Being away from home for extended periods of time can, of course, stir feelings of homesickness – perhaps a huge, tear-filled overreaction to seeing something from your home country in the “foreign foods” aisle of a supermarket overseas, or almost tripping down an escalator when you hear the accent of a speaker who is clearly from your home country. Though you adore your international experience, reminiscing about your home always tugs at your heartstrings, and you do find yourself looking forward to the time when you will finally touch down on familiar soil once more.
Upon returning home after traveling the world, you are met with the smiling, eager faces of friends and family who are excited to hear about your stories and adventures… for five minutes.
It’s a funny thing, coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Hugs exchanged, catch-ups completed, your loved ones are now content with the exceedingly high-level summary of how you have spent the past X amount of months or years of your life and expect that you will easily slip straight back into life as you knew it before traveling, but as anyone who has lived overseas or traveled for long periods of time will know, it’s not quite as simple as that.
We joke about reverse culture shock and how travel can change us. The reality is that this readjustment can be incredibly difficult.
I have been back home for the past three months now after spending years living in Greece and traveling overseas. The return was made out of necessity due to the pandemic situation. This isn’t the first time that I’ve left and come back after an extended period, but the transition never gets easier.
When you arrive back on home soil, friends, family, and acquaintances await you exactly as you left them, still following their same routines – the same social circles mixed with, the same bars and restaurants frequented, but yet it all feels different somehow. It isn’t them that have changed, it’s you.
You feel a strange sense of detachment from everything and everyone around you, somewhat unmotivated to see or do anything. Those who surround you simply cannot understand why it is that you just can’t go back to the way things were, querying why you don’t like the place anymore.
You try to explain how peculiar you feel about being home with adjectives like “weird” and “strange” but they simply do not sufficiently express the drastic changes you have experienced. Only a fellow traveler who has felt the same reverse culture shock can identify with you, I suppose in a similar sort of way as people with children refer to some life situations as being things that “only other parents can understand”.
No-one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow (Lin Yutang)
It absolutely is true when people claim that you can be surrounded by people and yet still feel completely alone. You have no-one around that can relate to all of that which you have experienced. It’s difficult to recall tales from the road around your friends at home without them assuming that there is some air of pretentiousness around it, or through a fear that they see your recollections as attempts to make them jealous.
Nobody at home can relate to your trips to Bhutan or your memories of solo female travel in Oman. Reaching out to friends from the road and joking about these feelings aides you somewhat, but not in whole.
Traveling the world gives you a whole new perception of the meaning “home”. The people that you now identify with the most, and care so deeply about are scattered quite literally all over the world. You feel a sense of belonging in many places, not least and only the one in which you were born.
This is certainly not the end, not your last travel hurrah. Recent adventures may have ended with an anticlimactic thud but as you begin organizing your next trip – no matter how long or short in duration, there is some comfort in the thought of soon being back on the road, among like-minded individuals who get you once again.
This article was originally published on www.highheelsandabackpack.com