While traveling is just the greatest, the reality is that it often must come to an end. Before you know it, you’ve swapped your flip flops for boots, your Kingfisher for an over-priced pint, and sunshine for rain (at least in Ireland!)
Coming back from traveling can be tough, let’s be honest. When I returned to Ireland after years abroad, it was challenging. I’m not going to lie, at times it was really, really hard.
I know that’s not what you want to read, but believe me when I say, the strangeness does pass!
If you are facing the end of the wandering road (for now), here are a few things to expect when you get home. Bear in mind, these are the more negative aspects of coming home. Not all will apply to you, but in reading this list I hope some of you will nod your heads in recognition, and see that you’re not alone.
For those of you who are considering coming home, don’t be freaked out, but take this list as a little primer for your return to normal life. It’s not all bad, but here are a few things to know…
People don’t care about your travels
While this seems a little harsh, it is the truth. Sure, your parents will be interested, at first. Your friends will ask ‘how was it?’, but no one really cares. Really. They care about their own stuff. While you were off adventuring, they were getting on with their own lives. They are probably more interested in filling you in on all the gossip from home than listening to you go on about your crazy experiences in places they’ve never been with people they’ve never heard of. Even though you will be reminded of experiences from your travel all the time, don’t be that guy who interrupts every conversation with ‘That reminds me of that time in Pontinak’ or ‘When I was in China…’ Trust me, no one wants to hear that!
As for all those holiday snaps you took, I hate to break it to you, but not even your parents want to see more than a few! So maybe call off the projector for now! At least there’s always Instagram!!
Shit is expensive!
Unless you’re coming from Australia or the Nordic countries, your home town is likely to be more expensive than places like Asia and South America. For many of us, this means you’re in for a rude awakening when you go shopping for the first time!
A coffee can cost as much as your breakfast and dinner did in Asia. The bus to the city centre will set you back as much as a bus from Sunuali to Varanasi.
The first time I saw pad thai on a menu in Ireland, I was really shocked to see it cost 20 times as much as it did in Thailand. I knew Ireland was obviously more expensive, but it just seemed crazy that a restaurant was charging close to €20 for one while I had been munching on authentic pad thai in Thaliand for less than €1!
When a glass of wine costs more than a night’s accommodation in Bali it can be tough, and ironically, the shock will have you even more in need of drink!
People think your return means you’re ready to settle down
Parents, relatives and friends tend to have this strange assumption that now that you’ve seen more of the world, you’re cured of your pesky wanderlust and are ready to settle down.
Parents in particular may be convinced you have been cured and that you’ve gotten ‘it’ out of your system. Hmm, not exactly.
Why anyone would think you’d be satisfied after exploring parts of the world is a mystery. Surely they must know that you’ve only seen a fraction of this big amazing world, and that all you want is to see more! But anyway, it’s best to not correct them when you first get back, leave that bombshell for a little longer.
The third degree and likely existential crisis
What are you doing with your life???? What’s your plan? What’s next with your career? What are you going to do with yourself????
For some reason, when you come home from travelling, people assume its a good idea to bombard you with probing questions about your plans for the rest of your life. While you’re still trying to get used to everyone speaking the same language as you, parents, friends and family have already moved on to your grand purpose in life.
People seem to assume you want to be quizzed about your plans, unaware of the fact that those very questions may send you into a spiral of panic, because you have absolutely no idea what you are doing and all you want is to be back on a beach or exploring streets you’ve never been to before.
These questions are annoying, a little nosy and they also carry the risk of making you freak out.
This may lead you to have a slight meltdown as you’re forced to ponder, eh, what am I actually doing with my life? Fun.
The existential crisis is no picnic, trust me, but all you can do is take your time and try to draw on what you have learned from your travels to guide you. Travel is enriching and eye-opening, and you never know, it may provide you with the answers to these inconvenient questions.
Just figure it out on your own time, and smile politely (while gritting your teeth) when your nosy relatives quiz you.
Forced saving for dullness
Rent, deposits, clothes, a car – These are all really inconvenient things you have to start saving for. It sucks. It really, really does. While sacrificing a night out to save for that skydiving you’re planning on your travels is a worthy sacrifice, when you have to start saving for something as annoying as a deposit for an apartment, it can be pretty depressing.
My advice? Make sure you’re putting something aside (no matter how small) for your next trip out of here.
Feeling like an outsider
Look, coming home after being away for so long can be tough. It is common to feel different, like you don’t fit in. This doesn’t happen all of the time, but sometimes slotting back in to your world can be strange fit. Friends have new friends, relationships or habits, people have moved on, or else stayed the exact some even though you feel different.
Relax, this is normal, and will settle down. You may need to readjust your expectations and remember to value the essence of your friendships for what they are, for the past you have shared and the good times in your future. You have changed, so adjust your expectations and be open to new experiences.
You may be freaked out by the amount of shit you have accumulated
There is something a little disconcerting about going from living out of a backpack to returning home to find you have so much stuff. You go from carrying your worldly possessions on your back, like a wandering snail, to living in a room that’s almost bursting with stuff. How many pairs of shoes can one person own? Why do you still have a drawer full of pyjamas? How could you have lived such an excessive lifestyle?
The good thing about all of your crap is that it can be nice to dig through it all and discover things you had forgotten you owned. But at the same time, its also a surreal experience. On the road you know exactly how many pairs of shorts you have, and when you were about to run out of clean knickers. At home, your closets, drawers and shelves house an abundance of stuff that you probably couldn’t name half of.
People may not be down with you wearing your hippie pants outside, or ever
It’s not just your flowy pants. The bracelets, the unusual hair braids or the henna may not look so good to the normal people at home. It’s a shame, but its time to hang up those pants and brush you hair. Eventually. But there’s nothing to stop you wearing them at home!!
At the end of the day, coming home is an adjustment. Travel does change you, and that’s part of the reason you did it, right? All you need now is time to get used to it all, and to figure out what’s next. Aside from that trip you’re already planning! And remember, you’re not alone, all around the world are wanderers just like you, going through the same things.