I write this on the upper deck of a Malaysia Airlines A380 heading back to Kuala Lumpur after three productive weeks in London. As usual I leave with mixed feelings.
A year in to our ‘empty nest posting’ I’m still surprised how I have ended up living between worlds.
I thought that I’d spend more time with my husband now the boys have flown the nest, not less.
I was sure I’d have a surfeit of thumb-twiddling time and fully expected to be able to get more work done than I had in a long time. It hasn’t quite turned out like that.
Before, life was ruled by school holidays, so we only went on holiday or ‘back home’ to visit relatives outside term time. With the children in school it was easy to ringfence my work time to the hours when they were out of the house. Our friends, like us, with school-age children, similarly reserved their holidays to outside term time too, so for eight to ten weeks, three times a year, our weekends were our own.
But now it’s different. No longer organizing our lives round schools I am technically able to travel and ‘go home’ as often as I like and for as long as I like. So I do. Visitors come and visit when they like and stay as long as they like. And so, in the 12 months I have ‘lived in’ Malaysia I am sorry to admit that I have spent barely six months there. The people I have made friends with are in the same boat and so it is hard to get our diaries to coordinate and to find the time to meet for a coffee let alone an evening social event.
I realize that while the split lifestyle I had not anticipated has caused me to make firm friends slower in KL, it has allowed me to forge even deeper relationships with old friends elsewhere. In the last year, I have been fortunate enough to see my dearest Holland-based friends three or four times and my UK-based ones even more. Yes, really.
My feelings are mixed because I honestly feel ‘at home’, at ease and welcome in so many places that the stress of being constantly on the move is dissipating. Leaving any place, be it England, Holland or Malaysia, is a wrench. Each for a different reason.
It’s time to admit that I now not only have a career in a suitcase, but I have a life in a suitcase too. Along the way, during this last year, I have learned a few tricks to make this suitcase life a little easier.
Seven Secrets to a Gentler Suitcase Life
- To take a thermos cup on a plane and a supply of teabags, then asking merely for hot water. Few things soothe more readily than a warm mug of tea in the hands. I also invested in a sausage-shaped cushion (don’t think those neck supports do much good, for me), which is much nicer for a snuggle. I don’t know why I never thought of them before.
- To buy some healthy nibbles before flying out to eat on the flight rather than the E-laced biscuits and flabby sandwiches we are served as snacks. Today, I am relishing the moment when I can refuse the cookie and cereal bar and tuck in instead to my Prêt-a-Manger protein pot of quinoa, crayfish and seeds.
- I’ve hired cars for the first time in my entire life, initially so that I could avoid lugging my heavy cases on and off public transport. However, as a tool to help me find uni accommodation for the boys and then act as removal van while they saved money acquiring furniture off Freecycle, it has been invaluable. The Sixt company at Heathrow Terminal 4 is right beside a petrol station and opposite a tube station. I’m not looking back.
- And I’ve taken advantage of great friends and family and installed myself there for several days in a row rather than moving on every couple of days. Not only has this been a massive stress-reliever, it has also been a lot of fun.
- I’ve not made any promises to anyone about when and where and whether I’d meet up with them. If I have it’s fitted round my schedule and been a spontaneous bonus we’ve all enjoyed. So much better than the usual cheek-by-jowl itinerary that’s caused my mental faculties never to quite catch up with my body as I race from appointment to appointment.
- After 26 years on the move I found myself a hairdresser close to my brother’s house. This is because I always go and stay with him and so, at last, I can start to see the same hairdresser each time I go back instead of looking for a new one in each new posting. I knew I liked Aveda products so searched for an Aveda salon near Patrick and found Icon Hairdressing. I am delighted. Why didn’t I think of that before?
- I gave myself permission to have at least one day off a week, for me, not going anywhere or seeing anyone.So, this time, as I face the prospect of yet more jetlag and another nuit blanche I’m actually heading home to my poor neglected husband in fairly decent shape. I just hope he remembered to buy coffee.
Post script. He remembered coffee… and milk… but only four eggs and a mouldy avocado to eat. I ate cereal for lunch!