Travelling Asia, you’ll be aware of two types of travel bug.The first being the one with the hot flushes, the incontinence, projectile vomiting and a prayer to the gods that you’ll do anything to take away the pain.The second being far less physically agonising, but arguably just as painful. Yes, the holiday blues…times 1000.
The latter travel bug will work in stealth initially. It will lie dormant for the first two weeks in fact. Seeing family and friends after months a part is a cunning distraction; a temporary inoculation. Mum’s made a lamb roast. Brillo, you’ll knock that down in a heartbeat you’ve missed it that much. Your nephew scores a goal for his football team and the beam widens across his little chops as the family cheer on from the sidelines. And then you see your best pals. They’ve beckoned you down the local for a big welcome home drink or five. You spend hours boozing and catching up on the last 18 month of your lives. Long awaited catch ups is just what the doctor ordered. But sooner or later, the warm fuzzy feeling that coincides with home comforts soon drifts as the blues sets in.
As the fortnight’s jam-packed schedule flies past, the dust settles on your backpack and the novelty of you being back home disappears for those around you, the bug activates. Cut to you, alone in the middle of the day flickering between Jeremy Kyle and The Housewives of Beverly Hills, mobile in-hand and scrolling through nearby memories of Asia. Whilst the daytime shows are fine selections, you’d rather be back there – on a mountain top in Sapa, being carried by a ten year old girl and a woman with a baby on her back – both from a nearby village tribe – who support you as the former travel bug sets in. Or in Ang Thong National Marine Park, kayaking through a tropical oasis with eight of your awesome, new travel pals.
Like movie trailers, your top memories come flurrying back in an epic fashion. And you miss it. Of course you do. It was the time of your life. And now your sat watching Jeremy unravel the mystery of whether or not that guy on TV is the baby daddy to his brother’s wife, and all you want to do is jump into your Facebook photos and be back there. Even if it means getting the shits every other day for the duration of your stay. That pain is better than the harrowing question that now remains – if you had the time of your life at 26, is that the climax? Will I ever experience anything like that again?
This might seem like a fairly depressing depiction of what happens to backpackers that make the move back to western society. But just like the temporary homely fix, the travel bug too will eventually run its course over time. Just like most things do.
But one thing’s for sure is that you’ll always have an energy for adventure. You’ll always be open-minded to new cultures and the faces you meet. Street food won’t ever be off the menu to you – in fact, you want to try new things because when you backpacked, that’s what awakened your taste buds and led to your love of local grub. Climbing mountains, trekking up temple steps and indulging in crickets for breakfast was all a part of the ride. And you’d hop back on in a heartbeat.
When you take your next trip you will always be the person you were when you travelled. The girl that hopped on the back of the moped with two others already on, the one who trekked for six hours amongst the rice paddies of Vietnam and meditated with a monk in hope for more inner peace. The one who sailed Halong Bay (and eventually stacked it on the boat that night due to one too many rums), rode aimlessly for three hours in a monsoon storm, alone, but eventually found her way without GPS.
But before I left the UK I would never have predicted that I would have done those things. Maybe stacking it on the boat, yes, but never the others. As cingeworthy as it sounds – and it kind of is – the memories I made whilst backpacking by myself in Asia are now a part of who I am – as naturally as they were memories made. Whether or not you go home – you will always be the person you were when you travelled. The risk taker. The adventurer. The foodie. Whatever it may be. It won’t ever leave you. So don’t be too glum when you get back to reality – because eventually that dormant travel bug will spur you on to make more unforgettable memories again.