On healing, guilt and self-discovery

Last updated on March 18, 2022

Victoria in Tuscany

There’s nothing like a trip home for a case of the ‘Who am I’s’…

I approached it with trepidation, and was left with a sinking mix of guilt, confusion and unease.

Trips of old had taught me that a return to the UK was always a disorientating experience— new lessons and growth struggling to stay afloat and mesh with habits of old.

You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream

This time held different challenges. Whereas in the past, I have always travelled with something to come back to — the start of uni, a new term or a new job — this return was merely a stopover on an unconventional journey with no apparent destination.

What next?

I have never had trouble with answering the question ‘what next?’. I studied hard at school, gained good results, went on a gap year, then to uni, internships, journalism school, a graduate scheme, and finally the job I thought was perfect. It was a job to be proud of — difficult to get in to and admirable for its ethics. I was a writer for one of the world’s largest humanitarian charities. It’s the sort of position that makes for an excellent answer to ‘what do you do for work?’, prompting smiles and coos of approval.

Reigate town centre
Where I grew up

Nowadays, the same question is difficult to answer. The truth is I’m still working out the response. When we left the UK fifteen months ago, I had no plan, only to try and explore what I wanted and hopefully come up with some answers along the way.

It soon became clear that patience wasn’t my forte, and planning and work were my habit. In Buenos Aires, I went into overdrive, frantically looking for freelance jobs in a career I’d decided wasn’t for me. Luckily, I caught myself, and instead threw my efforts into this blog and plans for a vegetarian travel guide. I felt like perhaps I’d found my passion until my yoga teacher training course threw everything out of shape, or back into shape depending on how you see it.

You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream

The pursuit of balance

During that month, I was forced away from the computer and brought face to face with myself and all my habits. I re-discovered how much I like working with people, and the value of time offline. Returning to a life as intensely tech-based as before wasn’t a viable option. And so I changed things. I started teaching yoga on a donation basis, I spent less time on the computer and explored other options, culminating in a return to an age-old dream of building a beautiful retreat centre.

Tree pose sunset

Again, as with so many times before, I had a plan, and it felt good — but I also knew it needed time and patience. That choice needs to marinate and raises as many questions as it does answers — what would I do for the other half of the year? How does it fit with Steve’s work? Do I want to set up a base so far from home? Is it definitely what I’d enjoy? The list goes on and on.

So that’s where I’m at — my answer to what I’m doing. It’s not a simple response and one that my culture doesn’t quite get. “When are you going to return to real life?”, “How lucky you are to always be on holiday!”, and “Don’t you just want to come home and start getting on with something?” were some responses I encountered. This is real life, it’s not a holiday and I am trying to get on with something. I know the answers, but the more I was questioned, the more I began to doubt, and those doubts come down to guilt.

Read the second part next week for an explanation of that guilt…

22 thoughts on “On healing, guilt and self-discovery”

  1. This really speaks to me as I am in the airport having just completed one of five flights that will take me home for the next FOUR months. I thought, perhaps, (did I think this?) that after 13 months of travel I might have figured something out. But I still don’t know what I’ll do with my life and while I know what I want, I don’t quite know how to get there. Brian (my husband) and I are always coming up with new plans that seem so great and then something else comes along that seems even greater. And then I have these moments thinking to myself- what the HELL are we doing. Sigh. I can only imagine what sorts of feeling being home will stir up. It will be an interesting time, for sure.

    • Wow, one of five flights – that’s a long way home!
      I can’t believe you’ve already been away 12 months – it at once seems like yesterday and forever ago. I found I felt the same disorientation when I went home.
      I look forward to hearing how your experience goes. Although I’ve highlighted the confusing aspects in my post, it was also joyous in many respects – especially seeing family and friends.

  2. Thank you for such a beautiful, honest post, Victoria! The part about “this is real life” especially resonated with me, as that’s something I’ve believed almost since the start of being based abroad five years ago. I think it’s a difficult thing for some people to understand, for whom travel is more of an escape from responsibility, jobs, real life, etc., but I love that a life abroad can also be our real world – it all just comes down to perspective – and having the courage to do something a little different 🙂

    • Thank you Candace. That idea of escape was so prevalent back in the UK. It really made me question my own motives, which although a difficult experience, was also an important one.

  3. Victoria! What a fantastic post. It is so refreshing to see that we are not the only ones!

    We still get asked that question “when are you going to re-join real life?” As you said, this is real life. It’s real life on our terms. Are you still in the UK? If you are in London, let us know, we could hook up for a drink!

    Take care,

    • Thanks Paul. I’m afraid wee’re in Bali now. Sorry to have missed you. We’ll be back around October so hopefully see you then.

  4. “Life is what happens while you are making other plans” As a wise woman once told me: Live the life you want, not the one that others think you should! Love and miss you wise woman. Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers!

    • Aw, thanks Kim. “Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers” is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

  5. I’ve always had a plan too, go to uni, take a year out, go back to uni etc, this is the first time in my adult life when I really don’t have a plan beyond arriving in Mexico in December. I kind of like that, it scares me a bit but excites me more.

    I think its ok that some people ‘get it’ and little self doubt is always healthy.

  6. The key is in your first paragraph – “no apparent destination” is what throws people off. The path may zigzag and the destination may just be you at peace with yourself. Thanks for sharing the journey to wherever you are going. 🙂

  7. Great article. Ive come across people saying the same things to me ‘arent you lucky to always be on holiday’. Luck has nothing to do with it. I work hard and its a choice i made. It is real life.

  8. Coming home is one of the hardest parts because the people you left have progressed down such a different path over the months. I am sorry that it got you out of sorts and guilty — it’s hard to remember that the only expectations we have to be true to are our own, especially with family. I hope you are recalibrating in Bali and that we can Skype soon. xo

    • I am indeed recalibrating here in Bali – it’s the perfect place for it. I think mostly it was my own expectations that I was struggling with – old habits starting to catch up and influence new learnings. It left my head swimming!

  9. Good to hear about where you’re at, Victoria! I experienced a similar moment (hundreds of moments, really) just now back home in Australia before coming back to Chile. “So what are you going to do?” questions ringing all over the shop. Ideas are there. Courage is needed.

    Here’s wishing you lots of love and energy for your own road ahead!

    • Thanks Erin. That’s so wonderful that you’re going back to Chile. I’m so excited for you. Hopefully we’ll be back there at some point to visit you! Much love x

  10. This is one beautiful post, Victoria! We always try to explain to people that travel is a choice and has nothing to do with being lucky.

    It is so refreshing to see that we are not the only ones!

  11. I understand perfectly what you mean and how you feel. We still get asked from people (especially from my hometown in Italy) when we will get back to normal life, they still don’t get that how we chose to live is real life for us and not an holiday.
    I’m experienced it right now that I am back home for an unexpected reason.

    Lovely post and words, loved it! 🙂

  12. ‘Most of us only have a couple of weeks holiday a year’, said a family member to me after I decided to go traveling for another 4 months. Ouch. I think the hardest thing to deal with when taking a different path in life is other people’s reactions and judgement. But as some of your other followers have said, you have to chose your own path, don’t judge others, and if they judge you, try to not let it affect you. But it’s hard!
    I think you are very brave to be taking your time to feel your way forward, after all the best projects take time to gestate. So don’t be rushed by panic or guilt or the ‘great’ British workaholic ethic. Ben and I are at a similar place at the moment, so I look forward to sharing dreams and ideas, in the heart of darkness – London!

    Best bet – stay away from London?!

    • It’s so true that it’s easy to feel pressurised by the cultural norm. I felt pretty guilty the last time I was back. This time, I hope to stand my ground much better. Can’t wait to see you and Ben!


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