After Two Years of Travel, I’m Moving Back to England

For a long time (and without sounding too smug), I've been rather proud of how much travelling I've managed to accomplish.

When I finished university in 2011, I spent six months interning in London before I realised I couldn't handle not being on the move and seeing new things, so I caught a flight to Nepal for February 2012. Six months spent in Asia was followed by six months exploring Europe, before I left for Ecuador in February 2013 – the very same date I flew to Nepal the year before, in fact – and I've been in South America ever since

Basically, I haven't settled in over two and a half years, and while I still absolutely love the travel lifestyle, there's a part of me that's screaming to stop.

After Two Years of Travel I'm Moving Back to England

A quintessential

I've reached a point where I miss the qualities of home more than I appreciate the new places I'm seeing. I miss having a solid group of friends around me, rather than always striking up new relationships. I need familiarity at the moment, much more than I used to.

So after a lot of consideration, I've decided it's time to finally leave South America and head back home to England. Earlier this week, I caught an Avianca flight from Bogotá to London, and I'll be staying here for the forseeable future.

Well, for the next year at least.

What am I going to do in London then?

Obviously it's a little terrifying to contemplate staying put somewhere for the long haul. It throws up a whole load of questions. What about this site? What about being a travel blogger? Surely I'm going to run out of things to write about if I'm no longer travelling all the time?

But I'm not putting a permanent end to travelling; I'll just be exploring countries a bit closer to home while I carve out a new life in London. And as for the writing, there's no chance of that drying up (I hope, at least!) – one of the major reasons I'm returning to London is because I'm starting my Masters degree in September, studying non fiction writing.

So what have I got planned for this next chapter of my life? Well, I figure that instead of being sad that my long-term travelling life is over for the time being, I should give London and England the chance to win me over. After all, millions of tourists fulfill lifelong dreams by coming here each year: just because it's my home doesn't mean I can't explore it like a tourist would, right?

After Two Years of Travel I'm Moving Back to England

London's Chinatown: one of the most touristy spots in the city.

And strangely enough, I actually don't know London all that well. Despite growing up in the city, I've never really experienced it as an adult, and I'm realising there's a whole wealth of opportunities to be had.

Particularly when looked at with a travelling mindset.

London Living

There are so many interesting things to do in London that I've always had an interest in but never got around to doing. Conversely, they're the exact things I would immediately jump at if I had a finite time to spend in a foreign place – life modelling, mud larking, and bizarre British traditions involving clotted cream and tea are just the tip of the iceberg.

So I'm planning to get seriously involved in everything weird and wonderful in this city. I've got a lot of ideas but would love some suggestions if there's anything you can think of!

Around the World in London

After spending so long in various countries – Colombia, Bolivia, Cuba and India, for instance – it's always sad to stop being immersed in the local culture. Suddenly the curious food you've developed a taste for isn't on your plate, and you never seem to catch snippets of the language anymore.

After Two Years of Travel I'm Moving Back to England

Learning to be ok with eating shelled crabs in Bolivia

While I was lamenting the loss of exploring new countries as a result of living in England again, I suddenly realised that I could simply get to know the neighbourhoods of different nationalities in London itself – a city renowned for being a global microcosm.

First stop: searching out the Colombians congregating in Elephant and Castle, and take it from there…

Continuing the Spanish Challenge

I've spent the last eighteen months getting to grips with speaking Spanish, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let all that work go to waste. While I'm pretty terrified that my Spanish skills are going to vanish as soon as I touch down at Heathrow, I get the impression that there are quite a few Spanish speakers in London.

I've got some (probably rather overambitious) plans to keep my Spanish fresh while I'm living in London again – I'm thinking CouchSurfing meetups, language exchanges, watching TV shows in dubbed Spanish, finding a telenovella to get obsessed with, and hunting down groups of Spaniards and forcing them to talk to/befriend me. Easy!…

I also want to visit Spain as much as I can – even if it's just for a long weekend, I think it'll do wonders to keep my Spanish at a level I'm happy with. Although I'm a little worried about how much the Spanish lisp and the use of the fifth person conjugation is going to affect me.

Exploring England

When I think about it, I'm uncomfortably aware that I've visited more cities in Bolivia, India and Cuba than I have in England. It's very easy to think of your own country as pretty uninteresting when compared to more exciting foreign lands – but I'm vowing to rekindle my interest in England.

After Two Years of Travel I'm Moving Back to England

The beautifully haunting coastline at Lindisfarne

I was also more than a little inspired by this project that my friend Brenna of This Battered Suitcase is working on. While I couldn't apply because my Masters will take up too much time, I still reckon I can do a fair bit of England travel. I'm aiming to get out of London at least once a month in favour of an as-yet-unexplored part of England: I'm thinking Dartmoor, Cornwall, and the New Forest for starters.

There are a ton of festivals all around the country in the summer too, which is a great place to start. Cheese rolling en masse, anyone?

Writing, travelling, and writing some more

Obviously there's the worry that I'm not going to be writing on Flora the Explorer as much because I'm no longer travelling. In fact, it's the complete opposite: leaving South America after so long has left me desperately missing the continent, its cultures and its people.

I do promise to try and keep the “here are all the things I love about South America” articles to a minimum, but there's still a lot left to say about my time there.

After Two Years of Travel I'm Moving Back to England

Candles and shrines above Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Then there are numerous stories from my past travels, which I've increasingly felt the desire to get down on paper. Being in one place for a while will hopefully give me the chance to write more than just once a week on the site, plus allow me to finally recount experiences from the countries I haven't even mentioned here.

There's my year spent studying in the US; my obsession with Florence, Italy; journeying through Syria before the Arab Spring kicked off; and that time I volunteered in a Lithuanian children's camp where I got beaten up by seven year olds.

After Two Years of Travel I'm Moving Back to England

Studying abroad in San Francisco: the start of my long term travels...

I'll also still be travelling, just a little closer to home. In the next few months, I'm planning trips to Ireland and Greece, possibly heading to Iceland and Finland, and Spain is perpetually on my horizons to keep my Spanish at a good level!

This is where I turn to you guys. I'd love some suggestions for where to travel to over the next year; places that are averagely speedy to get to from England. Georgia? Romania? Europe is effectively my oyster! Where would you like to see me travel to?

Why I'm most excited to be back in England

But ultimately, the real reason I'm returning to London is for the people.

Spending nigh on three years without properly coming home has meant I've kept a tenuous hold on a lot of my relationships, and though I'm lucky enough to have friends that are happy to keep communication at a minimum for months on end, I'm now starting to get invitations to engagement parties when I don't know the fiancees, and I'm acutely aware that I could start to drift too far from the people I love.

After Two Years of Travel I'm Moving Back to England

The lovely ladies I travelled with in India, all of whom I'm still in touch with.

So it's time to dedicate myself to keeping those friendships strong – because one of the lessons you learn most acutely when you're travelling is how important your friends really are.

The issues and the unknown

There are issues with moving home, of course. Travelling has been such an integral part of my identity for so long; I already know I'm going to have a hard time not hauling a backpack from hostel to apartment to hostel again, not worrying about where my passport is, not speaking foreign languages as a part of daily life.

More crucially, I have to relinquish the part of me that's always jumped to travelling as the primary facet of my life. Suddenly, I have to adjust to not being a traveller, someone always in transit. Now I'm 'just another Londoner' – and I don't know how I feel about that anonymity yet.

After Two Years of Travel I'm Moving Back to England

Just another figure on the London Underground...

When I came back from Asia two years ago, I felt like I was just continuing with my sporadic travel lifestyle. This time, leaving South America feels quite different. Like I'm putting a full stop after something which I haven't quite defined yet.

But it's a good feeling, I think. It's time for me to rediscover a lifestyle I've put to one side for quite a while, in a city that, no matter how far away I travel, I always feel a connection to.

It's time to be a Londoner again.

 

About Flora

Flora Baker is the founder and editor of Flora the Explorer, where she writes about her travels around the world, her volunteering exploits and her ongoing attempt to become fluent in Spanish by talking to anyone who'll listen. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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55 Responses to After Two Years of Travel, I’m Moving Back to England

  1. Jodie Young July 17, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    I completely know where you are coming from. I too am returning to London in September after two years of being away from the city, and a year of full time travel. Adjusting to ‘normal’ life will always take time but when your heart isn’t in travel anymore it’s time to come home. Having a masters to focus on will certainly help 🙂

    Good luck with it all and if you want any tips for visiting the New Forest give me a shout as that is where I grew up 🙂

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

      Normal (ie static) life is certainly a weird one – but luckily looking at things from a travel mindset is helping me to cope at the moment! And I’d love some New Forest tips, thanks Jodie 🙂

  2. Sabina @GirlvsGlobe July 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    I’m moving back to London this September as well! It’d be great to potentially meetup once we’re both there! 🙂

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

      Sounds great Sabina!

  3. Caroline Eubanks July 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    So glad to hear it! Looks like a trip to London will be in order!

  4. The Queer Nomad July 17, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    Former digital nomad, back in London here, too 😉 I was really surprised that practically all of Spain and South America moved here during the time I was gone (and I spoke Spanish before) – there will be no lack of Spanish speakers, believe me – I nearly hear more Spanish than English on the buses and tube these days!

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

      Haha I know!! I keep eavesdropping on Spaniards in the middle of their phone calls on the bus! Hopefully I won’t be short of places to practice 🙂

  5. Kirsten July 17, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Welcome back to London, Flora! I’m still trying to get to grips with finding out more about the city (even though I grew up here…).

    May see you at one of the blogger meet ups! 🙂

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

      Sounds very familiar Kirsten..! I’m sure we’ll run into each other soon 🙂

  6. Jamie July 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    Wonderful article!! I’ve been home for less than a year, and I’m off on the road again – but being home has been really nice, too. It’s fun being a tourist in your own city/country. Best of luck with the traveler to londoner adjustment!!

  7. Adam Pervez July 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    I wish you all the best! I know how you feel and hope you cope better than I have 🙂

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

      Aha Adam, I’m sure you’re coping alright!

  8. MIchelle Turton July 17, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    After only 3 months in Peru I had mixed emotions about coming home to the UK. But if you’re in need of Peruvian cuisine in London I can recommend Ceviche in Soho and Andina in Shoreditch. Both very very good!

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

      Awesome! I’m already on the hunt for South American restaurants so I’ll have to try these ones!

  9. Alexis Kensey July 17, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

    Best of luck returning to London! Hopefully you can figure out what will come next and have fun exploring Europe!

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

      Thanks Alexis – I’m actually rather excited to get back to Europe again 🙂

  10. Arianwen July 17, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    I think I’ll be in a very similar position in November. Luckily, there’s a few of us, so we can support each other!

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

      Are you back for the long haul Arianwen? Sure there’ll be a blogger support system of some sort… :p

  11. Veena July 18, 2014 at 12:43 am #

    Congrats on your return, and good luck with beginning your Masters! Looking forward to reading about your life adjusting as a Londoner and your European travels. I have not ventured to eastern Europe, but I absolutely loved Brussels and the Puglia region of Italy and Istanbul, of course.

    And just in case you’ve not been there, Tayyab’s in Whitechapel is probably one of my favourite Indian restaurants outside India — the food is awesome and extremely affordable, and I recommend it to all my friends visiting London. Definitely worth a visit!

    xx

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

      Aha great recommendation – I’d love a good Indian soon 🙂 and thank you Veena, I’m so excited to start the Masters 🙂

  12. Katie @ The World on my Necklace July 18, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    Congrats on the move home – London is such an exciting city, especially if you look at it through your traveller eyes. My advice would be to just give it time. You might fit right back in straight away or it could take a few months – it took me about 6 to feel really comfortable with a more settled life again but I am loving it now. Being close to friends again is so wonderful and having more than a fleeting knowledge of a place feels so special. For some lesser known European gems I would recommend Granada and Las Alpujarras in Spain – gorgeous Moorish City and white washed mountain villages. Also Cefalu in Sicily, the Canary Island of La Gomera (my post about it here: http://bit.ly/1gDFMYB), Pembrokeshrie Coast in Wales and the Dordogne villages in France. I adore Europe! Enjoy 🙂

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

      Right, all those Spanish locations are going straight on the list! I think you’re right – I’ve been back about 10 days and I feel guilty that things don’t feel normal yet, but of course it’s going to take quite a while for everything to settle down.

  13. Andreas Moser July 18, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    Maybe you can soon visit Scotland as a foreign country.

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

      I’d love to get back to Scotland – I was there for Hogmanay in 2012!

  14. Amanda July 18, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    Well, returning to London after long-term travel is certainly more exciting than always returning to Ohio like I do! 😉

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

      Ok yeah, London isn’t exactly the worst place to be static in :p

  15. Katharina | Kate goes Global July 18, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    Bueno, para empezar… aquí ya tienes a alguien encantada de hablar español en Londres!

    I hardly ever get to speak Spanish anymore (work, friends – it’s all 95% English), so I’d be delighted to meet up for Spanish coffees 🙂

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

      Jaja perfecto – quiero hacerlo mucho! Let’s sort something 🙂

  16. Ryan July 19, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

    Wow Flora, without even reading this article before I posted mine, ours are so oddly similar! So strange how that works out, and I feel much better for not being the only one to experience this pull as well. Though there are parts of us yearning to travel continuously, and though you traveled continuously 3X longer than myself, we both find ourselves returning to explore more of “home”. Before I left the US for the first time, I wrote it off as the reason of my un-happiness, and that I didn’t want to come back. And only after leaving and returning for the second time did I start to see home as an adventure in itself. There are so many things that I haven’t taken the time to see and learn about even in my home state, let alone the USA, and there is tons of diverse (even though young) culture here. And plus tons of diversity in nature! Like you, I want to continue to travel, and I am looking onto the next big adventure, but even just at 9 months of traveling I look forward to having a constant place to sleep, to get back in shape, and to have time to catch up on my writing and novel now that I won’t be bouncing around from hostel to hostel.

    I feel like it is an exciting time for both of us, a time where we are discovering an even bigger part of our travel spirit, the ability to discover our homes in a brand new view. I think that is another level in itself when you can find adventure in a place you have always known!

    I’ll be adding you onto my article =)

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

      “…a time where we are discovering an even bigger part of our travel spirit, the ability to discover our homes in a brand new view. I think that is another level in itself when you can find adventure in a place you have always known!” — you hit the nail on the head, Ryan.

      My only issue with us both heading homewards is we aren’t going to meet for ages now! Fancy TBEX Athens/WTM in London by any chance?

  17. Alana - Paper Planes July 19, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    It’s funny hoe things seems to go in waves…I currently just ‘moved home’ indefinitely and know other long term travelers and expats who are doing the same. Maybe we’re gearing up for the next big thing…good luck!

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

      The next big thing, huh… If only I knew what that was going to be! But you’re right, a lot of people seem to be coming home to roost.

  18. Liz July 20, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    Exciting news missy! I know exactly how you feel, I’ve been in the same boat for almost a year now, and I’ve accepted that I am not meant to be a full time nomad. I need a base, which doesn’t mean traveling less either. I’m excited to see what you get up to and good luck on your masters!

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

      I think having a base is seriously underrated 🙂 I’m equally excited to see your next adventures too – and I hope we run into each other soon, it’s been way too long!

  19. Arielle July 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    I’m in a similar predicament, yet not of my own choosing, in that I’ve been land based for the past few months while our boat is in a shipyard having some work done. Being land based and writing a blog about life traveling on a yacht is tricky! Haha… that being said, please VISIT THE GLOBE THEATER (err…theatre 😉 )for me! This super fan of the bard has been dying to go since she ever set eyes on her first line of Shakespearian prose…

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

      I’m on it, Arielle!! I’m a die hard theatre goer – both my parents were in the profession 😉

  20. Caitlin July 21, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    I just got back from a 4 week whistle stop tour of Europe and my favourite country by far was Slovenia! You should definitely look at going to Lake Bled and Ljubljana 🙂

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

      Great suggestions, thanks Caitlin!

  21. Clare July 22, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    10 months into my travels, I’m a little bit jealous of you right now! Absolutely identify with missing home life and, most of all, your people to a point where you don’t always fully appreciate the experiences you’re having. That said, I’ve got a few more months in Asia to go and I can’t wait, but if you need a Yorkshire tour guide after November just let me know 🙂 Enjoy London!

    • Flora July 25, 2014 at 11:50 pm #

      Ahh keep enjoying it while you’re there 🙂 But Yorkshire tour guiding does sound tempting..!

  22. Nguyen July 22, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Welcome back to London! Maybe you should write more articles about London and England? I would love to read and visit London one day!

    • Flora July 26, 2014 at 12:01 am #

      That’s the plan, Nguyen!

  23. Laura July 24, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    It sounds like exciting times ahead! I’m really looking forward to reading about your jaunts around the UK – I love England and everytime I’m back there I enjoy discovering a new gem. There’s just so much history!

  24. Josh July 28, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Sad to hear your South American adventures are at an end for the time being, but looking forward to hearing about the adventures in your home city.
    With regards to the telenovelas, may I suggest getting hooked on either ‘La que no podía amar’ or ‘Corazón indomable’. Not my usual type of television viewing but I allowed myself to be sucked in by all the drama whilst volunteering a few months in Kenya (of all places!). They have been quite helpful in my Spanish studies since returning home to Australia, as well.
    Many thanks for the inspiring writing!

    • Flora August 4, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

      Amazing novela suggestions, Josh – muchas gracias! I’ll check them both out.

  25. Virginia July 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    Welcome back! I’m also just moving back to London, but I’ve only been away in Madrid for 6 months and have visiting once or twice during, so it’s not nearly as big a deal for me as for you! Good luck with the masters, I’d love to hear what you’ll be studying on the course.

    • Flora August 4, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

      Thanks Virginia! I’m studying creative writing non-fiction 🙂

  26. Shannon August 6, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing this post was. I have traveled a lot in my time too, but in a different way (spurts at a time) and I have always questioned whether I regret that I didn’t just go for years at a time and that perhaps I was too chicken to be invested in that way. But to read that people who travel a lot and are super passionate about it like me also feel like having a established home and friends is just so relieving to me. It makes me feel like I am not just wussing out by wanting it all. Your post definitely made me smile.

    PS If you ever have a chance to read my blog you will read in many posts about how much I adore England and how much I wish I could live there because of the culture, history, and people. It is one of my most favorite places in the world.

    Shannon
    From Chicago

    • Flora August 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

      Aww thanks Shannon! You’re absolutely not ‘wussing out’ – it takes a huge decision to actively leave your friends and family to go travelling, and I’m always uncomfortably aware that one of these days they won’t be so happy when I come back. Hence the return home now, to re-solidify the relationships I’m lucky enough to have.

      I’m so glad you love England! I’ll hopefully be exploring a lot more of the country now I’m living in it again, so look out for more articles about places other than London :p

  27. Tiffiny August 31, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    Hello Flora,

    I just stumbled across your blog. My mom and I will be traveling to London for the first time, for Christmas. We are very excited and have a bunch of stuff planned out already. However, I was curious, if you know where we could have dinner on Christmas day. I heard about supper clubs, but I don’t really know how they work. Any tips/ help would be greatly appreciated.

    Now, where should you travel? The Czech Republic, of course! I have been three times and I have many friends there. Prague is lovely. I spent three months there and still didn’t see it all. However, the smaller towns are true gems! Many of my friends live in the towns of Vysoke Myto and Chocen. Another good place to Czech (ha ha) out is Kutna Hora.

    I hope yo hear from you soon!

    Best,

    Tiffiny

    • Flora September 26, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

      Hi Tiffiny, I’m afraid I don’t know many options for eating on Christmas day..! I’d suggest looking at some more long term London-focused bloggers for tips, or maybe expats who are based in London now? Sorry I can’t be of any more help!

      As for your travel recommendations, thanks a lot – I’d love to explore more of the Czech Republic. I’ll get in touch if I need more tips!

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