I miss travelling

I’m now about two-thirds through my travel-less summer in London, and have just finished an eight-week internship in a big corporate technology company. While I’m genuinely glad to have had the experience of working in a regular office for two months (and even getting paid for it), I can’t say I’m too upset that I’m returning to being a student again – I’ll be spending the next month or so catching up on university work before I return in October for my final year. When I told my manager on Friday that I had learnt a lot from the internship I wasn’t lying – I think almost the best thing about it was that I had the chance to speak to so many different people about what they had done with their careers, how they had started out, and what they would recommend for people of my age. I was surprised too at which parts of work I enjoyed (not entirely what I would have predicted in advance), and which parts were less interesting (read: mind-numbingly dull) and left me watching the clock and counting down the hours until it was an appropriate time to go home (sometimes hard to judge as an intern!). All of which I’m sure will help (a little bit?) when trying to choose things to apply to after I’ve graduated… I even think I’ll miss quite a few of the people I worked with, and it will definitely be a bit odd next week knowing that they are carrying along with what I was working with and yet I will probably never see them/those projects again.

So in short, I wouldn’t say that I had wasted the summer: I had never previously done any formal work experience, so I was always going to have to start somewhere. However at the same time, I wouldn’t say that it has exactly been a thrilling summer, full of excitement and fun and time in the sun. Certainly very different to my everyday life at university, so interesting to some degree in that respect, I suppose…

It has now been rather a long time since I have travelled anywhere for any decent length of time. I’m not counting family trips for a week here and there or quick city breaks with friends in Europe, that sort of thing. I mean setting off with a backpack for a month at the very least to somewhere new, with new tastes, new languages, new smells and sounds, new places to explore. I miss the feeling of arriving in a new city, finding my place on the map and getting to grips with a new transport system, or of struggling to get my tongue around a new language with a whole host of noises that my mouth can’t quite make, or of turning up in a hostel exhausted but excited and meeting other travellers, finding out where they’ve come from and where they’re going, of discovering that the Australian girls in the corner are going somewhere you’ve just come from so you can recommend to them a great restaurant or fantastic viewpoint to climb up to you found there that they haven’t heard of. I miss going to museums and finding about what that area is known for (yes, I know there are museums in London, but it’s not quite the same), particularly the slightly smaller museums with exhibitions of things you wouldn’t even think there could be a museum for. I miss getting to know someone from the other side of the planet and finding out what you share in common and what’s different, or learning more about your own culture and country by talking about it to others, of questioning what you might always have taken for granted. (I’m thinking especially here of when I went to India and had to explain the whole time that it really just wasn’t that abnormal in Britain to be 19 and still unmarried!) I miss trying to communicate with people when you have no shared language, and are reduced to conversations in some sort of hilarious sign language, or just mentioning English football teams or players in turn – I don’t think I have yet been to anywhere in the world where people have not heard of Manchester United – I’m not sure what that says, either that football is a great equalizer for people of different cultures because you only need a ball to start a game, or that Man U have some pretty great advertising around the world, and it’s a sad sign of the increasing yet inevitable globalisation of our planet along the lines of Coca Cola? 

I miss rides in rickety buses where you are surrounded by crying babies on one side and livestock on the other. I even sort of miss the strange buses from Peru which play war films at top volume throughout the whole journey, and all the passengers dutifully watch in hushed silence for hours on end (see here). I miss the slow pace of life in other countries, where it is perfectly acceptable to spend half the afternoon in a coffee shop in the town square watching the world go by. I miss the small jump of excitement when you’re in a plane flying in somewhere, and you catch your first glimpse of your destination, whether that be the twinkling lights of a city in the night-time, or long plains of fields gently glowing in the afternoon sun. I miss working out what the specialty food of the region is (I particularly miss the ceviche in Peru), or what the best drink is for that climate (whether it be a cool type of juice in hot weather or which café does the best hot chocolate or mulled wine in chillier lands). I miss jumping in the waves and swimming in gorgeous lakes (I have been swimming only once this summer, and that was in a pool in Cambridge), or the feeling of washing sand out of your hair and salt out of your skin in the shower after a day at the beach. I miss staying in interesting places, whether that be a pensioner’s flat in Normandy who is renting out a room so that she can earn a little money to take her beloved grand-daughter on a holiday to New York (and insists on showing you endless family albums), or a monastery in the depths of Montenegro surrounded by highly religious pilgrims where you will be locked out if you aren’t back by 10pm, or a huge hotel in Turkey where you happen to be the only guests out of 400 rooms so when you ask what time breakfast is, the manager says it is quite literally whenever you want it, or a cabin in the Amazon rainforest where you don’t want to look too closely at the small insects in your bed…I could go on and on.

In some ways, it has been good to have a summer off travelling just to remember what I love so much about going to different places around the world. Some of the above may be clichés (and are indeed only a very small selection of the things that I can think of immediately) – but they are maybe clichés for a reason. In any case, I’m very much looking forward to planning some trips for next summer after I graduate (and potentially for a year out as well): any and all ideas and recommendations very welcome. I think it may be difficult to decide where to go, as there are so many places out there that I’d love to see…

What do you miss about travelling when you are back home?

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