That is one of the only words I can use to describe the emotional roller coaster that I have been riding this week.
On Sunday (13th November) I found myself climbing the back of a big blue sign which marked both the entrance to Germany, and for me, the end of the road.
At the time I felt ecstatic. After 103 days on the road, I could finally look forward to going to sleep at night and knowing that I didn’t have to run anywhere the next day. I also looked forward to dry, warm nights in my own bed. There was also the idea of a glass of bubbly making that smile just a little bit wider.
I also felt a little bit lost – but caught up in the moment I pushed this thought to the back of my mind, smiled for the camera and went back in search of the champagne.
The next stop for me (along with my father and two sisters who had kindly come to meet me at the border) was a hotel in Hamburg, where I was promised a hot bath and a cold beer. Before setting off on the two hour drive we stopped briefly so that I could drop off my air mattress in the hotel just over the border, so that Barefoot could pick it up when he passed in a few days time.
As I handed it over I felt a little despondent. This was really it. It sounds ridiculous but the air mattress had been a life saver on this trip, it had been one of my most valued and used pieces of kit and here I was about to leave it behind. Leaving this behind was a sign that my cold nights in the tent had really come to an end, and instead of feeling a sense of relief (which is what I expected) I felt distant, uncertain and sad. I walked (hobbled is probably more accurate) slowly back to the car and climbed in, settling down for an uncomfortable couple of hours on my bum.
By the time we reached Hamburg, curiosity – coupled with the excitement of catching up with my family – had pushed these thoughts back to my subconscious. And thankfully it remained that way for the rest of the evening – I fund myself enjoying familiar company whilst experiencing yet another new culture. This time involving craft ale and sausages. It was difficult to feel anything but content on this evening (**well excluding feeling cold – there was definitely some of that too…).
Monday morning rolled around and it was time to pack up my rucksack one last time. Having carefully left out my passport, headphones and kindle, I was able to stuff everything else back in carelessly and quickly, smiling to myself as I did so. After days of packing it meticulously and methodically so that I could easily access everything in the right order, shoving everything in haphazardly felt great.
Next followed the long drive back to England. Energy in the car ranged from high to low as we (somewhat prematurely) belted out Christmas songs and discussed how long we could hold on before the next toilet break.We passed through 5 countries that day, with dad seamlessly carrying on, despite having made the same long journey just a couple of days ago.
We were all relieved (I think) when the familiar skyline of Banbury rolled over the horizon and minutes later we pulled up outside the house. I hugged dad goodbye, lifted my bag onto my shoulder and went inside.
From the moment I stepped in the door, that feeling I attempted to describe earlier hit me again, only this time quite a bit harder.
I find it difficult to articulate quite how I am feeling at the best of times, but in these few days following my return home, it has been more difficult than ever.
When I left for Nordkapp (3 months ago) I was at a stage in my life where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. This got me down quite a lot – I often struggled with the idea that my life wasn’t important. I wanted to do something impressive, something important, and something which made a difference to others. Following the 9-5 created by modern society wasn’t doing this for me, and it was bringing me down.
However, I didn’t let it bother me too much, as I thought the run was the answer to this, convincing myself I would feel much better when I got out there, and that by the time I came home I would have worked out a longer term method to make these feelings go away.
And while I was running Scandinavia I can honestly say these feelings did leave me – each day focusing more on enjoying the experience, my surroundings, and even (eventually) the running itself. I felt more content and stress free than I could remember – despite all the aches and pains, the dwindling daylight hours and the increasingly cold conditions.
The past few days however I have had an increasing fear that these feelings are returning. I am struggling to get a grip on exactly what it is I’ve achieved over the past few months. Although I’ve recognised some positive changes in myself, I am worried these will fade away as I return to ‘normal’ life. It is tricky – and even writing here I feel like everything is a little cloudy and hard to figure out internally, let alone to explain to others.
What I will say is that to everyone who is asking what is next – the honest answer is that I am not entirely sure. I have dreams of writing a book, of exploring more of the UK and o0f bigger things which will take more time to think about.What I do know for certain is that this trip has changed the way I think about things, the way I approach things, an the way I think about myself. I think mostly for the better. Or at least I hope.
I’m hoping that by revisiting all moments of the trip over the coming few days all of these things will become clear, my brain can stop working at 3000% capacity and I will be able to articulate just what I have discovered about myself a little better.
I also hope that by realising exactly what I have learnt and recognising each lesson in turn, I will be less likely to revert back to my old self, and I will know a little bit more about where I want to head next in order to find out more.
Until then I apologise for being a little bit dazed – if you see me it’s probably just best to feed me tea and a biscuit and to smile and nod as I babble on…
It’s just a phase I am sure. And I look forward to discovering more as I move through it.