After eighteen months and eight days, it was time to come home. It’s the part most people dread – how will they fall back into a routine after such a sporadic adventure? How will anyone understand what they’ve been through, and how they’ve changed as a person? Can you really settle into a “real” job again? Travel becomes a lifestyle, and it’s the big lifestyle changes that are always the scariest (which, of course, is one of the biggest reasons so many people are scared to travel in the first place). It was almost like I was preparing myself for a reverse culture shock.
I was looking forward to coming home, though. Not to end our travels, as I have plenty more of those in the pipeline! But after 18 months of not seeing my best friends, missing yet another Christmas with my family (it’s only been… eight years), and not having a wardrobe, it’s nice to get back to familiarity and security for a while.
There are a few things I’ve learned about what it’s like to come back and some of them surprise me.
People don’t want to hear everything about your travels – and that’s actually fine
One thing you hear a lot about people returning home after a huge adventure is that no one really asks about your travels and you’re bursting to talk about it otherwise it’s like it never happened. I’ve found the opposite – people go as far as to ask what my favourite place was, and usually leave it at that, and that’s absolutely fine by me.
Because I have just spent eighteen months repeating my story over and over and over. And I’ve had those conversations with people who are genuinely interested, because they’re travelling too. So I’m fine with not talking about it any more.
The people who are really important to me have had on-the-go updates anyway, so they don’t need to hear it all over again. And it’s nice to come back and have a really good time with them, rather than making all the conversations about me and what I’ve done.
I have more stuff than I need, and I’m happy with what I have
Before we left, I had a really ruthless clearout of our stuff – even more than I would normally have done, because we didn’t have anywhere to store it.
But even so, I’ve come back and realised that there are a lot of things I’m not going to need to buy for a very long time. Shoes, t shirts, coats, even socks will take a while to wear out, and I don’t feel any need to overstock them because I know how much I can live without. Ash found seven deodorants amongst our stuff. I have three or four woolly scarves. And I definitely don’t need any more homeware for now. Travel often takes the consumerist nature out of you – there’s nothing I even really want for Christmas (much to Mum’s annoyance – she keeps asking!).
There are a few silly things that I kept for novelty value which seem so irrelevant now, but then some of it I’m glad I kept, even if everyone else thinks they’re stupid (I’m looking at YOU, big green bean bag banana). But travelling definitely makes you aware of what’s actually important in your life – and that’s very subjective, so only YOU can make that decision.
There are good things about coming home, too
You take things for granted when you live somewhere. You do, it’s human nature. So to come back and not only realise that some of the best sunsets are right on my doorstep, but then later at night step out the front door and very faintly see the northern lights on the horizon… THAT makes me glad to be home. The fact I can look out of my bedroom window and see the top of Scotland (see picture above), even though I could do that every day for the first 18 years of my life. Being away has changed my perspective on a few things.
Of course, there’s the fact I get to see all my friends on a regular basis for a while (living away from home for the past almost ten years, that’s something I haven’t taken for granted for a long time!) and spend Christmas with my parents for the first time since 2008. Yep, there’s definitely nothing wrong with enjoying being home!
I keep making comparisons with other cultures
There’s nothing like going away for a while to make you realise what makes your culture so unique. I don’t mean total culture changes like going to Asia because obviously it’s so different; I mean subtle ones between similar countries.
Equally, coming home has made me subconsciously compare a lot – like prices, language, and just the way the country works.
When we first came back to the UK, the first thing we did was point out all the food in supermarkets that we hadn’t seen in 18 months. Plus Australia is notoriously expensive, yet I’ve looked at prices here and thought “That’s $4!!!! They must be joking! It was $2 in Oz!” We took a peak-time train that cost £20 and I angrily noted that the same journey would have been $10 down under. But then we also took a bus that cost £5 which would have been $80 there. Contactless payments are universal there too, yet here almost everyone still uses chip & pin. We worked with people on farms who went to a school of six people. We went to see my cousin play ice hockey in Canada like it was second nature, yet it’s a sport I’ve never seen before.
Even the wildlife – in Australia, we had possums and lorikeets in our back yard, in Canada we had deer and skunks in our back yard, and here, we have… rabbits and pheasants (no foxes in Orkney!).
Then there’s the different words – I still call peppers “capsicums”, I asked someone what they’re doing “this arvo” and got a rather strange look, and I still say “no worries mate” in a faux Aussie accent.
Oh and let’s not talk about the “c-word” in Australia… it’s probably best not to use it here.
I’ve come back from an Australian winter to a British one (via a Canadian summer, but still), and there is a BIG difference. In fact, an Orcadian one is even worse. Brrrrrr!
People are so caught up in things that don’t matter
This is something I’ve REALLY noticed, and maybe it’s a small-town (/island) thing. Whenever I see friends, every conversation seems to revert to local dramas about people they don’t even know. You only have to mention a name to hear all about what they and their family and cats and hamsters have all supposedly done. Even my parents do it. There are fall-outs over seemingly nothing. All the neighbours want to find something to complain about. I suppose that’s the British way, but I. Just. Don’t. Care. I don’t have time for it.
If there’s one thing that travel really teaches you, it’s that there are far bigger issues in the world than that woman down the road apparently sleeping with someone’s brother, because that makes her a “seek’nin hoore” (Orcadian dialect!). Focus on the things you do care about, and learn to see the good in people; I’m certainly a happier person for it, and travel helps a lot with positivity because of all the great people you meet. It’s easy to sit at home and read YouTube comments and despair at the world.
I’ve realised what’s important in my life, I’ve stopped bothering to judge other people and their actions, and I can shut out the things that I don’t care about, because life really is too short.
I don’t need a plan
I thought I’d come home and have a plan for what we’re doing next. Get this job, save up, move to Edinburgh, and that would be it until our next adventure.
I mean, even if you settle, it certainly doesn’t mean that your travels done and dusted; it just means you have some security and a little less flexibility. In fact, I’m happy to lie low with my parents for a while rather than rushing into getting our own place and buying more things we’ll need to get just to have to probably replace.
Instead, I don’t see the big rush any more. What if we decide to do another working holiday before we settle? Does it matter if I don’t have a career in mind to pursue right now? Silvia’s post over at Heart My Backpack sums up my feelings better than anything else I’ve read. Life could take me anywhere and it feels liberating!
The travel bug never leaves you
I’ve met a few people who have gone home, got stuck back in to their daily lives, and clearly have no interest in getting back out of them. But for the most part, people find it very hard to rid themselves of the so-called “travel bug”.
Apart from anything else, there are a lot of things I miss from everywhere we’ve been. The food in Asia, the people in Australia, the South African girls we made friends with in Vietnam, bumping into new friends all over the place, all the cities and places we fell in love with. There are so many places I desperately want to revisit, let alone my desire for new destinations.
And when you’re constantly meeting new people who are on their own adventures, it’s hard not to get drawn into the wanderlust.
So where will it take me next? Well, as I just said above, it just doesn’t seem like such a big deal to have it all planned out any more. The world really is my oyster, and it’s fantastic.
Have you travelled long-term before? How did you feel when you came home?
Like this? Pin it!
P.S. I’ve made a video of our travels!! Check it out below and let me know what you think! 🙂
16 thoughts on “On Coming Home After Long-Term Travel”
I read this thinking ‘exactly’ to everything. We’ve not come home yet, but after thirteen months on the road we’ve slowed down a lot and been visiting family in Australia, which kind of feels like coming home. It’s got me to thinking what’s changed for us while we’ve been away… I definitely feel so much more relaxed about the future, and even less keen to amass stuff than I was before. I really thought doing a big trip would ‘cure’ me of the travel bug for a while, but you’re right it just gives you millions more ideas. I think being constantly on the go for this long has put me off long stretches of constant travel though – it gets a bit exhausting. And I miss having a coffee pot, but I guess I can do that anywhere, just need to stay still for a bit!
Happy future adventuring, whatever form that takes!
Thanks Kirstie! Travel definitely changes you in subtle ways that actually change your perspective on a lot of things. I totally agree that it gets exhausting, it’s nice to take some breaks. It was actually really nice in Australia to have a total mix of “life” and “travel” by living in a hostel and exploring a new city even though we lived there. I don’t really feel like we actually got a “break”, but it was so relaxed compared to the go-go-go travel we did before and after Oz. 🙂 My problem now is I’m too scared to settle any more than I need to because I know I’m going to want to do more! It’s leaving me in a bit of a limbo. 😛 I wonder if you’ll feel the same when you return home!
I don’t know if you agree, but I think it gets easier to make a place home once you’ve travelled for a while. I feel at home anywhere I can make a cup of tea pretty much! And having left a flat and a ‘grown up’ job behind for this trip, and got rid of most of our stuff, I think it’s not that hard to up and leave if you do settle! You just become more accepting of posessions not staying yours forever. I feel more like settling after all this moving about, but yeah I guess we’ll see when (if?) we get back to the uk!
I can see this is an older post – are you travelling again!??!!? I went abroad for six months and I can totally relate to the coming home and the comparisons. Seems like a natural reation. The view out your bedroom is pretty sweet!
I am about to leave again for six months so I’m pretty excited! It’ll be a solo trip though (well, until my partner can come out and join me!) so it’ll be interesting to see if I feel different about it!
I can completely empathise with how you feel – it was good to come home to Singapore after being away for 9 months in South America, although I still miss my Ecuadorean host family and friends and think about them every day. I know some people get bored if they stay in one place too long, but different strokes etc. Think the trick is to figure out what works for *you*!
Totally agree, that’s the problem with “advice” posts about how you SHOULD feel because everyone feels differently. And I miss soooo many people from our travels. 😦
I totally agree that travel takes the consumerist out of you. Every time I travel, I bring less and every time I come home, I want to purge a lot of the things we’ve accumulated over the years. Travel definitely gives you so much perspective on life.
Yes, absolutely! I’ve barely bought any new clothes since I got back (18 months ago!!) and have been throwing loads of things out because I realised I have way too much stuff. I’m about to embark on some travels again and it took me about 10 minutes to pack because I’m taking way less than last time, haha. It’s such a good feeling!
I couldn’t agree more with this post but especially the part about needing less things. Travel really made me cut down on consumption and get better at buying capsule wardrobes. I always joke that I had more outfits aged 16 then I do now but it’s really not that important to me anymore. In fact I get antsy if I see the house filling up with unnecessary items – it just means more to sell or ditch when we move on again!
Omg yes, I totally relate to that last bit! I really think that the biggest lifestyle change travel has given me is the idea of not needing much stuff (which in turn has helped my bank balance – more travel!). I’ve literally bought about two items of clothing since I got home 18 months ago and I don’t find myself hoarding things any more! And I ALWAYS think “why do I need to buy that when it just means I’ll either have to take it with me or pack it up when we move” lol. Something my partner doesn’t quite understand!
I can totally relate to all of this. I spent 13 months traveling, got home, moved to another country, still have the travel bug, and still don’t really know what I’m doing with life! But one thing’s for sure… I don’t need a lot of stuff at all! I have zero emotional attachment to any of my belongings anymore. It’s an incredible feeling!
It feels so liberating, doesn’t it?! I always used to be a hoarder and I never saw myself ever becoming minimalist, but I feel like I’m getting that way! (and also totally relate to the “still don’t really know what I’m doing with life” part! haha)
I’m from Texas and I got to go to Berlin to visit my cousin and his wife back in April. Oh my goodness, it opened my eyes to so many things and how other people live in the world. All the walking they do in Berlin was hard for me at first but it inspired me to get active in my life back here in Texas. I definitely have the travel bug now and I met a man on the plane who is from the country of Georgia and they are such an inviting people so now I’m thinking about when I’m going to go visit that awesome country.
I am on a 3-month break from my real job and I have been having an excellent time but have to go back to work in July.
I have been researching online how to have more of a traveling lifestyle and I do not like the idea of being a digital nomad and being on a computer for hours a day. That defeats the purpose of the joy of traveling.
I do, however, like the idea of house sitting in a city or working at a hostel in a city or region that I want to explore. That may be something I do when I go to Georgia so that I don’t have to rush my time there. Especially since it’s so far from Texas, I don’t want to have to cram everything into a week.
Thank y’all for your posts and your advice and I’d appreciate any other advice about how to not have to rush a trip that is so special and be able to make a little money to keep it going.
P.S. Slowly but surely, I am totally becoming a minimalist too! I can’t have all this stuff weighing me down anymore- it’s got to go!!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for your comment, Bonnie! House sitting is a great idea, it’s something I haven’t done yet, but it’s a good way to make your money go further and live locally for a while. I recommend having a look at Workaway and Helpx as you can find some really interesting experiences on those. 🙂 It’s usually a few hours of work each day in exchange for accommodation and food. Couchsurfing is also a good way to save some money and live with a local, and it’s free!
I totally agree about not wanting to be a digital nomad – I actually have a post about exactly that! I want to enjoy where I am, that’s the whole point. 🙂 Hope you have the best time, whatever you end up doing!