Coming Home After Long-Term Travel
For the love of god if one more person says ‘back to reality’ to me again, I may implode!
In case it wasn't obvious, this is probably something you should never say to anyone who has been away traveling, regardless of how long they were gone!
It’s hard to put into words what coming home after five months of living on the road full of spontaneity and adventure feels like. It is a bit of transition and a mixed bag of emotions going from the nomadic travel lifestyle to settling back into the roots of home.
Before leaving we spent a great deal of time living a fairly orderly life saving our money, so that we could travel with the financial freedom to say ‘yes!’ to everything that intrigued us. And we did say ‘yes!’ to many things – living in a camper van, getting our scuba diving certificates, skydiving, heli-hikes, sailing trips, island adventures, and the list goes on. We did everything we wanted to.
It was an unforgettable journey, but that journey has ended and now we are home. It has been an odd transition coming back to what everyone calls ‘reality’. On that note, it grinds my gears every time I hear the phrase “back to reality”, as if what I lived and experienced wasn’t ‘real life’. Was it not real? Did it not happen? I am of the opinion that we all create our realities based on a series of choices we make and your reality is a product of your choices. I suppose I am digressing on a topic I am passionate about, but all I mean is, there is no ‘real life’ and ‘not real life’, it’s all life and it’s what you make of it!
So, we have had that taste of freedom! Well, not quite just a taste since we lived it for five months, but for that time we did what we wanted when we wanted. Our schedule was ours to create, though I don’t really want to call it a schedule because every day was different – it was exciting, scary and daunting all at the same time. It is odd to live so nomadically day-to-day to then find yourself rooted in one place working the nine-to-five grind, again.
Perhaps the most challenging transition has been the change I find in myself versus the sameness of home. Of course, even at home there have been changes; babies were born, people changed their hair, trees were cut down and buildings were erected or torn down, but despite this there is very much a sameness to it all. And I am not relishing this as a bad thing, but comparably, in myself I find the experience has changed me. There is a newfound confidence in myself and curiosity of the world. Now more then ever I am eager to keep exploring, to keep discovering things both in the world and in myself that I did not know existed.
Perhaps it all sounds a little too fluffy and idealistic, but there are times I can’t help but wonder how to fit in here now. This place feels the same, but I am not the same person in it; how do those worlds unite?
I have these moments staring at the computer screen in my cubicle at work and it feels the same as it did six months ago. ‘Did the adventure even happen?!’ I quip to myself. But sure enough I must look at a few photos to confirm it wasn’t just a dream, and when I see photos of myself with elephants in Thailand I relax a little. Evidently, I also became a bit of a philosopher in my travels as well (ha!).
Coming home has been a bag of mixed emotions. On one hand I was ready for a break. Traveling can be tiring and I was ready to see my family and friends. Reuniting with loved ones was the peak of returning home and I could have cried with joy at hugging my parents at the airport. It has been a joy to sleep in my own bed, to choose clean clothes from hangers in closets and neat folded piles in drawers, to have fresh potable water from the tap, a seemingly endless supply of clean undies, a hot shower with good water pressure, a stocked fridge with all my favourites, fresh vegetables and my own kitchen to cook in (yes, I missed cooking!). But I miss the wandering, the exploration and that feeling that the world is my oyster!
That all being said, I am not naïve to the fact that work is a necessary part of life. And I am not naïve to the fact that my travel adventure was made a reality because I did work the nine-to-five grind. Though it is a necessary evil, my mind has been broadened as to what an acceptable living looks like. Attitude is key. Just as starting the trip felt odd at the beginning and odd at the end, getting used to being home again will take a bit of time too.
Just as I once challenged peoples ‘back to reality’ comments, I must acknowledge that how my reality looks after the adventure will continue to be a product of my choices. I can choose to fight being home and grip longingly at the past, or I can take a step back and observe all that has happened and all that I am feeling with gratitude.
I may have come home with the same body and the same eyes, but the lens in which I see the world has changed. And that is okay. I cannot forget that I have lived what I had once only dreamt of, and how truly lucky I am to have had this experience.
This is not the end of my adventures. This is not the end of excitement, growth or discovery. If anything there is a renewed sense of wonder about what is next. And I am glad to say despite the weird transition and mixed emotions coming home, I can’t help but feel that the world is still my oyster.
Have you ever experienced a transition like this? Have you had an experience that changed your perception of life? Share your experience in the comments below!
Stay tuned for upcoming posts about my travel adventures in
New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia!