Visiting a place you no longer call home can cause all sorts of turmoil. I’ve been back to the UK twice since moving to Australia and each time the trip has been like churning a cauldron of mixed emotions. The things that were once familiar now feel strange, seeing the people you’ve been missing from afar up close again makes you miss them even more and I personally also suffer a dreadful case of expat’s guilt – I love living in Sydney even though my friends and family aren’t with me, this makes me feel all kinds of terrible.
But this trip was not about guilt or regret. It was about reunions and celebrations and picking up with people where we left off a few months prior. So I have taken inspiration from my friend and fellow blogger Frankie and want to focus on the moments on happiness. Yes, there were moments of overwhelm and some days of awkwardness, but overall there was lots of happiness. These were some of the best bits.
> Meeting and squeezing my very huggable nephew Henry who was born shortly after my last trip home (he was born 1 day after I had to leave, much to my regret!). We’ve Skyped since then but this visit was the first time I got to cuddle his very loveable flesh. I was worried he might cry at my strange face but luckily I look a lot like his mummy so we were best friends in no time.
> Celebrating my little (yet massive) brother turn 18. I remember when this very long baby came home from the hospital and now he is old enough to drink beer and earn a decent wage. I still tease him like he’s my little brother, but more gently now that I barely reach his waist.
> Having some girl time with the besties I’ve grown up with. I met my 2 best friends in university. We studied together, travelled the world and then settled on 3 different islands but still strive to be there for each other as we take on challenges such as wedding planning and parenting. We got together in London to gossip like old times and encourage each other to do irresponsible things like buy designer shoes from Jimmy Choo (I secretly love how my best friends do this – don’t you?). When Justin and I get married next year I’ll have a glitzy souvenir from London and a reminder of my time with the girls to walk down the aisle with, wherever that may be.
> Soaking up the buzz and randomness of London. At first I thought there must be something happening I didn’t know about – some event or festival – that meant there was this many people, police and buskers on the streets, and then I remembered, this is London. The sun was shining and people were crowding the pavement to get a drink in during the last minutes of sun. A choir in Trafalgar Square surrounded the Grim Reaper and started singing some kind of opera. I was snapping photos like a tourist who had come to town for the first time. It was brilliant.
> Bumping into Elton John. So this actually happened. I was in Windsor with my mum and Aunty doing a bit of shopping and cake-eating like we usually do of a weekend. I was also doing my tourist thing and taking some photos of the castle when I noticed an unusual collection of characters walking towards me. An older man in a tracksuit was hobbling along, holding the hand of a smartly dressed child and surrounded by some other buff-looking men. It wasn’t until I was up close with the spec-wearing man in a tracksuit that I realised I recognised his face. It was local resident Elton and his family/entourage. I discreetly poked mum in the ribs, who happened to be withdrawing cash at the time and thought she was being mugged, and we both gawped in silence until they’d passed. I worked in a shoe store in Windsor during sixth form and never saw anyone of interest, so this encounter more than made up for it.
> Eating all my old favourite foods. Mums are so good at remembering your favourite meals aren’t they? Mine made sure everything I craved was on the menu during my 2 weeks at home – plus more things I hadn’t realised I’d missed (I got seriously over-excited when we went to Pizza Express and remembered their Doughballs).
> Shopping the UK high street. I’ve mentioned this in about 3 posts now but seriously, the shopping is so good in the UK. It took me less than 24 hours to replace all the underwear, shoes and the coat in my suitcase courtesy of M&S. The great thing about being an expat is you can claim all the tax back on purchases as you leave the country. (Tip: pay with your foreign card and the relevant forms will automatically come with your receipt when you pay in store.)
> Planning my wedding. I haven’t been home since getting engaged so I was really looking forward to planning my wedding in person with the girls. With Justin and I being from 2 (very far apart) continents we’re not finding wedding planning the easiest process in the world, but I did have some fun doing some bride-to be things with the girls such as trying on wedding gowns and looking at bridesmaids dresses. In complete honesty, these experiences weren’t so much happy as they were overwhelming, but I’m glad I was overwhelmed with my mum and closest friends on hand rather than in a dress shop in Sydney on my own. Hopefully that meltdown moment has now passed!
> Flying in style. My flight to the UK was particularly glamorous as I was very luckily invited to experience the Cathay Pacific business class flat-bed. (More on that experience here.) Flying back to Sydney was tough emotionally as it felt like I was saying goodbye to everyone all over again and I don’t have any set dates for when I’ll be back at the moment. (It depends how we get on with the Partner Visa Process.) London to Sydney is a long flight to be left alone with your thoughts but I did find some distractions on the in-flight entertainment (mainly reruns of BBC comedy Miranda) and took some comfort from the tubs of Haagen-Dazs they dished out in premium economy. After I’d got my emotions back in check it was easy to sleep the rest of the way back and I was met with a big hug from Justin at the other end.
That’s a lot of happy moments for 2 short weeks. I’ll have to plan a longer visit next time.