Walking back from the corner shop this morning in my pyjama bottoms, bottle of milk in hand, watery winter sunlight on my face, it struck me. This is the first time in a very long time that I’ve lived somewhere that felt like home. That I’ve had a life that felt like an actual life, rather than a series of disjointed chapters that flick from one genre to another in the world’s most impossible-to-follow book.
The last time was probably the little flat I rented in Brixton about five years ago, but even that felt temporary. The whole time I lived there, we were saving up to go travelling. The end of that tenancy marked the end of me working at “a real job”, the end of me paying rent or going to work or having a place that I called home. Apart from my dad’s, which is always home, I’ve not really felt at home since. I’ve not had a solid, permanent, life anywhere.
One year and two days ago, I moved into a shared house in Portsmouth with a fellow blogger. It seemed counter-intuitive at the time. I worked from my laptop, I could do my job from anywhere – why make that place England? A life of endless travel was a very real possibility, as was a life of simply living on a beach in Thailand, or renting a cheap apartment in Mexico. But everytime I’d tried to start an endless journey of full time travel, something had brought me back home. And when, last January, Vicky messaged me offering a room in her new house, something just clicked.
I like to think that sometimes the universe will send you in the direction you’re meant to go. Maybe that’s just an easy way to give myself less of the blame for my decisions, but when I follow the things my gut tells me are signs, I usually wind up in the right place.
So here I am a year on, with a little life. I travel a lot, still, but I come home to the same place. I’m an hour and a half from the airports. Getting home after a trip feels like exactly that; coming home. It’s hard to describe how nice that is, but after years of transcience, of bobbing from one place to another following whims, it’s nice to have the solidity of My Space.
I love my room, filled with my things. I love my Harry Potter coffee mug, and the houseplant I’ve managed to keep alive for almost a year (despite knocking it off my desk twice). Travelling taught me how few material possessions you really need, but it also made me more appreciative of the things I do have. It’s surprising how much you can appreciate a simple object, like a blender or a Jurassic Park poster or a wardrobe where you can actually hang up your clothes. Or simply owning more than five outfits.
The newest, and perhaps the biggest thing, is my car. One of my top reasons for moving back to England and giving up full time travel was that I could finally learn to drive. Which, in your thirties, with big gaps between lessons for work trips, is surprisingly hard. But at the start of this month, after 60-odd hours of lessons and two failed tests and months of agonising, I finally passed my driving test. The very next day, buzzing with the excitement of it all, I bought a little Vauxhall Corsa and collected it last weekend.
I knew that if I didn’t buy a car straight away and start practicing real driving, driving on my own, the thrill of my pass would melt away and I’d lose my nerve. I know what I’m like, and how quickly I can lose confidence in myself, so I made sure not to give myself that chance.
It’s parked outside now, and later I’m going to drive it to the cinema with Vicky. It’s such an odd, silly thing to be excited about. But it isn’t just exciting because I’ve acheived something I wasn’t sure I could, or because my car is a very big (and very expensive) new toy, or because I have even more freedom now. It’s exciting because it feels like an imporant new chapter.
When I was “homeless”, travelling full time and living in my old bedroom at my dad’s in between, I felt like I had regressed into my old teenage self. I’ve never been all that mature, so it was easy enough to slip back. When I moved into the house at the start of last year, it felt more like my uni days again. Life as a travel blogger often feels like uni; I have essays to write and projects to research and looming deadlines to pull all-nighters for, and even the press trips feel a lot like school trips. And I never really grew out of the reckless, each-day-as-it-comes spirit of uni. So buying a car feels, in a silly way I can’t really explain, like another step towards maturity. Maybe, by age sixty, I’ll finally feel like a real adult instead of someone acting the part, a little masquerade of adulthood whilst always wondering if everyone else knows something I don’t.
A year on from making the random decision to move in with Vicky, I feel so much more settled. I like being able to sustain freindships with more than just words on a screen. Being able to see my family when I feel like it, and not miss so many birthdays or events. I like being able to go away on adventures, and then come back home to the little ritual of laundry and takeaway and doing a “big shop” at Tesco.
I’m not saying I’d never travel full time again, or that I wouldn’t live abroad. It’s just that right now, I’m exactly when I need to be, and a year on from the decision that brought me here seemed like as good a time as any to celebrate that.