Dublin Europe Expat Reflections

Reflections on Returning to Ordinary Life

I recently came to the unnerving realisation that it has been over a year since I returned from India, and from my nomadic lifestyle. The thought presented itself suddenly, delivered with a sharp stab of icy fear. I fought feelings of nausea as I forced myself to consider the truth, that I have been living as a settled person, a caged bird, a conventional human for more than twelve months.

I pictured where I was a year ago, waking at dawn on a rumbling sleeper bus from Goa, my stomach flipping as I sat up to steal my first look at Mumbai, the city I had longed to visit for some time. I was hot, sticky and dirty. I was tanned. My stomach was as flat as it had ever been, and the smell of Indian spices lingered on my skin.

At the time, my mood was a near hysterical excitement combined with a borderline manic panic to take it all in. A giant, loud clock, an ever-present reminder that my time was running out was a constant presence in my mind. My adventure was drawing to a close, and my heart was doomed to be crushed by the debilitating weight of the ordinary. Not to mention the uncertainty that would come with moving back home, finding a job, and adjusting my lifestyle so drastically.

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I cried during the long layover in Kuala Lumpar. I didn’t want to leave India, a place that had somehow lived up to my exceptionally high expectations. I didn’t want to unpack my backpack. I didn’t want to return to normality.

And then I was home.

And it was hard.

A last minute, irresponsible change of plans to meet friends in Amsterdam helped with the transition from nomad to returning emigrant. As did the fact that Ireland was blessed with rare great weather. There were barbecues and long summer nights. And the joy ofย rediscovering Dublin.

But there was that nagging feeling, the undercurrent of panic that just wouldn’t go away.

There was the uncertainty. We had to move back in with our parents, an adjustment. We went from being side by side to having to arrange times and days to meet up, our non-existent budget providing a challenge.

There was the peculiar feeling of not quite knowing where you fit. Of readjusting expectations of friendship and family. Of seeing how things have changed and evolved without you, and at times wondering why on earth you came back in the first place.


There was a lot of soul searching and sleepless nights. Anxiety about the age old question, what are you doing with your life, and the feeling of being placed in a box that didn’t quite fit fed my insomnia, along with the painful longing to be on the road again.

And then, life got crazy busy. Gone were those hazy nights spent swatting mozzies on hammocks, or watching sunsets in the oven-like air of Adelaide’s summers. Instead, there were long, varied days at a new job, and even longer and at times exhausting nights spent in a classroom. There were assignments that reignited my petulant, procrastinating inner child. There was the intricate juggling involved in keeping up with my two sites while working and studying and making time for Sean and friends.

Time began to fly. I found myself able to read travel blogs again, without feeling on the verge of depression.

It’s always the way though, isn’t it? With breakups and changes, time really does ease the pain.

With very little funds, Sean and I booked a trip to Berlin. I felt a weight lift. It was the exact same feeling of relief that came when we decided to leave Australia and go back to Asia. The feeling of travel on the horizon always causes my spirit to lift.

Travel is a tonic, a reward, a promise of exhilaration and adventure.

Berlin sustained me for a few months. It reacquainted me with Europe, the wonderful place of history, art, architecture and food that we Europeans are lucky enough to call our own.

Then came London, Galway and Barcelona.

Summer came again. I started a new job where I write all day, and Sean and I moved in together again. I still struggle to save money to travel, as I always do. A wedding in Las Vegas brought with it great times with friends and the opportunity to sneak in a visit to Philly.

Autumn brings with it cosy nights, new scarves and hats, and airline sales. I continue to be grateful to live in Dublin for its food scene, the culture and the familiarity found in the city streets I call my own. I dream of Christmas markets, another trip to Amsterdam and visiting a new country by the end of the year. All on a budget, of course!


The urge to go, to explore, to take off – it never leaves.

But the distractions of an overwhwelmingly busy schedule and a lack of money means that I have no choice but to stay put, my wings temporarily clipped.

And perhaps that is the key to keeping a wild bird grounded. Remove the possibility of escape and one becomes, in some ways, institutionalised. But give that bird the means, and the money to take off, and all that would be left would be a few stray feathers.



To all my fellow birds who find themselves with clipped wings, rest assured that it does get easier, and the wanderlust gene will always find ways to get its fix. Rediscover your own city, plan your next travels and remember that the future holds the whole world in its hands. There will be more travel ahead, I promise!

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  • Reply
    October 2, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Christine, loved reading this post found it on Twitter. Great perspective and I have been through that kind of nausea and recently wrote about our Re-entry. The hard part is changing and having friends and family that feel disconnected from you and vice versa. Although you make incredible new ones. Great post!
    Dorene recently posted…What you Need to Know Before your Trip to Ometepe Island, NicaraguaMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Hi Dorene, I’m so glad you liked this post! You are so right, disconnection can he the worst, but I think our feelings tend to settle down once we get used to being back. Thank you for your comment! ๐Ÿ˜Š

  • Reply
    October 5, 2015 at 8:00 am

    I just came back from a holiday, and I am also having a tough time readjusting to normal life…and I was only gone for 8 days! I am already dreaming up my next great adventure, but I am also looking for things closer to home that I’ve never seen but have always said I would. It’s always the first week that’s the toughest, when you’re still rested and relaxed and remembering great meals and stunning sunsets. My brain is still finding space for work-related items and emails and meetings, but I am trying to remember to take some time for myself each day and something just for myself, the way I was able to do for those 8 days. Thanks for this post — it came at exactly the perfect time for me.
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    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 8:39 am

      Hi Veena, thank you for your comment. I’m so glad this post came at a good time for you.
      Its funny how we tend to put off seeing things in our own city, but it’s a great way to keep the feeling of travel alive! I hope you have gotten used to being back home now, and that your next adventure isn’t far off!

  • Reply
    Susan cooper
    October 5, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Whenever I read a travel blog I always think how amazing that life must be… Wandering the globe, experiencing all the different cultures. At times I wish I had followed that path to adventure when I was younger. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to go back to a normal life and settle down after that.

    • Reply
      Doreen Pendgracs
      October 6, 2015 at 3:18 am

      Thx to my friend, Susan Cooper for referring me to this blog.

      I can relate to what you have written, as I, too, live and love to travel. It makes my heart sing, helps me grow and understand, and truly appreciate life.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…bronze sculptures of the maleconMy Profile

      • Reply
        Christine Maguire
        October 22, 2015 at 8:44 am

        Hi Doreen, Im happy Susan passed this on to you. I know exactly how you feel, travel is e everything! Thank you for your comment ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Hi Susan, thank you for your comment, and apologies for the delay getting back to you. It is pretty hard to get back to normality, but it does get easier.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I absolutely loved reading this post. I know the feeling well as I am currently going through this..
    Ashlee recently posted…A Stroll Through Cuenca’s Historic CentreMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Hi Ashlee, I’m delighted to hear you enjoyed the post. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this at the moment. I hope you get to travel again soon, & you’re definitely not alone in feeling this way! ๐Ÿ˜Š

  • Reply
    October 6, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    We’re facing this in a couple of months. On top of it all, we picked the worst possible time of year to return to our part of the U.S. (snow, freezing cold, everyone hibernates). I remember returning from my study abroad experience and having a hard time relating to friends and life in general. I was a broke college student back then and knew my next vacation was years away. It was an awful feeling. I think this time will actually be harder, but I am not worried. I know travel will always be a priority for us and we’ll be back out before we know it.
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    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 8:49 am

      Oh no, will you at least be home for the holidays? At least that might make it easier!
      You have the right attitude, I think wanderers will always make travel happen, it just might take a while or be a different kind of travel! Best of luck with your return ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

  • Reply
    Heather Cole
    October 6, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    What a lovely heartfelt piece! Returning from long term travel is always difficult, but I think you’re right, as long as there is the promise of the next adventure somewhere on the horizon, no matter how distant, then life and sanity can just about be sustained in between.
    Heather Cole recently posted…Champing โ€“ would you sleep in a church?My Profile

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Thank you Heather! Exactly, once there’s a possibility of travel you can keep sane! ๐Ÿ˜„

  • Reply
    Curious Claire
    October 7, 2015 at 3:34 am

    I hate returning from a trip and I only do short trips away. Can’t imagine being on the road for so long, have a great time and then returning to an ordinary life
    Curious Claire recently posted…Would You Eat a Burger from a Toilet?My Profile

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 8:52 am

      Hi Claire, yes short trips are a great way to feed your wanderlust. It was definitely difficult to get back to reality, but it was so worth it to experience the nomadic lifestyle! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

  • Reply
    October 7, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Lovely post! I think returning from any life changing adventure regardless of the length is hard. When I returned from my Camino in September after 6 weeks of being alone and walking, it took me a couple of weeks to get used to the lack of walking and the noise from being back at home and returning back to work. It hits you like a car that your adventure is over…but take peace in the fact you may be stuck now but you never know what doors life may open down the road ๐Ÿ™‚
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    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 9:02 am

      Hi Samantha, wow, the Camino sounds like such a great experience. I can imagine it must be so hard to go from being alone in nature to being back with all that noise and work! Was the Camino hard to do? It sounds like it’s a challenge.

  • Reply
    Nicola Hilditch-Short
    October 11, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    I know how you feel, I have this panic about normal life, that I can’t hack is with this incurable need to explore and be free.
    Nicola Hilditch-Short recently posted…Sport Climbing on the Limestone cliffs of YorkshireMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 16, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Me too Nicola! We’ll always need to explore, and hopefully we always can! ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      October 22, 2015 at 9:07 am

      You’re not alone in feeling that way Nic! Thanks for commenting! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

  • Reply
    What to expect when you come home from traveling - The Traveloguer Travel Blog
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