My return to the real world

Gael Stigant
Gael Stigant
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It was cold, grey and rather miserable.

I drove back into the Steel City at the weekend with the heating on full blast and the window wipers on high speed.

The traffic on Penistone Road was horrendous and I could barely see out of the back window due to the mountain of possessions piled on the back seat.

But there was pure joy in my voice as I warbled away to the Christmas songs on the radio and I had a big, cheesy grin spread across my face.

Back in May, I said a temporary goodbye to Sheffield after rocking up here eight years ago for university. Like many former Sheffield students, I’d never left.

However, when I got a chance to take six months off work and blow all my savings on a round-the-world trip, I was out of here faster than you could say ‘backpack’.

I had it all planned out. I would tour across South America and learn fluent Spanish. I would become a Thai masterchef able to whip up a mean green curry in no time. And, on the way back, I would stop off in New Zealand to pick up a rugby playing husband with huge arms.

Surprisingly, none of these feats materialised but I had a jolly good time trying.

I also partied with football fans ahead of the World Cup in Brazil, hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, went diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, jumped out of a plane in New Zealand and lazed on paradise beaches in Thailand.

I won’t lie – I had the time of my life. But when I pulled into my driveway and stepped out into that freezing Sheffield air, something just felt right.

Quaffing red wine on the sofa with my long-suffering flatmate and catching up with friends and colleagues has been a total pleasure.

I know there will be days when I’m sitting at my desk in The Star’s office, feeling very sorry for myself because I am no longer swimming with manta rays in Fiji or eating my body weight in noodles at China Town in Singapore.

But I’ll just remind myself that I am HOME.

And believe me, there really is no place like it.

Read Gael’s blog about her round the world adventures at