For many seasoned travellers, the most emotionally challenging part of travelling can be returning home. Why? Because reality has this sneaky way of hitting you like a short, sharp slap in the face and disappointing you like your first high school boyfriend.
Even if you get to the point on the road where you feel ready to go back – craving a routine, familiar food or a language you actually understand, you can never be quite prepared for the onslaught of emotions that you face not even days afterwards. The realities of coming home are often not how you imagined them.
But of course it is by no means all depressing. Having gone through a life-changing adventure, having met inspirational people and experiencing things that many others won’t, there are some humbling and eye-opening realisations that only sink in once you’re back. But that’s the thing about returning home, your emotions are bittersweet – usually a frustrating mix of conflicting highs and lows.
Here are just 6 things that I felt and realised after returning home from my first long-term trip. How many of them can you relate to?
1. Things Haven’t Changed Whilst You Have
Upon returning to my small village in North East Yorkshire, I bumped into an old school friend who I hadn’t seen in well over a year. “so how is your job going?” he asked me. Considering I left my job over a year prior and since had travelled to 14 countries across 3 continents, I didn’t quite know if he was being serious or not. Oh, but he was.
I by no means wanted to start up a self-indulgent conversation showing off about my travels, but the fact he thought I had still been around and working for my old company just made me realise that it was like nothing had changed. 15 months had gone by, yet in his eyes it had probably seemed like weeks. That’s the problem with home. Time can fly by just by living in the endless cycle of work, eat, sleep.
The excitement I felt at coming home quickly fizzled. I got sucked into the sameness of home like everyone else. You return feeling like a different person, full of life experiences that have challenged you and made you grow, yet you get back and feel yourself slipping back to your old self again.
The comfort of returning to complete familiarity became a novelty I got sick of. But there was one thing I learnt from this. I need change in my life, and learning such an important thing about yourself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
2. You Feel Lost and Lonely
Post travelling blues. A first world problem but a prevalent one nonetheless. A big, dark ‘so, what now?’ cloud looming over your head when you thought you had the next steps in your life all worked out. Maybe you’re now unsure about your career, your direction in life or questioning if your current lifestyle is truly making you happy. It affects everyone in a different ways, but travelling has that way of shaking everything up and making you reevaluate your life.
Then there’s the loneliness. Making friends whilst travelling is so easy. All it takes is a simple ‘hello’ to a stranger and before you know if you have shared your whole life story, your dreams and goals and you’re both on a one way flight to your next destination. If only it could be this simple and effortless at home.
From meeting new, interesting and like-minded people practically every day, you can suddenly feel isolated at home and out-of-touch with old friends.
3. We Are Privileged
Travel in every sense is a privilege.
For many people in our home country, even the ability to travel is wrought with barriers: physical or mental health challenges, debt or money issues, work, children or other personal constraints. The fact some of us are able to hop on a flight without much thought, which others can only dream of, proves that we are some of the most fortunate people in the world.
For people in other parts of the planet, they face much more serious problems: poverty, war, discrimination, natural disasters. The only travel that crosses their mind is probably fleeing because they have no other choice.
Travelling opens your eyes to these lives so different to our own. Some of these struggles you actually see first hand. It’s nothing short of humbling. How lucky we are to live in a first world with simple things we can take for granted such as water, electricity and peace.
4. You Feel Motivated to Become a Tourist In Your Own Home
Sometimes it takes exploring far away to realise just what you have on your own doorstep.
For me, returning back to the UK gave me a renewed love for the beautifully green and history-rich country I call home. But there are some parts of the UK I have never visited. Post travelling, I felt so inspired to discover these and learn more about British history and culture. Scotland, a 3 hours drive away, always seemed so far, but travelling and living in Australia made me realise that in reality, it isn’t.
Weekends turn into road trips to new places, micro adventures fill in the gap between overseas travels, and you unexpectedly turn into an enthusiastic ambassador for your own home town.
5. It’s Nice to Stop
Always being on the move is exhausting. Then couple this with carrying all your possessions on your back (or dragging them around in a suitcase) and you will have most of the ingredients for travel burnout. Living out of a backpack is truly liberating, but the novelty of doing so quickly wears off once you have packed and repacked your life practically every day for weeks/months/years.
Simple pleasures like having a wardrobe to hang clothes up in, a comfy bed that is your own and just doing sweet F.A for once, are the boring activities that you never realised you would miss.
6. Wanderlust Has Taken Hold Again
Having had rest and respite at home, and dare I say it, had the opportunity to get well and truly bored, Wanderlust has this way of biting you twice as hard.
“Just one more trip to get it out of my system” is a phrase I regularly say to myself. Years later, I still am. Wanderlust doesn’t just stop (like at one point I genuinely hoped). It’s always lurking in the shadows, exponentially growing with each trip you take and undeniably breaking out the moment you stop.
At first I solemnly reminisce – I write endless blog posts and stare at photos that bring back happy memories. I get that sad pining that manifests itself in a dull ache in my stomach. I daydream of freedom and having no cares aside where I’m going to get my next bowl of $1 noodle soup. Then I find myself researching destinations and looking up flights. Before I know it, oops – I’ve spent by last $150 booking my next trip.
God dammit Wanderlust…
What other post travel realisations and thoughts would you add to this list?