There was an unusual melancholy hanging over Lou Messugo a couple of weeks ago upon our return from Iceland. Whether it was owing to exceptional circumstances in the gîte – guests and their personal dramas that we became involved with – or the displaced feeling of returning home after a house swap and finding little things different, or just regular post holiday blues, I know I came home to a rude bump. I felt I didn’t get time to absorb, assimilate and indulge in my holiday memories. I felt short-changed.
Iceland touched me profoundly. I found myself missing the long white nights and feeling desperately, unreasonably jealous of Icelandic friends posting pictures on social media of sunny weather when we had almost none and I know I have to go back. It’s not just about the weather – we never expected it to be good for the whole two weeks, nobody goes to Iceland for the weather – but somehow this just added to my longing to be back in this raw and vibrant land.
I lived in Reykjavik between 1983-1986 and this was the first time I’d been back. I’d stayed in touch with three friends from those days, two of whom had visited me in France since. This was my first trip back, long, long over due and surprisingly emotional. It wasn’t the first time I’d been back to a childhood home having returned to India on my honeymoon and visited Prague after the fall of the Iron Curtain (both places I lived in as a kid) but it was the first time I’ve taken my own children back to my past. Perhaps this had something to do with my heightened emotions and how nostalgia emphasises the passing of time. Perhaps it was just because Iceland is such a damn fine place to visit! Who knows…the only thing I know is that I’m not leaving it another 28 years to return.
And then the melancholy lifted with the arrival of my brother and sister and their families, staying together with us for the first time. We were 13 in the house, with 8 children from 19 months to 14 years, and there wasn’t time to feel low. It was fun and loud and chaotic and busy and boozy and hectic and noisy (did I say that already?) and happy. Within this crazy time we also dealt with one car breaking down as well as a flat tire and losing the internet for 5 of the 7 days due to a particularly sudden and violent summer storm. Challenges we could have done without! I wanted to share memories and photos of Iceland with my siblings but funnily enough there never seemed to be time. They’ve all gone now and the house seems amazingly quiet (and spacious!) As is usual in our expat lives I don’t know when I’ll see them again. That’s just how it is and has been since 1986 when I left to travel on the other side of the world from them and never really came back – it’s my kind of normal.
Within this normalcy I now have to refind my blogging voice. It’s been somewhat mislaid in the holiday fever. I have no more excuses: technology has been restored and calm has descended on Lou Messugo. All I can hear right now as I type are cicadas, one of my favourite sounds. I have the ideas, there’s so much I want to say about Iceland, and plenty of posts lined up in my head about the Côte d’Azur as usual, I just need the discipline to do it. Putting all this down on paper (so to speak) has been cathartic, a gentle ease back into writing, let’s just hope it’s unblocked the creative juices.
Do you get post holiday blues? Do you get nostalgic? How are your summer holidays going (northern hemisphere readers)?
5 places I could visit over and over
I think there’s a lot of truth in your reflection that we only remember the good times and luckily really as it’s lovely to hang on to good memories and not bad ones.
It is a difficult choice to go back. I so desperately want to show my boys Vietnam where I met JF their dad but I’m also afraid of ruining memories with how much the place has changed. For now finances just won’t allow us to get there so the decision doesn’t have to be made!!
Yes it really was a good way to get back into the swing of things. It was very unusual in my life for all of us to be together and it was such a fun week!
Nostalgia is a funny thing, which I don’t think I really understood until we moved away from home. I miss Scotland, very much, and each time I visit and then return to the US it is almost harder. Perhaps the longer I am away, the more I only remember the good times. Great post, beautifully written x
Phoebe what a touching post. I think you are very brave to go back – nostalgia is a double edged sword sometimes. Glad to hear you enjoyed your break but that you are back in the swing of normal now!
Great post!! Oldies are still definitely goodies and it’s fun to look back!! I can definitely understand why it was emotional to go back after so long! We would love to go to Iceland, definitely on the bucket list! How awesome that not long after you had a house bursting with family…..a great way to beat the post holiday blues!!! Hope you get to go back to Iceland soon, must have been so nice to share a part of your past with your kids!!
Thanks for linking up for #myexpatfamily Phoebe 🙂
This time around it really was emotional and definitely had a lot to do with time passing, years flying by, getting older etc. Having the whole gang to stay really helped! 🙂
I agree about needing a travel plan. I always start thinking of the next adventure upon return from one. I need the anticipation and I love doing all the research. Now workingon a biggie for next year….
I think that’s one thing we all need to do, take a bit of time off in the summer and not be so hard on ourselves. Easier said than done though.
Thanks for your kind words Mags!
I think post-holiday blues are inevitably. My husband and I certainly had them when we went on our dream holiday to Florida a few years back. But I can understand how nostalgia and showing your children a part of your past can be emotional. It must have been lovely to see your siblings when you got home though.
Phoebe, We all get post-holiday blues. In fact, they start to set in as we start heading home. I’m currently traveling with friends that have been to 25 countries with Jim and me, and the very first day as we are driving to France, we start talking about where’s next. The idea of not having a travel plan or just going back to work is just too depressing! Glad you’ve got your internet back!
I’m the same with my blog, so much I want to post but making myself sit and do it is another matter! It’s so nice outside and the garden needs doing and there are home improvement jobs still to do and day trips to be had the kids and so much other stuff that sitting down to blog just seems wrong. Maybe I need to be a little easier on myself and take some time off during the summer!
Glad you had a great time in Iceland and when your family visited 🙂
You write so beautifully Phoebe! Full of emotion and description. As for me, I love getting home and reliving holiday memories but I try not to get too nostalgic. This summer is going great so far, plenty of outings and visits, though we’ve not actually gone away anywhere.
Sally you’re crazy! How can you forget where you went to uni?!! But then it doesn’t surprise me either, that’s part of you, being totally nutty!!! I agree people are important. How long have we known each other now? 20 years, despite only living in the same place for 2.5 of them. Thanks for sharing that here, enjoy your time in Thailand.
Yes there is that side of things too. I’m usually wary of returning, but too intrigued to see how things have changed/stayed the same to stay away.
Tell me about the washing! We did a house swap and I was left with 18 towels as well as all the usual stuff! It added to the returning to reality with a thump.
No they never do, life’s too busy and too good to wallow for too long.
The family visit got my spirits back 🙂 Interesting to hear you don’t like nostalgia.
Thanks! Travelling with toddlers can be a strain I know what you mean about returning home at that age.
Hey Pheebes, speaking of distant and sometimes forgotten things. Like you, and probably a lot of your blog readers I’ve lived in different countries, and forgotten a lot more than I remember. But the other day in Perth, the city in Oz where I grew up, I was driving in an unfamiliar suburb. Then all of a sudden it was familiar and I couldn’t work out why. How did I know my way around? Then I remembered – I went to university there. Perth is not that big that you can forget suburbs, and should I worry about not remembering whole years of my life? Nah … it is a comedy. It is the people that are important and it says a lot that you are still friends with people that you met in your childhood. All the best from sunny Phuket 🙂
It’s so nice to read a bit more about you – you really have travelled! I loved this post, and yes, always get post-holiday blues 😉 xxx
I often go back to visit the places from my childhood when I visit my Mam’s however they are never what I remembered and have come to the opinion that I don’t want to revisit them so not to spoil the fond memories I have for them.
I always get post holiday blues…usually started by the never ending washing pile which accompanies holidays
Catherine hits the nail on the head. And I’m pretty sure the after holiday blues won’t last too long.
Poor phoebe. I can’t do nostalgia. I hope you have recovered now and you’re back to your usual lovely bouncy self.
I think we all get post-holiday blues when we’ve had an especially good holiday. My youngest is just 2, so coming home is a relief.;) Hope you get your blogging mojo back.
We’re very much on the same wavelength at the moment you and me Kanchan, though I can’t imagine the extra emotion involved with your mum’s dreams added into the mix. I hope your move goes well, and I hope you get the time to indulge in your holiday memories.
Wise words Rosemary, thank you.
Thanks Wren, another southern hemishere reader. I hope Melbourne isn’t too cold. I heard you had snow recently!
Thanks mate! How’s Sydney winter?
Awww, thanks Rin! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Phoebe, you know that I might be writing a very, very similar post soon…gosh, the loss seems so real and you tell yourself, it’s just a holiday! To be honest, Austria was a childhood dream I shared with my mum, so there’s all that emotion invested in it…being as majestically gorgeous as it was doesn’t help getting over the experience either! I hope that after my move, I’d feel a bit more settled than I do now… thanks for a wonderful read. x
I have a principle in life that I have found works very well – if you just don’t seem to be able to do something (such as write your Icelandic posts), then don’t worry. You’re simply not ready yet and when you are ready, it will happen all by itself. Maybe you need to process everything that happened in Iceland so you will have the right perspective to write about it. It’s very emotional going back somewhere after such a long time and you’ve just had your family so you probably need to wind down!
I know, I know, I know!!! Hope you get your mojo back soon, although from the outside it looks like you never lost it 🙂
Have a perfect week
Great post Phoebe.
I have a tear in my eye Phoebe. Didn’t we look fab in 1986?! We certainly had a fab time with you last week and should get together on mass more often. I think you have found your blogging voice very easily x