The tan is faded, the bank account is in recovery mode and everything is back to normal. What’s it been like settling back into Suzy’s old life when returning from long term travel? This is three months down the line and reflection on the challenges and joys of coming home.
We all get holiday blues. But what about when you return from long term travel to an old life you left behind many months ago?
For me, the strangeness of being back home was accompanied with the horrors of job hunting. Which, as I think we’d all agree, is a scary process.
I cried on the plane home. Like, a lot. I don’t know why but I always watch the sappiest movies on long-haul flights and inevitably will be sobbing over The Good Dinosaur while quietly sniffing next to strangers. The closer we got to London, my mind was racing with thoughts of seeing my dear Mum, the worries of explaining to her a certain tattoo (she actually didn’t mind!), seeing how she and I might have changed in these last few months… What would being at home really feel like?
No one wants a good thing to end.
I felt like a whole different person to the Suzy I’d left at Heathrow. Not only was I glowing from all the sun rays, I felt glowing in my self-assurance. This Suzy was more confident, assertive, and brave. She had faced fears I didn’t even know I had. There had battled through challenges that were unimaginable to the comparatively untravelled girl I was before. I had jumped out a plane goddammit.
A life that is and isn’t mine.
For many who spend a long time overseas, going home can instigate reverse culture shock. While I was mindful of expecting this phenomena to some degree from past few months in South East Asia, I felt I had other, bigger concerns consuming my mind.
I was most worried about fitting back in. Sounds mad, doesn’t it? How could I no longer fit into a space and life that I created for myself? Surely I hadn’t changed THAT much? But I really felt that I had.
The thought of returning to life before travelling was terrifying.
That’s mainly because before I left I had been deeply, deeply unhappy. Now, I felt I had purpose. I had met people who had changed my life. My view of the world and of myself had developed. Going home felt like putting on an old uniform that didn’t quite fit. One that was too restrictive and looked too well-worn. One that put me in a role I no longer felt suited me.
Going home almost felt like defeat. It felt like I was giving up on the world I so badly wanted to see. But as I sat on the plane feeling pathetic, I reminded myself that I am so lucky to have had this trip. And I am grateful to have had this chance that so many dream of doing the same.
The benefits of returning from long term travel.
But on the other hand, I’d flat run out of money. Not a penny to my name. Nada, zilch in the ol’ bankaroo. So in some ways returning to the UK was a massive relief. I didn’t have to be seeing only outgoing transactions, there would finally be a chance to see some cash paid in to aid my feeble financial situation.
Also, I can’t deny the excitement of a different kind of freedom. The freedom to stay in a room TO MYSELF. Cooking for myself in a fully-equipped kitchen using fresh ingredients. Washing my laundry whenever I wanted. Even the idea of rediscovering a wardrobe clothes I forgot I’d owned brought me joyful thoughts.
Most importantly, I yearned for familiarity. I wanted to revel in the freedom of knowing exactly where I was, no maps required! I wished for niggly annoying things like my laptop, my favourite moisturiser, just stuff that made everything a bit more convenient.
Lastly, I was ready to share the new and improved Suzy with the world. Well, the part of the world that hasn’t seen her yet.
The thought of showcasing my personal growth and being who I felt I truly should be was a huge motivation for going home. Of course, seeing my Mum and brother were also major factors. The elation of hugging your closest relatives is a feeling like no other. Seriously, give it a try and really savour it. You’ll bloody love it. It then felt even better when they seemed so glad that this trip has been the inspiration I’d hoped it to be, and the compliments of how I’d changed (for the better I hope!) validated how I had already been feeling.
Eventually, being back home felt like the new normal. While the memories became more distant, almost a lifetime ago, I tried very hard to maintain the positive mentality and adaptable attitude I’d picked up. As a chronic worrier, this is my biggest challenge: not falling back into bad habits of self-induced stress and panic. It’s a work in progress, but I’ll get there.
What did I do After returning from long term travel?
One Month In:
I returned to a temp job just three days after getting home, so adjusting wasn’t really an option at this point! I was still living on the adrenaline and buzz from the adventures, and I think the novelty of working life was actually quite fun. Plus, I got back to summer here so that really helped my mood! Everyone was asking how it was, so I had heaps to talk about and got to look through all the pictures and really get nostalgic almost immediately.
The joys mentioned above were paramount here. I indulged in baths and long hot showers just because I could. I saw so much of my family and friends it felt like a real treat to be in their presence in person again. It was straight back to making memories too, as I even got to celebrate some truly magical moments at two weddings, trips around the UK, and plenty of lazy sunny days in between getting back on track.
Two Months In:
The settling in stage began. I was finding it pretty tough as the realisation that I wasn’t jetting off any time soon sank in.
It’s not just the amazing places, the beautiful scenery, the people that I missed, but I just felt completely lost. Emotionally that is, it’s hard to get lost in your own home town I hope! After much consideration, I came to realise that this is because I lacked any sort of direction or purpose.
Before travelling everything I did was in the mindset that it was to help with travels. The job I had, the money I saved, the research in my spare time, all for the trip. I had some major decisions to make about what was happening next, and as the temp job was coming to an end cue huge panics about getting a proper job, wanting to move out and trying to keep afloat while having no idea what I should be doing!
Travelling was easy, every day it seems has a plan, a purpose, meaning. The daily grind was becoming weary, every day the same and it doesn’t take you anywhere it seems. At desperate times I absolutely thought maybe I’ll be back on a flight sooner than I thought… Especially when Kazimir was back in New Zealand still and those mountains call to me every day…
Three Months In:
The weather is cold, but there is light at the end of the tunnel when I finally, after what seemed like forever and the worst interviews to have occurred, was offered an internship in London. And a really cool one at that, working in a field that was new to me, for a young and lively agency. It’s madness to think this time 6 months ago I was in sunning it up in Australia! And comparatively three months into the trip was halfway, and I was leaving Fiji. These months at home have flown by, maybe the busy summer of events and catching up with everything has helped the passage of time.
Now, it’s time to think about the next steps. Those major life choice thoughts still linger, but for now things are sort of settled. I enjoy my job, I’m staying put for at least a few more months, and my Kiwi is going to be here soon! Who says you can’t catch flights because of feelings?! I can’t wait to get my favourite person from my favourite country over here, show him around my country and do all the touristy things I never usually do.
Bringing a little slice of New Zealand to London is getting me through harder days, and I know that once I let my impatient butt settle down, the next trip will come around sooner than you think…
Here are a few highlights from the 3 months after travelling, to show that life continues back home, and it is still full of adventure, memories, experiences, and connections.
So yes. Returning from long term travel is hard. We all adjust differently, and I know I could have coped with it all a lot better. But I know this won’t be the last trip. Heck, I hope this won’t be the last long-term trip either! I’m so excited for the future adventures that await, both around the world and at home.
How do you adjust to life after travel?