My first solo trip was when I moved to Canada for six months in 2009 as part of a study abroad programme. I was much younger and didn’t take the time to think about whether I’d get culture shock, or even reverse culture shock when I returned. I spent a lot of time planning before I left and whilst I was there, was too busy having fun to really feel any nostalgia for home or think about being back.
I do however remember extending my trip by a month to go skiing and exploring in the rockies with a group of exchange students, perhaps that was a way to avoid post travel depression, or at least post travel blues? All I know is I was having the time of my life and the same can be said for my interrail trip through Europe this summer. So, how does it feel being home and back to reality? I’ve read a lot on travel blogs about the negatives, so be ready, this one is largely positive!
The same places, but different?
By the time I got back I’d spent the longest time away from home since I became a working adult and had barely spent three nights in the same bed all summer. Everything was very familiar but not quite as I left it as I saw it through eyes comparing it with interrailing. The best way to describe it, is as the quietness of household noises after you’ve loudly played your favourite song.
However, I adapted quickly, just as I did to travel, and it didn’t take long to feel back at home. My main struggle was missing the adrenaline of constantly seeing new sights and meeting new people who were on the same journey as me. I know for a fact this is why I’m on my Twitter a lot more chatting to other travel bloggers!
I can’t say I did this very well the first week I was back in terms of going out. Tiredness got the best of me and I needed to catch-up on sleep. My little legs had taken me some 32k steps a day around Europe and I’d walked hundreds of miles, so they’d earned a break. I relied a lot on Netflix and didn’t like the quiet; it wasn’t peaceful as it had been in Croatia and Bulgaria, and neither was it stimulating. Instead, it made me imagine what I’d be doing if I were still abroad which wasn’t the best thing from a sofa in Sussex.
In fact, the best thing I did was reconnect with all my friends, some whom I’d started to drift apart from before travelling. Over six weeks I saw nearly everyone important to me and this felt fresh, coming with a new motivation to stay in touch and see each other more now I was much closer and it was possible. This is honestly the best thing about being back and I urge you to do the same if you’re struggling.
Have a clear focus
I came back with a solid next step; find a great job. I enjoyed the freedom I had to search from my lounge, and the advantage of being ready to go to an interview at the drop of a hat. This gave me such a strong focus which I’m grateful for, and was also a complete success!
In many ways, the career journey I’ve gone on helped fight the post travel blues as it’s been an adventure where I’ve met new people, am constantly learning and get excited by what I’m doing. I’m not sure if it’s different for people returning to the same role from a sabbatical, but I read a lot about how travellers come home and get bored, to put it overly simplistically. I can’t say this happened to me, but then again, I’ve never been easily bored. If this is a challenge you face when you return from travelling, my advice is to reconnect with your strengths and apply them to something new.
Don’t forget the travel bug
My Dad jokes that I never really went to Canada because once I got back, it was like I’d never been gone. It took about a month after my summer trip to feel the same way. Memories would pop into my head, smiles onto my face, and then I’d think, ‘Did that happen to me? Did I do that?’ It’s an odd detachment because at the same time, I could totally transport myself back to the moment and relive it. They’re so sharp.
What I’m trying to say is, you can’t forget that you went away and you can’t forget why. All of that means something and if you travel frequently, it’s actually part of who you are. Travels shouldn’t fade into the background because you’ve come back but you’ve got to get the balance right. I suppose my outlet is blogging, which works out nicely as not everyone is going to be interested in what you did and your nearest and dearest certainly won’t want to hear about it all the time!
Keep the confidence
In Europe I wore exactly what I wanted and did exactly what I wanted. I talked to anyone and when strange people were around I dealt with it calmly and with a sense of humour. People are so different I learnt you just have to go in with a smile and see what happens. Plus, if it doesn’t go well, it really isn’t the end of the world.
Now I’ve been back a couple of months, I’m fully integrated into my ‘old life’, only it’s very much my new life, even if it looks similar. Not a great deal has changed on the surface but I’ve got a wide range of new experiences that have altered me in little ways that I find out about every day. To sum up with three states of mind, I’m proud, content and more curious than ever before.
How awesome is travelling that even when you come back, its got the power to be a positive influence?