Trouble in Paradise
A return trip to the UK and major life chats in idyllic setting meant a heartbreaking decision for our nomadic columnist
Column by Jo Gregory
As we stepped off the plane and clanked our way down the aluminium steps at Gatwick we were hit by warm, humid air, a stark contrast to our previous days spent on the Costa Brava. It was official we’d returned to the UK during a heatwave. We’d flown back from Barcelona for Tom to take part in the London Marathon, months of training while on the road led us back home and there really is no better place to be than the UK when the sun is shining. The level of appreciation and community spirit alone is intoxicating and you can’t bloomin’ move for Aperol Spritz. The country comes alive!
On top of an emotional marathon day (Tom finished in a very respectable 4.5 hours) our week was jammed full of birthday parties, lunches, family events and lots of cuddles with our beloved and very missed cat, Porky. It was exhausting (sorry if you have kids, no parent ever likes to hear that from a childless person) but we’ve haven’t done much socialising in the last two months. We’ve met a few people on the road but this is quite possibly the quietest I’ve been since the womb. It was shock to the system being catapulted into London life but it was also a reminder of what we’d missed.
After our whirlwind trip to the UK and firmly back on Spanish soil, we made our way up to France via Andorra. The borders are split by a mere blade of grass however you immediately know you’re in another country, even the landscape feels different somehow. I was shocked to learn that Andorra isn’t in the EU. Hypermarkets lined the main road into the city, people pilling out with Supermarket Sweep style trollies housing comically-sized bottles of booze. Our phones didn’t work either which made me realise just how addicted I am to my pocket-sized companion. Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than to ‘switch off’ sometimes but on my terms, not on the terms of the phone company thank you very much.
We made our way through to the Pyrenees which was breath-taking and freezing. Only two days prior we were sunbathing by a lake in Spain and now we were wrapped in blankets donning our finest thermals at nightfall. But I guess that’s the beauty of Europe, the ever changing landscapes and climates. We took a dip into Fontpédrouse’s thermal pool before we began our tour of France’s National Parks and villages whilst dining on French bread and croissants of a morning. Avignon was a personal favourite, even though we have vowed not to go to cities ones as small as Avignon can definitely be made an exception. Pedestrianised streets and historic buildings made for a glorious spring day.
However, since our return from the UK I’ve been hugely homesick and we both found it hard to pick up where we left off. It quickly became apparent that we were both struggling more than we realised. It’s like our return home burst our bubble. But in reality, it was a reprieve from the pressure cooker of the van. I get my energy from being around people and Tom is a solitary soul. Perhaps naively we both thought we’d get what our characters craved during the trip however this wasn’t the case and this, amongst other things placed too much pressure on us both. After a long walk around the Verdon Gorge, watching the fishing boats come and go, we made the heartbreaking decision to return to the UK and go our separate ways.
We always knew on some level that this trip was make or break and we have no regrets. Because how do you truly know you’re making the right life decisions if you don’t throw everything at it? And the stakes were high too, I’d quit my beloved job, we’d released equity and rented the house out. However, we now have a blank canvas to work from. It’s a fresh start for us both.
As we left the south of France and headed home towards Calais we decided to stop off at Disneyland for one last hurrah. We spent two days laughing, chatting and reminiscing; making the most of our final few days together. And who knows what the future will hold for us, be it together or on our own paths but we both feel incredibly privileged to have shared these years together. And like at the end of every Disney film, at nightfall a fireworks display began to illuminate the castle, symbolising the end to what has been a truly remarkable fairytale for us both.