White Cliffs of Dover
12 July 2013- Loughbourgh, England
Our trip ended yesterday! Wow, what a few weeks we have had. We have been in the UK for a full two weeks and it feels like the blink of an eye and like being on another planet. We have spent most of the last few weeks in northern England and Scotland, seeing a few people and going to a wedding of our dear friends from Sydney, Alice & Tom.
Just after 9 am on Friday 28th June we easily cruised through French and British immigration- The Brits asked us “Where do you live?” We stuttered a few times and they asked if we intend to live here (you go through British immigration while still in France before you get onto the boat) and we look at each other and answered “Yes”. So…. there you go. We prefer this ferry crossing to the last one we did (which was Egypt to Turkey) and the contrast could not have been more stark, a five-minute booking process online a few days earlier, we drove onboard, left landy downstairs and walked up stairs to a boat with shops, cafes, toilets AND we left on time! Just after 10 am we saw the White Cliffs of Dover and were without a doubt the most blown away people on the boat- no one else even glanced up from their newspaper while we stood at the window saying “Look, England!!” We were off the boat in less than 10 minutes and paused as we passed a half dozen customs officers standing around chatting – nothing different there, they didn’t even glance up as we drove past them and suddenly- we were in England. Driving on the left side after months on the right. Straight away we noticed all the signs in English and could even listen to the radio! We were on a bit of a high and wide eyes for the first bit, “We are in England, we drove here!”
Later in the afternoon Olly drove us into the town he grew up in, as we drove down the hill into town it felt so strange, especially for Olly, to be driving along the roads he knows so well and approaching his parents house in our car from Sydney. It didn’t feel right that we hadn’t come from the airport or we weren’t being picked up at the train station. We were met with a big warm teary welcome, all of us happy and a bit stunned! It hit us that we had actually done it, we had driven all the way from our home in Sydney, across the world and had arrived at Olly’s childhood home.
We had a weekend of family as Olly’s immediate family all arrived for a few days together. We spent the weekend chatting, playing with the boys (nephews) and eating. The great thing about family is although it had been far far too long since we have seen Olly’s family it was easy and relaxed, almost as though we were here a few weeks ago. To me it felt very dreamy and surreal to Olly it felt a bit easier and more natural. We showed the family our landy and the boys just loved it! They were intrigued by every little thing and of course loved climbing ‘upstairs’ in the bed. It felt very much like a visit and its hard to believe we will be here for a while, for birthdays, Christmas etc!
After a few short days we left again to go north to Aberdeen for the wedding. We stopped in York for an afternoon and night with Olly’s mates. Lots of reminiscing for them and catching up, a lot and nothing at all changes in three years, its funny.
Aberdeen was just brilliant. It was so good to see such good friends and watch them marry. I was feeling very out of sorts and seeing them was grounding for me. It felt great to be a little involved in the wedding build up, attending the girl/boys things they had arranged and seeing family, meeting more family and friends of theirs and helping to set up for the reception. The wedding was beautiful and the Ceilidh (Gaelic gathering that involves manic and energetic folk dancing) was great fun!!! While up there we were able to have a night with just Alice and Tom and laughed our heads off and talked like we have many many times before.
We left Aberdeen and saying bye was really crap, knowing the trip was almost over and saying bye to friends was a reality check, time to start thinking of whats next, no wedding to look forward to and a reminder to me my friends are far far away. We had a day or so in Edinburgh although we were both suffering a bit from late nights and drinking neither of which we have had much of over the past 16 months! Socialising is exhausting 🙂 (def have not had any socialising lately!). We had both picked up a cold but enjoyed walking around the city, we didn’t go on a pub crawl as planned by Olly to show me his old uni stomping ground. Instead we went back to the B n B we had treated ourselves to, watched telly and went to sleep early! Oh well….. next time. Getting out and about was really good for me- being back in landy after the weekend staying in a house (Olly’s parents) and seeing the countryside which was beautiful. Our final night was spent in north Yorkshire with some very good friends of Olly’s, David and Elaine and their family. Olly has known David since he was a teenager and David married us in Ireland. We had a great barbie and sat around a fire catching up. The area they live in is very beautiful and almost impossibly picturesque. We woke yesterday to a sunny hot day as we have almost every day since we arrived in the UK and were once again told how unusual that is, especially in Yorkshire and Aberdeen. Its getting a bit worrying how often people are telling us that! We went for a walk with our friend Elaine in the morning marvelling at the beautiful dales (valleys) looking their best.
Being here is very strange and I have felt at a bit of a loss. The main word I would use up to now is overwhelming and Olly’s word is directionless. I think it’s a big change from going to living in landy just the two of us to being around people a lot and rattling around a big house. Its only been a few days out of landy but living in a house is so different, its much easier to go to the loo for one thing, there is so much more privacy, it’s very easy to do things like cook or make a cuppa, we shower barefoot and drink tap water (which took me days to remember I could do and I’m still hesitant). It seems we are very used to and have grown comfortable with a very basic toilet and a hose hanging from the ceiling for a shower. We never smell sewage here! I guess we stopped smelling it all the time when we got to Europe, for a long while it was ever present. Showering without it is nice. 🙂 Sleeping with walls around you is so quiet and it feels a little suffocating with so little fresh air even with all the doors and windows open. So much has happened at the roadside as we have rumbled past, out on view, but here (and in our cultures) our lives take place mostly behind closed doors and away, walking or driving down the streets it feels as though everyone is tucked away. To me it feels contained and sterile but we will get used to it. Another big thing for me is the abundance of everything! As well as the ease of things. Want some cheese for lunch? Well there are 50 kinds to choose from in the shop. Want to chat to someone? Internet and phone available almost all the time. Need to do some washing? No worries, there is a machine for that here! I feel both a little overwhelmed and amazed as well as a fair bit of discomfort about it. We got used to the colour, energy, vibrancy and chaos of Africa and we both miss it. I think there will be a lot we miss.
Now what? Well…. we always knew the trip would end and that’s not a bad thing. Although we could easily keep going (oh soooo easily) neither of us would travel permanently even if we could and for now the time has come. I think its going to take a while for it to stop reverberating through my every thought and that’s ok with me. Although we are not on the trip anymore I don’t think it will ever go away. A few people have asked us “Has it changed you?” My answer is a resounding yes. I’m not saying I’m a different person but the lens through which I see the world has been altered and although I can’t yet articulate how I am not the same. I have stretched, grown. It will take a long time for both of us to process things and settle in properly. Today is the first day of that.
Landy is going into semi retirement. A few people have asked will we sell her? “NO”. She is a champion and a little tired after all that bumping and the long long distance. We are going to import her into the UK and get her registered here so we can do some holiday trips around the UK and Europe.
This has been a wonderful, moving, exciting experience, certainly the experience of a life time. To be honest I thought there would be times we got sick of it, times we would be over it, but we were so in awe of being the trip and so amazed by what we saw and the people we met, difficulties have been very few and far between. All the what ifs and curiosities didn’t come to be. What if we break down in the middle of nowhere? What if we get sick of it all? Other people’s what ifs- what if they get sick of each other? What if we get car jacked, eaten by animals, etc etc. Well none of it came to be. We didn’t get bored and were never sick of it and we certainly didn’t get sick of each other. There were a few times we got frustrated with things or impatient about having to move kit to get to stuff in the early days but we just got used to it and that faded quickly. Of course there were times we got irritated with each other but only a few and not for long. A big thing for me has been doing this with Olly. The shared dreaming, shared planning shared experiences and now shared memories – it’s so very special to have with your life partner. I have learned a lot about myself. I have also learned a lot about Olly, all of it I like, except he is an dreadful ‘backseat driver’. 🙂 There is nothing you don’t see and know about each other travelling like we have. I love that we have set our mind to something and made it happen together, I know we could set our mind to other things and make them happen too.
Perhaps the biggest thing is the simplicity, the make do, the humbleness A trip absorbs you, enthrall you, you are busy planning, learning, being very stimulated by the people and things you see, you are busy processing these new experiences, problem solving, interacting with people and places, although you may be moving this life becomes normal, you build up routines, become very self-sufficient, and have great fun!
The highlights are too numerous to list but we have seen some incredible nature from reefs in Aus to big cats at a kill in Africa and the people we have met have been inspiring, interesting, generous, humorous and beautiful.
L and O