Half a Year Home: The difficulties and delights at the end of a tour.

I realise with some trepidation that it’s now approaching one year since we peddled ‘Telia the Tandem’, hot, sweaty and somewhat relieved to Australia’s East coast and in so doing ended the two year cycling phase of our honeymoon journey. It has now also been six months since we finally returned ‘home’ to the UK, to the place where it all started, and began embracing the aftermath of our journey.

‘Aftermath’ sounds as if we’re in the wake of some kind of huge storm – one that’s picked up all that had once been settled and secure, shifted it around and left behind an entirely different landscape. In so many ways this is exactly how life has felt these past few months. Despite returning to our place of origin, familiar in so many ways, it’s nevertheless apparent that this is in fact another new landscape for us to navigate our way through, only this time without the simplicity and identity of two wheels below us and the added unfamiliarity of being a more individual undertaking for us both. Following years of being no more than just a few feet apart, we’re now having to learn to contend with our own challenges and adventures once more. Alice in undertaking a gruelling and intensive masters course in physiotherapy and Pete in setting up his own business: ‘Adventure Pedlars’ (more on this to come…) and finding freelance work.

Since our initial amazement at the most basic comforts a more settled life can provide; that we need not carry all of our drinking water with us on a daily basis but instead let it flow from taps (and be flushed down the toilet no less!); that a simple chair can feel like the height of luxury because you’re not sat on the floor; that we have a home of our own that’s not made out of canvas (and that has an oven!); that we have actual possessions like books, records, bikes, clothes, shoes and a dog!; that we have regular access to multiple varieties of cheese… and that speaking to a friend or loved one is no more difficult than picking up a phone or driving down the road; we’ve now become somewhat more accustomed to the ways of a ‘normal’ life (you’ll no longer find me staring, dumfounded in a supermarket aisle, at thirty different varieties of washing powder wondering what’s gone wrong with the world…). Nevertheless we do our best to remember that these things, now seemingly so basic are in fact a great privilege, one that the majority of people on this planet can still only dream of (and one that may well not remain ours forever..).

Another huge privilege for us has been to re-discover this most varied, beautiful, cultured and crowded little island. A dazzling winter’s day, a proper pint of proper beer, bleak moorland, a thronging live music venue, a warm fire in a country pub, drizzle, hedgerows, pies, leafy woodland singletrack, bluebells, crags, summertime barbecues and above all a sense of belonging, of history and of rootedness that you get from no longer being a stranger in a place.

Three years ago we borrowed a quote from T.S Elliot that read: “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. Now, having tested the concept literally, thoroughly and to the best of our ability, we can say that, in so many more ways than we’d first imagined, it is true.

 

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