There is always something quite scary about coming back home after having gone off travelling for a while. People will smile at you and ask how you’re dealing with ”reality”, everyone is very worried about your employment status, and the question “so what’s next?” will come at you left, right and centre.
The answer is, of course, that no, you’re not dealing well with “reality”, because you are now very much aware you just left what was real and are back in a rabbit hole of what the French call “metro, boulot, dodo”, something so far from life and anything that is real (humanly real that is) that your first thought on contemplating a return to this life is to reach for a very sharp object. “What next?” is answered with a smile on your part, whilst you are screaming your brains’ out in your head and cannot wait to rush home to find a flight to somewhere, anywhere, but home. If all else fails, there’s always that sharp object you took out a couple of hours ago still laying on your desk. And here comes the question of employment. You’ve been gone for months, if not years, and money is running low. Even you admit that really, it’s time to get a job and get some much needed cash back in. Even if only to be able to get that flight you found to Syria. It’s cheap, you might as well: anywhere would be better than where you are right now, stuck in between a rock and a hard place of uncertainty, dread and confusion.
There are countless articles online that will tell you that travelling is making you more employable. Only a couple of days ago did I see one on my Facebook newsfeed. They all say the same thing: travelling will make you smarter, more budget savvy, better at communicating and more confident. That might be true, but can that really be enough to convince a potential employer that it was all worth it, career-wise?
Having just come back from 8 months travelling the world, I don’t think so. How much I wish I could say it was all worth it, and how I would like to simply send a “I’ve just came back from travelling the world, come and hire me!” note to potential employers and have them fall at my feet, get great opportunities thrown at me from everywhere, and be able to pick and choose… I’m being carried away. The truth of it all is that when you come back from extended wandering in this beautiful wide world, all you will have to show for it is, well, nothing. Of course you will have the memories and pictures, the new friends and maybe even the odd new skills or languages picked up randomly here and there, but that won’t be enough. I have spent many a shower (that’s where I usually think) wondering how to turn 8 months travelling into more than 8 months bumming around the world in the eyes of whoever will, maybe, potentially, be interested in hiring me. “Give me a job, please, I’m broke from all the fun I’ve been having whilst you were stuck at the office, only to look forward to the fragrant armpits of a stranger in a packed Tube on your way home” will not cut it. And that leaves me, quite frankly, uncertain, frightened and confused.
Because deep down, I do, I really do, want some part of my old life back: the stability of a job and of knowing where I will sleep tonight, a certain kind of routine and of course, the cash. And that confuses me even more than the prospect of looking for a job. How does one reconciles that part of them with the carefree traveller who is at its happiest on the road, never settling, never taking anything for granted, never keeping still.
Travelling does make you smarter, more budget savvy, better at communicating and more confident. It also makes you restless. Typing this in the middle of the night, I have images flashing in front of my eyes: a little house on the North Shore of O’ahu, Halloween spent at the flat of someone who just opened her San Francisco door to complete strangers from far way, Mount Aoraki in the sunshine, that perfect wave in Bali… I can almost taste the salt, sun, rain and goon… I have met, along my travels, some people who have made this life into a living, others who are happy to go from places to places, finding odd jobs to fund their wanders, enough cash to make it to the next place, and I am in awe. I am not sure I could do it. Will they, at some point, go “home”, wherever they decide to call home, and settle? How will they be able to market themselves to get a permanent job?
I am genially interested in an answer to that question. If travelling really does make you more employable, surely, the longer you travel, the more employable you become, or is such a phrasing shedding light on the truth of it?
Does travelling make you more employable? Hell no! But it was, and will always be worthwhile, every day of it. Even if it means the only jobs you can find when coming back (if you ever really do come back) are the ones you used to do when you were still at school. Even if all the time, effort and money you put into a top education will never fill the gap of these months or years on the road, not working, or advancing your career, but discovering, experiencing, living. If I have to make cup of coffees for the rest of my life, so be it. I would not trade my memories, the smells or the people I’ve met for any highflying career. Having said that, it WOULD be nice to get a permanent job within my chosen industry… Just in case though, my backpack and I are ready to go back on the road.