May 2014: Despite buying a plane ticket and putting all the plans in motion, I was not looking forward to moving back to the UK. Yes, I had made this decision myself, but it didn’t mean I was comfortable with it. Let's rewind four months...
January 2014: a weekend in my favourite jungle city, Quillabamba, the place of eternal summer. This was where I had a conversation with my good friend Julia, a Canadian who, like me, had been living in Peru for over three years. She was due to return to her native country (I won’t say ‘home’ because that feels very restrictive) in February, which was a month away. I still had until June. Like me, she had made that decision, but was not looking forward to the day at all. Our worries centred on practical things such as, “I won’t have any money!” “Will anyone hire me?” “What kind of job do I want anyway?” ... to emotional concerns such as “Will all my friends have moved on?” and “How on earth will I cope living back at home with my mother?!” .
Our conversation turned to when we both first moved to Peru in the first place, she in October 2010; me in January 2011. For both of us, it was a leap of faith into the unknown. We had taken similar paths in deciding that we couldn’t afford to volunteer so we both had made sure to have jobs lined up in Peru. Not well-paying jobs, but something at least to give some sense of purpose and structure to our lives. Before arriving, I didn’t know a single soul in the whole of Peru, let alone Urubamba, this tiny Andean village where I was due to be living. Julia and I talked about how we had felt, reminisced about how we met each other, and pondered about how we were going to cope with the transition of leaving Peru behind and starting from scratch all over again.
You would think that going back to your country of birth would be easy enough, and in some ways it is, of course. For me, quick and easy transport links has been a wonderful luxury to sink back into. However I find that I no longer ‘fancy a cuppa’ - preferring instead strong Latin American coffee and herbal teas. In Peru, I missed the British sense of humour; the quick wit of my Sheffield friends whose favourite method of showing you that they love you to pieces is of course to be as mean as possible to you. However, now that I'm back in the UK, I miss the simple pleasures and easy conversations shared with Peruvian friends, and the straightforward earnestness of my American friends. Since getting back to the UK just over two weeks ago I have eaten food from all over the world, which has been a true delight after a diet based around potatoes and rice. However going to the supermarket leaves me overwhelmed and indecisive in the face of so much choice. Living abroad gives you a lens through which to critically view your ‘home’ country, and what you see is fascinating.
That day in January 2014, as Julia and I ate ice cream in the hot sun of the Andean jungle, we made a decision. We would treat moving ‘home’ in the same way that we treated moving abroad. We would make an effort to leave our comfort zone of familiar places and explore our cities as if we were arriving for the first time. We would of course meet up with old friends, but we would be more open to meeting new friends. We would take the sense of adventure that carried us to Peru in the first place and apply it to Canada and the UK respectively.