After spending five months of the summer living on a very small rock in the eastern corner of the Caribbean Sea, it was a bit of a culture shock for us to have to leave. We’d been living a simple life – albeit with plenty of rum – wearing very few clothes and sleeping under the tin roof of a little house beneath a mango tree.
Our diet had been nutritious but basic, mostly consisting of tropical fruits and rice and beans and fish, as fresh supplies only came to the island twice a week by boat. Our halcyon days on this beautiful island had all been spent dancing on the sand or bobbing about in boats, swinging in hammocks, swimming in the sea and scuba diving. Resulting in happy times, glorious memories, and a healthy weight loss.
After spending a few months in our third world paradise, we’d managed to lose our white-skinned intolerance to the incredible heat and intense humidity of the Caribbean and we’d even stopped caring about being constantly drippy with sweat or having crazy hair. So, by the time carnival time came to the island, we were wearing our beads and knocking back rum shots with the best of them, having become blissfully dark-skinned and bohemian. We’d even developed an immunity to the torturous bite of sandflies.
So, as you might imagine, by the end of the summer, returning to Europe with the thought of a long winter ahead of us (never mind the concept of actually having to wear shoes again) was a little unnerving at best.
Our new Big Plan was to spend the winter ahead housesitting in France. We were sad to be saying goodbye to our island friends but, with a week-long stopover in the UK beforehand, we also knew we’d be able to reconnect with family and friends back home whom we hadn’t seen for the past two years.
So, unreasonably early on a steaming hot Caribbean morning, we took a taxi tuk-tuk to the island’s airstrip and a small plane over to the mainland. The mainland being Honduras in Central America and flew to the city of San Pedro Sula for a same-day connecting flight to Houston Texas USA.
In Texas, we totally embraced our culture shock of being off the small island by taking an overnight pit-stop to eat big juicy Texas steaks and to drink lots of American beer before flying onto Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
We’d planned to spend a couple of days at the beach in Lauderdale-by-the Sea to acclimatise before returning to London – same heat as before but lower humidity and less jetlag – and having to endure in the UK much lower temperatures and a bigger time difference.
We normally consider ourselves to be savvy travellers, having circumnavigated the earth twice in the past six years, but it was while in Florida something strange happened to us due to our summer culture shock and we realised that we’d left something behind on the island: our sundried brains.
Our first inkling of frazzled-mindedness was when we left the airport in an Uber heading for our hotel without even bothering to stop and pick up our main backpacks from the luggage carousel. I know – what were we not thinking? We eventually realised our mistake a few miles down the road and had to ask our confused driver to turn around and backtrack to the airport.
Only to leave our phone – and our lifeline to the first-world as far as we were concerned – on the back seat of our ride. Two days later, through luck and help and angst, we managed to get our phone returned to us.
The third mishap involved temporarily losing our passports and what a heart-stopping drama that all was!
Anyways, after enjoying a few days in Fort Lauderdale, we flew to London. This would be the second time we have flown with Norwegian Air on their new Dreamliner aircraft. The first time was earlier this year when we left a previous housesitting gig in France via London to fly onto Singapore at the start of our Round The World Trip which you can read about HERE.
So back to the culture shock and theme of this post. After arriving back in Gatwick, with our sun-frazzled brains and our bleary-eyes and weary-exhaustion after a night flight of drinking wine and watching back to back in-flight movies, we took the Gatwick Express train to Euston Station in London City and then a train up to Middle England where (because we were wearing beach clothes and flipflops) we were pleased to find the September temperatures in the pleasant mid-20s’ C and that thankfully summer had not yet left the UK.
We had a wonderful but totally hectic time in the UK. The culture shock aspect here was definitely down to us racing around at a crazy pace all over England Scotland and Wales visiting family and friends – when we had become accustomed to a far more laid back speed of life. We were also now indulging in far too much rich food – large quantities of absolutely everything we’d missed and craved while we’d been living on a small island. The resulting consequences of the change of diet and pace, the plummeting temperatures and lower humidity levels, and in coping with time-zone and jet-lag while meeting up with lots of loved ones, was that I soon came down with a lurgy and the horrible flu-type of chest-infection that pretty much knocked me for six.
While we were back in the UK I also continued to work on PR for my recently published romantic adventure book The Backpacking Housewife and I was scheduled to meet with my editor at the offices of my publisher at HarperCollins. The meeting in London went very well indeed. I was excited to sign some books at HarperCollins HQ and film a promotional video and I gazed down in awe at the dazzling views from the high floors of the iconic News Building over the London sights. My lovely editor took me out to lunch, during which we discussed a further two-book deal with One More Chapter (an imprint of HarperCollins) that would effectively extend my first book into a three-book ‘Backpacking Housewife’ series of romantic adventure novels!
You can read more about my visit to HarperCollins London in my next post!
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I was also very excited during my time in London to see a recent interview that I’d done about ‘selling everything we owned to travel’ published in The Sunday Mirror newspaper. I managed to get hold of a copy of the paper to read on the train while travelling to Gatwick airport.
Read about other media and press interviews on my Media Page HERE.
So, despite our summer culture shock of suddenly being back in the First World once again, we had a wonderful week visiting family and friends in all the corners of the UK and we finished off our trip with an exciting few days in London. We explored The Tower of London and strolled around the London Bridge area – stopping at The Ivy for a lovely glass of celebratory champagne – a theme we continued at Gatwick Airport and on our evening flight over to France and to our exciting new housesitting assignment that I’ll be posting about soon!
We had an exciting weekend exploring London…
What’s been your experience of culture shock?