Moving abroad is a big step. While away, you'll miss family and friends. You might miss the little home comforts. You might even want to take a trip home. In my experience, I have found that most people love travelling so much, that they don't make it home in their first year.
But what about after then? What is it like when you do finally make that trip back?
I have been in China for five and a half years. The first time I went home was in 2015 for Christmas. I couldn't wait to go home. I missed my family and friends and I was excited to see everyone.
Despite missing my flight from Beijing (due to bad weather in Harbin), I landed in London safely and it felt great being back. I had so many stories to tell, so many people to see, and it was Christmas!
Once Christmas was over and I had caught up with everyone, it was that time again. I had to say goodbye. When finally left, the tears came. It felt as if I was leaving for the first time again. I sat by the gates waiting for my flight to Beijing, and thought “Hmmm, I could stay.”
I returned to London again this year after another two years, but this time, the feeling was a little different. Firstly, I was going home to celebrate my mum's eightieth birthday, that reminded me that my parents were getting older and I was very far away from home.
Secondly, I had settled into my life in China a great deal more than I had expected, so there was a part of me that was thinking “Am I actually going home? Or am I leaving home now?”
I arrived in Heathrow and my dad was unable to collect me because of the bad weather London was experiencing. Instead, I had to hop on the Piccadilly line and make the journey home solo. For the first time I saw London for what it was; a city so multicultural that it is almost jaw-dropping. I was born and bred in north London, however, living in a city like Harbin I had forgotten what it was like to live in a city with that energy, it put a smile on my face. It was also novel not having anyone stare at me for more than one second.
I felt like atourist when I went out and about, I was disoriented, I couldn't even remember directions in my local area at times! My childhood area is going through what everyone refers to as gentrification. Coffee shops are popping up everywhere, new housing developments and new people in the area. It opened my eyes to how an area can change rapidly, and you have to reassess your relationship with it and whether you still belong there.
I was sleeping in my old bedroom, and the last time I had visited I was adamant that I needed all the books that were weighing down the shelves. However, this time I was willing to let my father empty them, it was as if I was finally accepting that I actually lived somewhere else. I kept catching myself saying things such as “Where I'm from in China…” My mum would quickly remind me where I was from!
While I was enjoying not having a routine, because I was on holiday, I could feel myself looking forward to my routine “back home” in China and getting back to my flat. I was also getting a little annoyed because I could not use Alipay or WeChat to pay for my shopping. However, people not climbing over me to get a seat on the train in London was a welcome relief, I had missed that daily politeness in the UK, saying sorry for no reason at all.
This time I was determined not to cry when I said goodbye to my parents – but that only lasted about thirty seconds. I headed off back to China with a heavier bag, I decided to take some of the books with me. What I found it interesting that when I went through immigration in China I was so relieved when my passport was stamped, and I was waved through. I sighed silently with relief and thought, “I'm back, finally.” I had originally intended to be in China for two years, my mum and dad only intended to live in the UK for three to five, and I went back to celebrate her eightieth birthday, after more than fifty years in the UK. Is that a sign?