Returning home after travelling can be tough. After full-time travelling and living abroad for over 5 years, I’ve had my fair share of it. I would come back home approximately once every year for a couple of weeks, and with each time it happened, it didn’t get any easier. Returning home after travelling can make you feel lost and confused and totally out of place in somewhere you thought you belonged. Let’s have a look at the common things people go through when they come home, and the best ways to deal with it.
What I Thought Would Happen After Returning Home From Travelling
Before I first left home to travel, I’d heard that after you’ve been travelling, the hardest part is returning home. I thought this was a load of rubbish. How can this be true – you’re coming home to people and places that were so familiar to you for so long! To people that will be glad to have you back and hear all about your adventures!
Surely the hardest parts were the low points of travel; the feeling of being completely alone in a big new foreign city where nobody knew you or cared for you. Anything could happen to you and nobody would know or care! Or surely the moments where money was low and you were stuck eating noodles again for the fourth day in a row just so you could afford a roof over your head. Or those painful public transport journeys and overnight buses because you were too broke to take a flight. Or making great friends with another fellow traveller, having such a connection with them and then the next day you have to part ways and maybe never see them again as you are travelling in different directions. Nah, surely those are the hardest parts about travelling. Right?
The Reality Of Returning Home From Travelling
And then I came home. And I realised they weren’t the hardest moments at all. They were the moments that helped shape you. They made you more humble, more brave, independent and gave you a thicker skin. Because of these moments you now felt like a changed person – invincible almost! So sure of who you are and how you are truly capable of handing anything that life throws your way.
And then all these feelings of confidence and empowerment you had about yourself start to slowly disappear when you get home and fear creeps in. ‘What next?’ you find yourself asking. And you genuinely don’t know how to solve this one.
When you get back home it seems everything is the same as it was, almost nothing has changed. So then why is it so hard for us travellers when we come back? If nothing has changed we should be able to fit right back in right?
But we can’t. Because WE have changed. Our brain feels like it expanded so much when we were away. We learnt so much and our outlook on life completely changed, but nobody seems to really understand it when you return home. We no longer feel like we fit into the village or town we grew up in. You begin to notice people discuss people and the small trivial things you just learnt to let go of when you left. People seem to have a tunnel-visioned view of life which you never saw before, and you feel a little perplexed at what you’ve come back to. You’re beginning to wonder why you ever felt homesick when you went away, and start wishing to be back travelling! Everyone at home just seems so engrossed in their own lives and the lives of the people around them.
Why It Takes Courage To Come Back Home
For some people, coming back home keeps them grounded and gives them a clear sense of direction again. They just needed to get that travel bug out of their system to get them back on track. But others come home and wonder what on earth to do with their life. They have gone from having so much freedom and little to no responsibilities when they are travelling, and feeling sure about who they are and what they want, to feeling lost and almost trapped at home. They now have trouble visioning the future and creating a life vision when it seemed so clear when they were away.
Coming back home indefinitely from travelling or living abroad can be really hard for some people. And it takes a lot of courage. Whilst it’s exciting to come home at first and catch up with family and friends, the novelty soon wears off and everything gets very mundane pretty quickly. Seeing how everyone has moved on in their life – got married, bought a house, had children, got promoted and there you were just packing and unpacking your backpack every few days, meeting new people, drinking beers and catching sunsets. Life back home seems boring, but you almost feel guilty for travelling and putting the rest of your life on hold when you see how people back home have accomplished certain milestones in life whilst you seemingly got left behind.
Not many people talk about these feelings though. They tell themselves to snap out of it and are just convinced they have a big dose of the travel blues. They tell themselves to stop feeling ungrateful or selfish for not wanting to be at home any more.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Whatever you’re feeling, acknowledge the emotions are there. And it really is totally normal to feel like this. Post Travel Depression can hit some people harder than others, so let’s look at ways to cope with it.
How To Cope When Returning Home From Travelling
If you are coming back home without any work or activities lined up and will have time on your hands, this is when you are more likely to struggle with your feelings of confusion. The more you are busy and occupied, the less time you’ll have to think ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’.
You’re going to feel strange whilst everyone is out at work. It will feel somewhat different to just stay in one place, especially because you were always on the go when you were travelling. So get out there and do something – whether it’s job hunting, volunteering, editing your travel pictures or just helping your mum with the groceries. Don’t wallow. Or don’t sit scrolling through Instagram! That’s one sure fire way to make you feel depressed and restless about being back home!
REMIND YOURSELF WHY YOU LEFT TO GO TRAVELLING
I left because I knew there was more to life than what I was living, I knew my soul could feel more alive than it was, I knew I just had to go away and travel and learn. I knew travel would be my best teacher. It would push my boundaries, show me who I wanted to become, and really open my mind to different cultures and experiences. It was the best decision I ever made and I would make the same choices again given the chance.
Remind yourself of all the reasons you went, what you learnt along the way, how it challenged your thinking in many ways and how it helped mould you into who you are. Sure you may have nothing physical to show for your travels except a bunch of sick photos, but how it shaped you mentally is worth your weight in gold. Trust me.
HAVE SOMETHING TO AIM FOR
Give yourself something to aim for. This will keep you productive, focused and motivated. For example, before you went away I’m sure your aim was to save as much money as possible for your travels right? And whilst you were away your goal was probably to do and see as much as you could! So now you’re back, what’s your next goal going to be? This is a great time to focus on those things that got pushed to the side when you went off to go travelling.
If you give yourself a goal to aim for, you’ll get some focus and clarity, which will make you feel in control of your life once again. Do you want to get a job and start saving again so you can travel again/buy a house? Go back to studying perhaps? Get fit? Learn a particular skill (a foreign language, a new sport for example). Whatever it is, write this goal down and brainstorm you how can reach it.
This way you’ll keep looking forwards and not back on your amazing travels. Focus on the now and not the past.
DON’T KEEP BRINGING UP YOUR TRAVELS TO EVERYONE
I get it, you had the best time when you were away travelling. We all did. But however good you are at telling your travel stories, it just won’t mean the same to someone who wasn’t there to experience it. I would often tell my hilarious travel stories and after a while people just weren’t interested, which sometimes would leave me dumbfounded – how could they not love my story?!
But it’s like when someone shows you a million pictures of their baby, it just stops being interesting after a while. So don’t do it. Chat about it with the people who were there (keep in touch with the people you met on the road! They may come in handy later!), or people who are genuinely interested and ask about your stories. Otherwise, just keep the amazing memories for yourself, be thankful you had the experiences and remember them forever! Remember too that travel is a luxury and not everyone is fortunate enough to be in a position to just up and leave and travel the world. They may never be able to have these experiences, so you talking about your travels all the time might feel to them like you’re rubbing it in their face.
And don’t bang on about how travelling changed you, how you ‘found’ yourself or how much you’ve grown – your friends won’t understand. And they’ll think you’ve barely changed. I look back at times I said these lines and ugh, I cringe. Unless someone really connects with you on a deeper level and genuinely understands, just keep your Dalai Lama lines to yourself.
EXPECT PEOPLE BACK HOME TO CHANGE TOO
Just because you went away travelling and your life has supposedly ‘transformed’, don’t think the lives of your loved ones back at home hasn’t changed too. You moved on and so did they. Don’t expect they’ll be sitting around waiting for you to return – life goes on without you. Some of them may have transformed their lives too – maybe they got married, bought a house or had children. Even some may have had bad changes such as a disease diagnosis or a death in the family.
Of course, some people will stay the exact same as they were when you left them! But many will have changed. Of course you’ll still be special to them, but accept you may not be the priority you once were to them.
DON’T MOVE BACK IN WITH YOUR PARENTS
If this is something that you can afford to do – do not move back home into your parents house! Doing so could make it harder or more stressful to adjust back to normal life. It may even make you feel a little suffocated in the sense that all your freedom has gone as you have been independent for so long living by your own terms! You’ll have to compromise and they’ll want to know what time you’re back for dinner and where you are all the time. And whilst they mean well, it will probably start to wind you up a little as you haven’t had to think of anyone else or fit into anyone else’s plans for so long.
Try and move in with friends or even do as I did and house sit in your local neighbourhood! I did this for 2 months at home once and it was great! I still got to see my family all the time but I wasn’t under their feet and I had my own space. It was great as they never annoyed me one bit. But if I’d have stayed at home for 2 months, well that might be a different story!
What happens when this still doesn’t work?
Why Some People Fit Back In And Others Don’t
Why does travelling make some of us lose some friends along the way? And why do some people who come back from travelling slot straight back into their old life? Because of course many people do. And they probably think well if I fitted back in, then everyone can fit back, they just need to make an effort.
I guess a lot of it depends on your circumstances. Obviously the longer you are away, the harder it may be. You have been so engrossed in learning about other cultures and how to fit in like a local with them, which you found surprisingly easy as you became so flexible, that now life back home seems so rigid. It almost seems hard to fit back into your own culture and you start to experience symptoms of a reverse culture shock.
Also I guess if you left home with a solid plan on returning at a certain time eg: you just planned to take time out and travel for 6-12 months, you know deep down at the back of your mind that your travels are only temporary. So perhaps you don’t get so immersed or detached from your society as you know it is waiting for you at the end and life will shortly resume back to normal again. This is especially the case if you are coming back to a job that is waiting for you.
The Need For Replacement
Whereas people who go away for a much longer time, or even indefinitely perhaps, and especially people who relocate abroad for work and not just travelling, for them they NEED to create a new home and life for themselves. It’s like wiping the slate clean and starting out with nothing again, especially if they go away alone.
They need to create almost a replacement family; people who are in the same position as them, who are as vulnerable as them, who understand the risks and sacrifices this person took to get where they are today. And so yes, in a way, it seems like people back home may get replaced, but not because you want to replace them, but because you NEED to.
Friendships Created Out Of The Need For Replacement
I remember the first friends I made when I moved abroad to Italy as an au-pair – we would only meet for a few hours each Sunday, explore a new part of Rome or Lazio each time, but within a few weeks these girls became like my sisters. We would message each other literally all the time as we were all in the same position away from our families and the familiarity of home. We would talk about all the things we found strange or funny about the people and the place we were now calling home.
Of course we spoke lots about how we missed our friends and families back home, but we were so happy we found each other, who understood completely our life right now. Whenever one of us was down, within a heartbeat the others would be there to lift up the spirits again. We appreciated our new lifestyle was different and unique, and having friends who understood exactly what you were feeling and experiencing every day (as they were feeling it too) meant that this type of friendship felt so solid.
And even now, almost 4 years since I left them, the friendship has barely changed. Sure, we message each other a lot less as we all live on different continents now, and our careers went in different ways. But friendships made abroad like this often stand the test of time and will always be close to your heart, as you don’t forget how these friends gave you so much strength and pure happiness and completely shaped your time abroad. Completely different backgrounds, but with the same passion, to really experience the world and live it, not just see it.
Coming Back Home After Travelling
The first time I came back home for a few weeks after a year abroad, it didn’t seem too difficult. I mean yeh, it did feel a bit weird to be going from conversations about discovering new places, new food, new traditions, new habits and new routines and behaviours and always meeting new people who constantly inspired you, to going back to the usual village talk about what some dude in your year that none of you really spoke to, is up to on Facebook, or who he got pregnant.
Don’t get me wrong, I would join in the conversation too, but this was as deep as the conversations got. Either that or I felt like I was on Question Time, with all the same predictable questions being asked about my life abroad, how my love life was, when I was planning to move back home bla bla bla. I felt like some people just wanted the gossip on my life, whereas I was dying to talk about anything besides me! And the more I left and came back, the harder it came to come back home and fit in.
People would only talk about things on the surface and not deeper things like emotions, dreams, goals or the wider world. I would always leave these conversations feeling a bit empty inside – like I was inside a goldfish bowl even.
How Travelling Changes Friendships
The longer I stayed abroad, the more I realised I needed friends who were on my wavelength. That if people no longer make you happy or stop making an effort, you need to let them go, even if it feels painful and you have known them for a long time. It’s something it took me a long time to realise, and it hurt a lot. I kept hanging onto friendships back home that were no longer really there any more. Only a few years later when I learnt to let them go did I feel a huge weight lift off my shoulders. And even though because of my travelling I’ve lost some friends along the way, I have gained many more.
I believe each friendship we have gives us something different and unique, and as long as that friendship makes you feel good about yourself and makes you better as a person, that you should hang onto them. Some of my best friends and I don’t speak for weeks or months even, but you’d absolutely be there for each other when needed without fail.
Final Thoughts On Being Back Home:
Whilst it often seems nothing changes at home, it often does! If you’re staying back at home for a while, anything could happen! You could meet someone, get an awesome new job or place to live, all within a few weeks! The sky is the limit!
And who is to say staying at home is boring?! Life at home after travelling CAN be just as fun as when you’re on the road travelling – even more exciting sometimes! For example, buying your own place and renovating and redecorating it can give you so much satisfaction and sense of achievement – far more than most trips can give you!
Or getting an exciting job can be just as fun (and you’ll be making money, not constantly spending it like you do when you travel!). Plus you can always do a job that is travel related – click here to read my favourite travel related jobs! I made the list for former flight attendants but it is suitable for anyone who still has the travel bug well and truly inside them!
It all comes down to your outlook on life, and if you have a positive outlook and positive affirmations, you will be attracted to good things. When you notice and are thankful for the small things in life, good things will come your way.
I hope I helped you through any feelings that you’re having! Feel free to reach out to me with a comment below if you need anything!
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