It’s December 29, 2017. Just over two weeks until we leave on our Hong Kong to London trip.
I feel like I’ve thrown a dozen balls into the air, and now I’m just waiting for them to come back down, hoping I’ll catch (most of) them.
Earlier this year I read a book by Lisa Rankin where she talks about being in “the space between stories” in your life. That phase between phases. When you’re not quite fitting in one or the other. That captures exactly how I feel right now. We’re leaving Hong Kong and the life we’ve made here … heading back to our old life in London, but it’s sure to be different, about to set out on an epic ten week trip … and right now is the pause before it all starts. In limbo.
The space between stories. And I’ve got all the feelings.
Too often we only hear the good things about travel. “Oh that sounds like an amazing trip! You’re so lucky!” — but the reality is always more complex. It’s not just a trip (which will not be all sunshine + roses all the time, for sure.) but we’re also relocating between continents. It’s a massive life upheaval. It’s required a ridiculous amount of planning. And stirred up all the feelings…
Sad and Bittersweet about Leaving Hong Kong
We’ve loved it here. The city is so buzzing and creative. We love the food, the markets, the tram, the ease (and affordability) of transport, having everything on our doorstep. I love the heat and humidity. Love, love, LOVE being close to the ocean. When I arrived in Hong Kong, I commented to several friends that I felt 10 years younger (late 20s, for anyone keeping track…) It was fantastic for our relationship. Prior to Hong Kong, Zak was on a project that kept him overseas for 2-3 weeks at a time, for a good 6+ months. That got old, really fast. He had an hour-long commute each way, so our time together during the week was really limited. Here in Hong Kong, he’s got a 10 minute walk to the office, and we even meet for lunch several times a week. Plus, there are so many new things to discover together, weekend trips, new restaurants to try… it’s been really good for us.
We met amazing friends – so easily – in Hong Kong. It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve lived. Since there are so many expats in Hong Kong, people are really open to making new friends.
And then, there’s the travel. Hong Kong is such an Asian hub, we were able to visit quite a few countries during our time here… Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines…
Oh and you might not know, but we lived in a serviced apartment here. It’s almost like living in a hotel. Yes, the living spaces are tiny – but we had daily housekeeping service!!! How can we ever go back to washing dishes and taking out the trash in our London flat after this?
We are definitely going to miss Hong Kong.
Optimistic, Excited, Happy to Return to London
We are really looking forward to being closer to family and friends, finally. Hong Kong felt really far away from most of our world, and it’s been challenging to keep in touch. It will be SO nice to see the people we love more regularly!
We miss our stuff, which is currently in boxes in London. Zak always said he was going to miss his ‘man room’ but I underestimated how much I’d miss my things too. We mainly miss ‘project stuff’. Zak likes to build replica movie props, and I miss my craft stash and my kitchen apothecary.
I miss plants and foraging, a lot.
We miss English pubs, fish and chips, good bread, real cheese and being able to buy clothes that actually fit us in shops! (I’ve been openly laughed at in more than one Hong Kong clothing shop – “hahaha, no, you’re too fat!!” – so not having that experience again will be a win!)
Anxiety, Uncertainty and Ugh (Amanda)
This part is all me. I have a lot of uncertainty about going back. I’ve never loved living in England, and really struggle with the damp cold and darkness. It also feels slightly crazy to live in such an expensive city, when as an online business owner, I could live anywhere in the world (hello, Chiang May!) I also feel like where we live in London is the ‘suburbs’, and although it’s a really cute, lovely town and we’ve got good friends there, I do feel a bit isolated and “out of it” living there. Anyway – prior to our move I was getting quite negative about the whole situation – so this move to Hong Kong was amazingly good for me (and our relationship!). Now, we’ve been away so long I am genuinely looking forward to going back – but I’m curious how I’ll feel in six months or a year. Was this enough of a change to make me appreciate how good life is in England? Or will I get itchy feet again? We shall see.
My other anxiety is about the trip itself. Here’s the current list. Funny enough, almost all of it has to do with the Chinese portion of our trip. I’m really looking forward to new years in Mongolia, the Trans-Siberian train journey, and getting into Europe (yay Europe!!!! So excited for that part.)
Amanda’s Pre-Trip List of Anxiety…
- Altitude sickness – this is probably my biggest worry and a total wildcard because I’ve never been at altitude before, so I have no idea how or if it will affect me. (Yes, I realize there’s no point stressing about something that might not even happen – but that’s kind of how worry and anxiety work, right??)
- Food poisoning. I’ve had a few stomach problems this year and it’s made me a bit too paranoid about food safety.
- Too much MSG in food, making me feel sick (see a trend here?)
- The food in general. I don’t do well on bread/buns/carbs and MSG. I need lots of protein and veggies. I’m really concerned I’m not going to get these, especially for breakfast, in China.
- Chinese people being really rude, pushy, and spitting and smoking all the time (stereotypes, I know! Let’s hope I’m proven wrong.)
- Getting our stuff stolen on the train (especially on the first leg, where there is a communal luggage rack)
- Not being able to communicate at all – I’m generally OK muddling through communication difficulties, and as long as things go roughly to plan we’ll have lots of printouts with our trains, hotels etc written in Chinese. But when/if we need to rebook reservations or replan anything on the fly… ugh.
- The extreme cold. I am a warm weather person (and yes, I did grow up in New Hampshire!). I really dislike the cold. Maybe not the best choice to take a trip across Siberia in winter, eh? Especially concerned about my toes getting cold, so I’m packing toe warmers, fingers crossed they’ll do the trick! Fun Fact: according to wikipedia the average HIGH temperature in Siberia in February is 13.5F (-10C)! Yep. It’s going to be chilly.
- Not having Google Maps access. Google Maps doesn’t work in China. Plus, phone batteries die quickly in extreme cold. So – how are we going to get around? (Assuming all the paper maps will be written in Chinese!)
But despite how easily I could make a list of anxieties, I’m feeling optimistic about the next three months. It WILL be great to get back to London, and meet up with our friends at the pub. It’ll be fun unpacking and ‘nesting’ again in our flat, which hopefully will feel new to us after being away. It’ll be great to feel settled again for awhile, and get back into our old hobbies. It’ll be lovely to arrive back in London in late-March, just in time to watch Spring unfold, and do some serious foraging!
What’s exactly going to happen between now and then though, is a bit of a mystery…
The one thing I know about this trip – is that it’s going to be an adventure.
Parts of it are way out of my comfort zone.
We’ve never traveled for more than 3-4 weeks before. (This trip is 10 weeks)
We won’t be able to communicate for a good part of the trip (except with each other!)
It’s going to be freezing cold. Below freezing, actually, for most of the time.
But it’s going to be an adventure.
Just over two weeks now till we leave …