This is probably the cliche people refer to about finding themselves. It is every bit as wonderful as each and every traveller will bang on about. I fell in love. I fell more in love than I had ever been before and it made me question if in fact I have ever been in love (that ones still up for debate). It was a gut wrenching heart opening love and it was with the world, places and people, buildings and smiles, most importantly with myself. One of the places that this tidal wave of love hit me was koh rong, Cambodia. Cambodia is without a shadow of a doubt my favourite county I have visited. The island itself is described by most that have seen it as paradise, it exists honestly. This small island, that is so under developed there is no consistent electricity was the first place I ever felt like I had found home. It held such resonance that not only did I struggle to leave (3 planned nights turned into 3 and a half weeks, only leaving because of an out of date visa) but I also did not shut up about this little island. Every time I met someone new, people I had spent time with would role their eyes, and I was off again 'koh Rong blah blah blah' this continued for all of Asia and to getting back to the UK. I had to go back. I had to had to had to because what if this really is my forever, my home. So I did it. I went back and I expected with every fibre of my being to step off that boat and into the sand and feel it, feel that heart breaking love for everything. But after a week of not really trying to fit in with the constant flow of traveller crowds, not really wanting to go out and get really drunk on horrendously cheap local spirits and make questionable decisions, I felt nothing but disappointed. The magic was gone. I hated being so itchy I would happily let the nearest machete bearing child amputate the foot with 16 bites on. I hated being woken up in the night by drunken roommates switching on the light because they didn't remember what bed was theirs. I got sick from the unsanitary conditions and most of all I didn't understand what had happened. Which is when I learnt something else, I was chasing something that didn't exist. I had all these expectations of going back to this island and falling in love with puppies and living in paradise and doing yoga on the beach and being swept off my feet by the nearest long haired lovely. It wasn't authentic, I was running after a reinvention of myself that no longer existed. That maybe never existed. Because whilst the island is undoubtedly beautiful, it wasn't the island itself that was home. It was the final realisation that I like who I am and who I can become. I was at home with myself. No excuses or lies or cover ups or hiding, just love. Love and hope and excitement and love.
When this became apparent there were no regrets. I had to go because I had to find out if this is what I wanted. I would have forever held onto the thought that that's where I belonged if I had never tried. Disappointed that I didn't belong in paradise but I have so much more to explore. The world keeps spinning and the sun will come up and the tides will change and so will everything ever. Because change is the only thing we can count on to get us to where we need to be. So right now I'm about to board a plane, eventually (there are a lot of stopovers) I'll be back in my little town, in the little house that I know inside out, because of course, it's my home.