All good things come to an end

22:14, Oct 08 2012

There comes a time for every traveller when they must accept that they have run out of money and it's time to return to work.

That day came last week for Nathan and me, so we decided to return to the world of routine, and we're now trying to set up lives in the UK.

We flew into London on Friday, and are now residing in a friend's garage while we get ourselves jobs, a flat, and bank accounts. (Curiously, it seems that to get one of these things you really need the others so I'm interested to see how we work our way out of this chicken-or-the-egg situation.)

After months of unpacking and repacking every couple of days, it's a bizarre feeling to stop being on the move, but also quite a relief.

I wouldn't have thought I'd get sick of unstructured, fun time every day, but actually there's a lot to be said for a less limited wardrobe, a washing machine, a bedtime, and a hair straightener.

We've met a lot of travellers, and it was interesting to see how different people cope with long trips.


There were some who had been going backpacker styles for years. They didn't seem to tire of it, they didn't spend much money, often they only had carry-on sized luggage. They seemed kind of rootless (like a fallen tree, not someone having trouble hooking up) and were more than happy with that.

Then there was the other group who, though they were loving the travel, were also looking forward to home time. They said things like "I miss my bed", and "I'm over living out of a suitcase", and got really excited about home-cooked meals.

Travel snobs would say the former group are "authentic travellers" and the second group are "tourists". But that's stupid. To be a traveller all you have to do is travel - there are no rules about how to do it, or how to feel about it.

(Does anybody else hate travel snobs like I do? Yes, I got excited about Disneyland and the Statue of Liberty. Why is that a bad thing?)

I proudly fall into the latter group. I wouldn't have taken away a day of our trip, but there were definitely things I missed from non-travel life. And really shallow stuff too, like mani/pedis and clothes shopping. The day I got a Facebook invite to a friend's big fat gypsy wedding-themed party, I was actually checking airline ticket prices.

I knew there would be missteps on our epic holiday, and we have had those, but there are few events I regret, or changes I would have made. 

For anyone heading away for a long trip, these are some of the important, and less important, things I have learnt:

- Planning and paying upfront might be less adventurous, but will save a lot of money.

- "Do you speak English?", "Excuse me", "Where is the ...? ", and "Thank you" are the most valuable phrases to learn in all languages.

- You don't need to buy a lilo when you sail in Croatia, and you really don't then need to take that lilo on a European adventure in your already overfilled pack "just in case you have a chance to use it".

- Microfibre travel towels are not a good substitute for picnic blankets.

- Don't buy cheap bags off the internet for long periods of travel. The slashies did last, but barely. Though mine is more than 5kg heavier now...

- You must cash in on being from New Zealand, because it seems everyone loves a Kiwi (or Flight of the Conchords anyway - tell people you know them and you're set).

- McDonald's is the most reliable free toilet and wifi option no matter where you are.

- Pictures don't do landmarks justice - being there actually is everything.

Do any other travellers (authentic or not) have essential tips to pass on? You can use that new Stuff Nation thing to log on and write a comment. Yes, no one likes change and this whole logging in thing seems like one step too far, but it doesn't seem to be going away so you might as well do it so next time you want to comment on a story, you'll already have the Stuff account!

Thank you to all the commenters who gave us advice over the past five months, or amused us with hilarious travel tales. 

Kudos also to the freaks who made the effort to come online and let me know I was boring them. That was quite a waste of time, wasn't it? Well done.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. Keep calm and carry on.

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