The Hardest Part of Travel: Coming Home

There’s nothing quite like traveling. It’s this adventure where you live in each moment; never looking too hard toward the future, or reflecting on the past. You get caught up in the thrill of it all: the people, this stupendous, wonderful, enthralling place you’re visiting, these other worldly experiences that you have each and every day, and all that you’re learning about this life you’re living. It’s what I would deem, the “travel high.”

Through all of these experiences you find confidence. Not only in how to navigate, or speak a new language, but in yourself. It sparks this change within you. You see the world in a different way, and you look at the way you live your life from a new perspective. You begin to ask yourself questions like:

“What “stuff” do I really need to be happy?

“What do I do that truly fulfills me?”

“What am I doing with my life?”

Perhaps you find some of those answers, but more often than not, these are the questions we think about once we get back. After all the planes, buses, trains and taxis we take to get back home, we find ourselves back in our comfort zone; surrounded by all of the “things” that make it home. This is when it begins to set in… you’re home, and you don’t really know how to feel about it.

As someone who has spent the last 4 years traveling, moving and adventuring around the world, let me share some of the reasons why you feel this melancholy, even though you’ve just experienced something miraculous.

1. No One Understands What You’ve Been Through 

Maybe you traveled for a month, maybe for a year or more, it doesn’t matter, when you get home from your adventure, you can’t wait to tell people about it. Then, when you’re finally in the same room with all of your friends, you start to tell a story, and your friends’ eyes glaze over. Before you know it, they are taking about what they did together last week or the most recent work drama, and you’re left hanging.

It’s not that your friends don’t care about your travel experience. More than likely they’ve never had an experience of their own, perhaps they have no interest in a travel experience, and perhaps they just don’t understand the amount of personal growth you’ve just had.

All I can say is, don’t let them get you down. Tell your stories anyway. Blurt them out to whoever will listen. Call up your true friends, because you know that they want to hear. Find an outlet so you can tell your story; start a blog, make a photo album, keep a journal, call your parents. Most importantly, remember that your travel experience was meant for YOU, and no matter how much anyone listens, reads, or watches your travels, will they ever really understand, and that’s alright.

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2. You’ve Got a New Perspective on Life 

Through your time spent abroad you’ve been exposed to new cultures and foreign ways of life. You realize the system that you’re in, and this set of “rules” that governs your life. Maybe your system isn’t the best, and maybe what you want for your life doesn’t match up with what you “should want.”

Instead of deciding to conform, DO YOU. There are so many ways to live your life, so pick the way that makes you happiest! It’s healthy to think outside the box, and look at the big picture of life. Change is good. It causes growth and development, so challenge your beliefs!


John Lennon quote on the door of a random building in Costa Rica

3. You See the Technology Disconnect

While traveling, you’re constantly on the move and surrounded by new people. Human interaction is one of the main tools used to navigate, gain information, make friends, and find travel locations. You find yourself only using your technology for posting pictures and grabbing contact information from your new friends. When you ride the bus, everyone talks to each other, and at the hostels, family dinners are made with strangers. You feel this strong sense of community, and it makes you feel at home on the road.

When you finally make it back home, you’re fresh off these experiences of community and comradery. Then you get back on the bus for the first time, and all of the sudden… you’re aware of the silence. Everyone is looking down. Engrossed in their technology. Headphones are in, and turned up so loud you can hear the screamo metal blaring from a few seats back. It hits you; you’re back, and the loneliness starts to set in again.

Seeing this technological dependence was one of the first things I noticed when coming back from traveling. So many of my friends and peers were checking their technology so repeatedly and often that I made comments about it. What happened to living in the moment? Not everything needs to be placed on Shap Chat, or talked about with a friend over text message. What happened to dropping by? Picking up the phone and making a call? In all honesty, I don’t know.

While there is no direct way to fix this, I say, keep doing what you’re doing: call your friends out. As someone who got their Bachelors Degree in Recreation and Leisure Services, this is a subject that was discussed at length. Change starts with a conversation. While keeping a record of everything fun that happens in life is fulfilling in it’s own way, a simple verbal reminder to live in the moment never hurt anyone. Make up some fun games where technology can’t be used! One of my favorites is to have everyone put their phone on the table while at the bar. All the phones have to be placed face down. First person to touch their phone, buys the next round. Technology does this world a lot of good, but don’t get sucked into “the technology vortex!”

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So, even though you’re home, and parts of it feel not so good, keep your chin up. Even though you’re back in the “ordinary” instead of the extraordinary, remind yourself that life is so good. There may be things here at home that you wish were different, but BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE. There might not be jungles, oceans, or seven different languages in your community, but remember to use the lens you used while traveling back at home. There is so much to do and see in this world, and not appreciating home because it’s not far away would be a shame. Above all, realize that your travel experiences are always on hold. With time and patience, you will be out there again, seeing the world from a different point of view. Until then, live it up. Save your nickels. Try something new. Tell your stories. Get involved. Explore more. And most importantly, be thankful that you’ve had the chance to experience something as life changing, as travel.

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