Taking a Trip
Just as many lost graduates before me I decided to pack up my troubles (and my partner) and travel to the other side of the earth in order to fill some time and search desperately for a route into post-university adulthood. Upon landing in Auckland after an eternity in the air I was unsure of what great wonders awaited me, this alternate space where north was south and east was west, where we were the foreign travellers in a mysterious land. The first thing to greet me as I drudged through customs was McDonalds, thank you Globalisation, you gave me a little piece of familiarity just when I needed it.
After trying out the local’s version of a Big Mac I went outside almost anxious as to what I would find.
Focussed on discovering a new land and having new experiences I set out full of good intentions to do some proper travelling, which of course involves camping, trekking or ‘tramping’, hostels, trying the local cuisine, meeting new people, more hostels, soaking up the culture and the inevitable jumping off something really high up whilst tied to a rope.
I’m happy to report that I didn’t end up doing much of any of that.
Instead I found myself mostly wandering and pondering some pretty major issues. Who am I? Where am I going? What is life? The usual issues that torment individuals in their mid-twenties.
Here are a few of my thoughts…
Britishness and Being British
A common reaction when non-Brits find out you’re British and more specifically, English is that of assumption and obvious judgement. Just as most Irish people will tell you, when people hear their accent they come running over with stories of their great Aunt Mary’s cousin’s husband who is also Irish, desperate to forge a link or connection to the culture and heritage that particular accent denotes. That’s not such a common occurrence when you’re English.
People generally seemed disinterested, unmoved and in some cases – semi-offended. But this is fine, it could be argued that we have become a non-nation in many ways or at least a diluted version of what we used to be, devoid of an interesting personality on the Global platform, we have had our glory days and are currently going through the motions culturally and economically. Or perhaps we are still a great nation of cultural and historical importance. One thing’s for sure when travelling the commonwealth; the legacies of the Empire are still abound. We are tarred with the brush of the Empire and every connotation that evokes. Conversations go from so where abouts in England are you from to yeah I’ve been to London a few times to well because of the Empire or most commonly the problem with England is…
I found this fascinating; the majority of people I met were Kiwis, Aussies, Indian but mostly British.
Which brings me to my next point…New Zealand is full of British travellers, no surprise as the working holiday visa is easier to attain than a residential parking permit, for us Brits anyway.
I found myself surrounded by British people all of whom had something in common; they didn’t want to return to the UK, certainly not anytime soon. They wanted to explore more of their other worldly yet somehow familiar surroundings, pinging from NZ to Australia then moving onto Canada if they could. I think this is due to several key factors, exploring the globe is interesting and by proxy makes individuals seem more interesting, it can fill a void of purpose, especially for higher education leavers with little or no commitments. It has become almost a rite of passage for many individuals who need something in-between delayed adolescence and adulthood. In terms of location we are bound by international law so the commonwealth provides an easier route for travellers. And it’s this factor that provides weird settings of homes away from home, so different and so far away but undeniably familiar to what we know in the UK.
Part of something and nothing
Homesickness and home comforts are strange things…as adults we associate the former with children, as we should. Feeling homesick as an adult you are catapulted backwards to a childlike state of subconscious loneliness, like momentarily losing your parents in a supermarket, the panic that erupts is quickly extinguished when they find you moments later. But feeling homesick as an adult is far more concerning…your parents are not going to find you crying in the bread aisle. You remain alone.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, this feeling is strange but quite liberating. Yes… you are away from home, your friends aren’t by your side, and your usual routine is non-existent. But that is kind of wonderful…you are forced to find something else, some other reason to get up.
And of course home comforts are a fantastic remedy for homesickness…for me it was being given a box of Yorkshire Tea Bags. But looking a little deeper, this is where being in the Commonwealth comes into play. You are immersed in an environment that is still influenced by British culture. There is no language barrier, the food is similar, the Queen’s face adorns the currency, and we even drive on the same side of the road. In a wonderfully confusing way New Zealand was just like being at home, whilst at the same time knowing you couldn’t be much further away.
Leaving my cultural footprints in the sand
The decision to leave NZ was a difficult one. Torn between the ideal of what could be and returning to what I had left behind. Ultimately the usual factors made my decision: money running out, job wasn’t great, things to return to etc. But those factors were only the excuses I made to justify my return. Essentially my return was inspired by a strong sense of completion. I felt I had soaked up everything I needed for my trip to be worth something, the journey I took was that of subtle enlightenment. I felt different in some way, as if all of my anxieties surrounding entering the next phase of my life had disappeared. Leaving home void of self-purpose and returning to a new chapter, a wave of epiphany washed over me and I was ready to come home, taking a little bit of New Zealand with me.