York - Coming Home

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May 24th 2009
Published: May 25th 2009
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Just another Yorkshire sunsetJust another Yorkshire sunsetJust another Yorkshire sunset

who said it were grim up north!
So here I am, back home, almost four months since my last blog. I was worried about coming home after so long away. I already knew how it felt, having been away for 19 months on a previous trip. Losing the freedom and excitement of travel and replacing it with the mundane, the routine and lots of pitying ‘welcome back to the real world’ comments is not an easy experience. Add to this the fact that the ‘real world’ is in recession and doesn’t tend to allow for much hammock-time, and the picture is looking rather grim. I was worried about job-hunting during a recession and the way it might cause my re-entry to the world to be rather less than gentle.

Although these first few months back home have been pretty mixed - at times fantastic, at others downright depressing - generally they have been a lot better than I’d anticipated.

Seeing family and friends has by far been the best thing about coming back. Not just seeing them but re-entering into their lives and regaining and strengthening relationships. It is harder to maintain relationships when your lives and experiences are so separate; conversations can take on a strange duality and become more an exchange of news than an actual conversation. The feeling of being closer to those important to me can’t easily be beaten.

The joy of having my own privacy and space has also been amazing. We spent the last few months staying in dormitories, and - being someone who likes personal space - I found it pretty stressful at times to have a room full of strangers and introductions and handshakes when I wasn’t even dressed for the day! This wouldn’t have been the case if it was the beginning of the trip and we were raring to go and dying to meet other travellers (perhaps worth considering for those planning a trip to South America on a modest budget: Argentina and Brazil - dorms; Peru and Bolivia - private rooms).

Doing nothing is another great pleasure. Time off from experiencing, seeing and trying new things is needed occasionally! Having said that, I have managed two trips outside of the UK in the past few months. The first was to the beautiful island of La Palma to see my mum. The second was to Prague for my Dad’s 60th birthday. Both trips were fantastic and I certainly appreciated having the opportunity to go away again so soon; blogs should be forthcoming!

The small matter of employment was fairly depressing. Trying to get a job during a recession after a year-out is not to be recommended. It’s been stressful and one hell of a jolt back to what people like to call ‘reality’. I wasn’t making the paper-sift for jobs that I was qualified for on paper because people with years worth of relevant experience were applying for ‘entry-level’ roles. Recruitment agencies told me it was very unlikely I’d be able to get an office job because I’d not been in an office for so long (surely all those hours in internet cafes count for something: I can sort out a full inbox on a half-dead computer with 40 degree heat and a countdown timer!). Hours of trawling the internet brought back very little (and I was prepared to work pretty much anywhere in the country and work for less than I had previously earned). After a couple of months of searching I thought it was looking like another TEFL stint was the only option. I was getting warmed up to the idea, but the thought of packing my bags and going off to live in another country wasn’t quite filling me with the excitement it should have been. I think that was partly because it wasn’t exactly the career move I had in mind and partly because I was enjoying being back in England too much to consider leaving again so soon. Thankfully, I was put out of my misery recently when I got a job as an editorial assistant for a publishing company. Big sigh of relief. The recruitment agents were gobsmacked when I rang to tell them to take me off their books (‘You’ve got a job!! …. How?!). It made for rather a satisfying conversation.

So what’s all this got to do with York? Well, admittedly not a lot except to say I love being back in my own city and appreciating it through fresh eyes. It’s a beautiful place and I’ve saved myself from job-hunting fever by walking around and taking some photos. It’s a great city even if you don’t spend any money on attractions. You can walk along the city walls, through the marketplace (which hasn’t changed in years; the stallholders still shout - somewhat incomprehensibly - about their wares), alongside the river, through the narrow ginnels (passageways between buildings), across one of the many bridges and into the tangle of ancient cobbled streets. It’s a great city for just being; the tourists, the students and the lack of big business all help create a relaxed, holiday atmosphere.

It’s so touristy but I love the fact you can walk along the Shambles and hear so many different languages. I listen out for Korean and Spanish; having spent 12 months and 4 months respectively in Korea and South America, it’s nice to be able to hear these languages in my own city. But as much as I enjoy other languages, I love being back in a country where I understand the majority of what is being said. In 664 days we spent just 9 days in a country where English is the native language - this got a little trying/confusing at times! I love hearing (and understanding!) the broad Yorkshire accents and the friendly banter. I am amused by the snippets of conversation I hear as people pass by and bemused by the private things people say in public places. I think
Pink MinsterPink MinsterPink Minster

The Minster occasionally gets lit up with special lights (it's normally lit with plain floodlights). This is it in pink in support of Cancer Research
you can only really appreciate all this ‘understanding’ after spending a long time in the linguistic dark in countries where all the interactions - the greetings, the banter, the jokes and the arguments - are often nothing more than a jumble of unintelligible sounds to your unaccustomed ears.

I’m still enjoying taking photos and am pleased that photography made the transition from something that I only did while travelling, to something more permanent. At the moment I’m taking photos everyday, having joined a photo-a-day, photo-journal website. I’ve also kept up with learning Spanish and have one-on-one language exchanges with native Spanish speakers. We meet for a couple of hours for a chat in English and then Spanish (or vice versa) over coffee. As well as being a perfect way to get the all-important speaking practice, it’s also a great way to banish the mundane, learn more about other cultures and see your city through a foreigner’s eyes.

Keeping up with photography and Spanish has helped keep me sane during the transition back to ‘normal’ life. I would recommend anyone coming home from a long trip to try and have some kind of continuity. It might just
Minerva, Roman Goddess of WisdomMinerva, Roman Goddess of WisdomMinerva, Roman Goddess of Wisdom

...leaning on a pile of books because this area used to be full of bookshops, bookbinders and publishers
soften that lifestyle-shock blow a little.

As for the blog: I needed to tune out. I didn’t want to read, write, or even think about travelling for a while. I was utterly saturated by it and needed a travel detox. I also needed to pay heed to my fragile mental state and not end up at the nearest airport, clutching my passport and demanding to be flown to wherever was currently featuring on the travelblog homepage.

I apologise that my avoidance of the site meant that I didn’t reply to public and private messages for some months and didn’t say thank you for comments received! A big belated - but heartfelt - THANK YOU! The messages really meant a lot and I look forward to tuning back in to travel and reading what other people have been up to (I think I can just about control my envy now😉

I wanted to write this blog as a bridge between this mammoth trip and any smaller ones. I also wrote it because it felt like it needed finishing. Maybe it’s a little bit unusual to post an entry from home but too many blogs are left without ‘the ending’ and with the travelbloggers disappearing into the abyss.
As for future travels, after my two mini-trips to La Palma and Prague it will be a while before I go away again and when I do it will be on a much smaller timescale; I’m thinking weeks not years! I’m already dreaming of destinations... Spain, Mongolia, India, Tanzania, Costa Rica… yep, still an addict.

Happy travels everyone x

Additional photos below
Photos: 72, Displayed: 28


Pope's Head AlleyPope's Head Alley
Pope's Head Alley

There are 47 'snickelways' in York (snickets, ginnels, alleys etc.). Most of them are difficult to find, wonderfully named ('Black Horse Passage', 'Mad Alice Lane', for example) and have a traditional lamp to light the way. The book 'A walk around the Snickelways of York' guides you through the ancient passageways: an excellent 'alternative' guide to York (and a very alternative experience!).
Stonegate DevilStonegate Devil
Stonegate Devil

Number 33 Stonegate was the home of a printer and under the eaves is the Red Devil, a reminder of the printers' devil who used to carry the hot type.
Ghost SignGhost Sign
Ghost Sign

Old advertisement, Lord Mayor's Walk
The ShamblesThe Shambles
The Shambles

...normally heaving with people during the day, pretty quiet at night

26th May 2009

I loved the shambles in York ... and the street performers ... Beautiful photos ... made me miss England! T_T
26th May 2009

Welcome back!
Thanks for the epic journey! Have really enjoyed being an office chair traveller. And wonderful to have you back safe and sound.
30th May 2009

Great blog, thank you
I'm in a similar situation to you, having returned home 2 days ago after 2 years of travel. I came home with malaria and serious jet lag so am still very much recovering and doing nothing but like you had thought that when I'm better some sort of continuity of travel habits would ease the transition back to "reality"- perhaps even just doing a few trips to places in my own country i would otherwise have ignored. Anyway, your blog made a great read, thanks :)

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