Going home after a year of travelling and living abroad is a strange feeling. Every film I’ve ever watched told me that I was meant to feel a surge of emotions, a burst of awareness and an eye-opening epiphany about life. I expected to rush off the plane at Heathrow and smell the fresh English air, dive on the tube with a new-found love of commuting (theatrically spinning around handrails, of course) and see the streets of London with wide, open eyes.
Then, I would go to my hometown of Leeds and run into my father’s arms, reminisce about my childhood and weep when I walked through my front door. You know, really see things, really feel things.
In actual fact, I felt pretty much nothing until I was eleven hours into my thirteen hour flight. I woke up suddenly thinking, ‘holy crap, this is the first time I’m going home in a year… a year.” Then I realised I’d woken up too early and was going to be jet-lagged, cursed a little and went back to sleep.
Upon arriving in England, things were even less spectacular. I immediately forgot that I had been away at all, stormed over to the underground ticket machine, stuck on my headphones and avoided eye contact with military precision. When I got to Leeds, me and my dad did an awkward ‘sideways hug’ to avoid all my luggage and, after a brief overview of my journey, started talking about what we should have for dinner. It was spectacularly… mundane.
As the days went on, things were much the same as they had been when I’d lived in England before. Little things had changed; new ornaments in the house, sandwiches were more expensive and shops had moved. A few big things had changed; friends had bought houses, got married, had kids and plastic bags cost 5p. Some things were exactly the same; I met up with close friends and we chatted about work, relationships, life and idle gossip about people we used to know. Overall, things were mostly the same as before.
Initially, I was a little disappointed with the lack of emotions and epiphanies. No one had streamed with tears while telling me how much I’d ‘grown up’ or ‘found myself’. None of my local spots felt different or strange. No dramatic changes had been made in my hometown. Then I realised how great that was. Home was still home, family was still family, friends were still friends and I was still me.
So, no, returning home after a year wasn’t half as dramatic and exciting as I had expected it to be. I think it was actually much, much better than that. It was easy, it was comforting and it was still my home.