The hardest thing about living abroad, especially at the ripe old age of 23, is being away from your family, at least for me, and I’m sure many other people will agree. (This is closely followed by missing a good piece of bread.) I offer my many thanks to all the clever minds of this world that make it possible for me to call them whenever I want though.
Last night, I spoke to my Grandma. After the usual, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’, ‘Have you made some nice friends?’, ‘What on earth are you eating?’ and also the added shock that Asia even has telephones, she presented me with a new question : ‘Do you think you’re ever going to come home?’.
So much of me wanted to say yes to her. Some days all I would give is to be sat in their living room watching countdown and terrible soap operas and reboiling the kettle to keep up with the copious cups of tea that they consume per hour. I really would. But the word that came out of my mouth was ‘No’, because at least for now, I can’t see myself going back there.
And, although weighted with a sadness, my Grandma’s response was ‘So you shouldn’t’ followed by a long spiel about how much of a mess the UK is in and how I shouldn’t pass up the opportunities to explore the world and how the furthest she could ever go when she was my age was to Blackpool. I’m incredibly grateful that my Grandma has a big enough heart to want me to continue falling in love with places thousands of miles away from where she is, but at the same time it breaks my heart a little to know that the reality of my old life in the UK is never going to happen again. The days of driving up to see them, eating her homemade cakes and exploring the North of England with them are over.
My Grandma and Granddad are in their late 80s now and for the most part they’re housebound. Every now and again when my Dad takes them out for a day trip, the thing they want to do is go to the beach, in the cold, windy, British weather, in the place where they have their fondest memories of growing up, have a plate of fish and chips on the bench and sit together. That’s all they want. And that tells me, to some extent, that simply sitting by the side of a person you love, in a place that’s not necessarily exotic, but home to you, is often enough.
I remember that, and I’m not sure if it is still there, my Dad used to keep this note in his wallet that I had written for him when I was little – I think it was something along the lines of loving him more than one million rainbows (I was very poetic). Now, for those of you that don’t know me or my family, then you should know at this point that one of the most vivid memories of my Dad when growing up is him sitting me down and showing me all the slides from his travels throughout the Himalayas and the Andes – so we can probably make the assumption that he’s had some adventures. But I wonder, when he was off doing incredible things with his life, if he knew that eventually he wouldn’t need to climb a mountain or have an adventure to make him smile but he could take a little piece of paper out of his wallet instead.
I think I’ve gone off on a tangent somewhat, but my point is no matter where my feet may take me next, there really isn’t anything more important to me than family. Speaking to them over the phone from thousands of miles away doesn’t come anywhere close to sitting around the dinner table with them arguing over something completely irrelevant. It’s easy to take those relationships for granted when you’re just a stone’s throw away from them, I certainly did – to be surrounded and supported by a group of people no matter what; to argue and fight, but ultimately love them unconditionally and still be able to sit and watch University Challenge together. That’s definitely what I miss the most.
With that in mind, I have every intention to return back to the UK soon in order to slip back into my old life, if only for a week or two.