Reflections on being back
I just had to write this for www.gapyear.com so I thought I'd wack it on the blog too.... Ants
It seems like only yesterday that I was driving through Russia, wondering what life was going to be like once Jo and I had completed our mission of driving a tuk tuk all the way from Bangkok to Brighton. Doing any sort of expedition is so exhilarating, so different and so totally consuming that coming back to reality is never going to easy, and the closer we got to home, the more I knew that life after tukking was not going to be an easy ride.
We all know that post-exam feeling; you've been focusing on something for weeks, unable to see beyond that final wonderful moment when you walk out of the exam room for the last time. You celebrate wildly, then the Void appears. What next you wonder? Arriving in Brighton three weeks ago was akin to walking out of that exam room, reaching that point which always seemed so far away. As we rounded the corner into Bartholomew Square a crowd of friends, family, supporters and press surged toward us, clapping, waving, shouting. It was a fantastic moment. Yet at the same time it was very surreal, and for the rest of that day Jo and I drifted around in a dreamland, unable to grasp that we had actually done it. After 14 weeks on the road we'd made it home and completed a journey that so many people had doubted we could do. The wild celebrations lasted well into the early hours of the next morning and the next week was a blur of interviews, phonecalls and 'How was the trip?' questions. The surrealness continued all that week, neither of us able to get our heads round being back. Already those long days in China seemed like another world, like they had happened to someone else.
Moreover, everything at home seemed so alien. I remember seeing a familiar looking man in the paper the day we got back and taking a good 20 seconds to realise it was David Cameron. I didn't know any of the songs blaring out of Radio 1, I hadn't heard of the new Almodovar film everyone was raving about or the band that had won The Mercury Music prize, and in my 16 weeks absence three of my friends had got pregnant.
Worst of all was having to drive a normal car again. Having spent 14 weeks tukking across the globe in a three-wheeler I had to rediscover the joys of right hand drive and a normal gear stick. My first four wheeled foray was in my mother's Saab. Within one journey I stalled several times and nudged a wall in a multi-storey car park; I felt like a 17 year old who'd never driven before. Thank goodness after three weeks I am now driving normally again and no longer a hazard to other road users.
Yet the hardest thing I have found about coming back is not really knowing what to do next. I would recommend anyone considering a trip like this to have a solid plan in place for their return: know where you are going to be living and have a firm idea of what you are going to do to fill the post-expedition void. Many people speak of falling into depression when they return from such epic adventures, and I can understand why. Having a positive idea of what you want to do when you return is a good way of avoiding this. Also, try and take some time out to reflect on what you have done, where you have been and all the incredible experiences you have had. Jo and I saw and learnt so much on our tukathon that I think I will be digesting it for years to come. However hard it has been coming back I keep reminding myself of how lucky I have been to have seen the world from three-wheels, when so many of the people we met along the way have hardly enough money to feed and clothe themselves. Its easy to forget, in our cosy Western World, how lucky we are to have what we do and doing this trip has made me realise that more than ever. It is hard coming back, and reality has been hard to swallow but in the bigger picture these are minor details. Tukking across 12 countries in 14 weeks was the best thing I have ever done and although the post-tukking twilight zone is a little gloomy, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.