Travelling, it’s such a wonderful, thrilling experience, isn’t it? Before you leave, there is so much build up, excitement and anticipation. You spend hours researching and planning (or at least some of us do) and when you’ve finally reached your destination, it almost seems too good to be true. But what about the notorious return home? I find that people always spend so much time talking about going on holidays, that the pleasures (and often challenges) of coming home are ignored.
I know firsthand the feeling of coming home, especially after a long term travelling stint. There’s the good, the uncomfortable and the downright shitty; and it can be a huge adjustment period. I spent two years living and studying in Australia, followed by a 4-month backpacking trip throughout New Zealand and South East Asia. Being away for so long meant that returning home was great in a lot of ways. I hadn’t seen my family in over a year, and sleeping in my own bed was AMAZING (who’s with me on this one?)! On the other hand, I felt a bit stifled and as if I just didn’t fit in with my old life. I’d grown and changed so much, and yet home hadn’t changed one bit. To help myself cope, I put together a good old fashioned pros and cons list of the top five things I think most (if not all) backpackers go through when they get home.
Pacaya, an active volcano in Guatemala. Photo from the Kosan archives.
1. THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
So you’re on the plane, returning home after spending X number of weeks or months (maybe even years, you lucky duck) abroad. You’re kind of dreading it because home seems so small and well, boring, compared to the freedom you’ve just experienced. However, a small part of you is also kind of excited. Coming home means reconnecting with old friends and indulging in some hearty home cooked meals thanks to Mom (or in my case, Dad). Let’s be honest, eating cheap street eats, and 7/11 toasties day in and day out can get old real quick. But I can’t be the only one who weirdly misses them though, right?
2. FOREIGN INVASION
Now you’re finally home, and things just seem so damn expensive and a tad overcomplicated. You’ve sort of managed to overcome the sticker shock, and you’ve shared your craziest travel stories with friends over a pint or two. But there’s this nagging feeling in the back of your head and you can’t help but feel as if you are a stranger in your own home. It’s this really strange reverse culture shock, and you feel like an outsider in what is supposed to be your comfort zone. You don’t care about all the material things in the same way as you used to, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But now you’re yearning for the simple pleasures of the open road and the promise of unknown adventures ahead. And yes, mango rice pudding from a food stall in Thailand wouldn’t be so bad right about now.
3. THEY JUST DON’T SEE WHAT YOU SEE
You realize when you get home how lucky you are, and how much you have to be grateful for. Travelling can be a rather rude awakening to how little some people have in the world, and how much we take for granted. It can be really difficult to come home to those who still live in that bubble, especially when they don’t seem to get the bigger picture. It’s uncomfortable and it makes you feel as if you aren’t speaking the same language as your family and friends anymore. They just don’t seem to get it and it’s frustrating as hell.
4. BACK TO THE GRIND
Unless you’ve managed to turn your day job into your dream job, you probably have to go back to work to pay for all those times you said, “Fuck it” and put that extra dive trip on your credit card. I can say from experience that it was totally worth it, though it means you’ll need to put in a lot of extra hours to hopefully save up for your next big adventure. This might be the hardest thing of all, because your days are no longer yours and you have to stick to a schedule you probably didn’t choose for yourself. And if you took a leap of faith and quit your job to travel the world, well there’s now this whole new level of stress to coming home. You’ll need to start from scratch and find a new job (no pressure).
5. IT’S A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of perspective. And the truth is, yours has probably changed. Travel has a way of opening your eyes to things you may not have realized or noticed before. I think it’s important to realize that it’s OK not to have the same opinions or views that you may have had before. You can now use what you’ve learned to educate and challenge those around you. Travelling is contagious, in the best way possible, and you can use it as a means to inspire tolerance and acceptance in your life.
It really is crazy how quickly you can adapt when you go abroad, but when coming home, it always seems to be a hell of a lot harder. And while I don’t think coming home will ever get easier, every memory, experience and adventure is worth it.
I’d love to know, what do you find to be the best or most challenging part about coming home?
Adventuring through Montana during a road trip from Vancouver to Toronto through the US. Photo from the Kosan archives.
The Kosan Team