Returning home after a big trip is always hard. Last time was aweful. Yes I have great friends and family to come back to, but the big change is always hard to adjust to. With this in mind I decided to ask a fellow traveller how she coped with returning home and see if she could give me some tips.
Eliza from Anxious Adventurers has just returned home from a 10 month trip. Here is what she had to say about the adjustment.
Tell me a little about yourself (your adventurers, destinations, style)
Eek! When I first read that you wanted me to ‘open with a little about myself’ I indulged in a minor panic attack. I have somewhat of a hatred for self-biographies and an aversion to long lists of countries where people have travelled. I feel like they create a snide ‘my list is bigger than yours’ mentality similar to how men compare penises. But that rant is rather unhelpful to you, so here goes… I’m a cheese loving, rock-collecting geologist who often points her camera at pretty landscapes and who’s unemployed after travelling the world for ten months. I’m an anxious person (hence the name Anxious Adventurers for my blog) but I love to travel, meet new people and try new beers.
Is this your first big trip? What inspired you to go away?
My ten-month escapade around the globe is certainly the biggest I’ve done so far, but it’s not the first (that was a school trip to Bali in early high school), and it won’t be the last (hopefully that will be a trip to the moon or something of equivalent grandeur). As a nerdy high school teenager, catching the bus to Perth city (which took a never-ending 45 minutes) felt like a ‘big trip’! I’d bend my neck back and glance upwards at the gigantic skyscrapers with absolute awe. The same view doesn’t pack quite the same punch after visiting sprawling Tokyo or Bangkok, but it’s still this basic, primal excitement of experiencing new places that inspires me to keep seeking them out. Also, I’ve been biting my figurative typing tongue trying not to say the “you only get one life” line, but I just can’t hold it in anymore. You should work to live not live to work, as they say. The weeks precluding my decision to leave my job to travel I’d catch the train and observe everybody sitting slumped with their earphones in looking like depressed zombies. I’d be willing to bet half the people on the train hate their job so much that they’re wishing for a zombie invasion just to hurt their bosses. I just really didn’t want to be part of that!
Did you always have an end date in site or was it something you decided when the time felt right?
The best plan I had when I left Australia was to not have an exact plan; nevertheless I intended to travel for roughly one year, with anything above that being a happy bonus. However, instead of sensibly travelling to South East Asia (A.K.A budget-travel-land) after six months in Europe, I ended up in Iceland and Hawaii, which were very much on the opposite end of the budget scale. For about the cost of a bag of spinach leaves in Iceland you can have a five-course feast in Vietnam… and the spinach isn’t even very fresh in Iceland. This last minute destination decision cut my trip down to ten months, but I don’t regret it at all. I’d never experienced frozen hair or even seen snow before (it’s snow beautiful), and Iceland was one of the most scenic countries I’ve ever visited. Plus, you didn’t even require a fridge to chill your beers there!
What did you look forward too the most about going home?
I think I’m a bad person, because although the obvious answer to this is seeing my wonderful friends, the first thing that pops into my head is my spice cabinet and selection of colourful nail polish. Oh, and having my own bed and knowing that ONLY I (ok and my boyfriend Jarrad) have slept in it, not a ruthless army of flesh eating bed bugs. (My bag suffered a bed bug infestation from a hostel in Positano, Italy, and ever since then I feel phantom bites lying in hostel beds).
What were the three biggest challenges you felt when you returned home and how have you over come those challenges?
Accepting that other people have jobs and obligations is one of the most difficult things about returning home. People don’t want to party with me on a Tuesday night or go to the beach every day, which is exactly the opposite of the never-ending social possibilities at hostels, and makes everyday life feel very lonely. What makes it worse is that my working friends have lots of money, which invokes a rather unpleasant jealousy sensation (unless of course they’re buying me pints). I’m not sure I can give advice on overcoming this because I don’t think I have! I spend my days writing to fill the giant emotional void.
Moving back into a house after living in a backpack was strangely challenging too. Suddenly you have so many stupid, useless things! It triggered a strangely annoyed feeling deep inside me that threatened to escape like the baby aliens in the Alien movies. While unpacking I found TWO soft toy turtles, clothing from when I was in first year university (hint, I was about four sizes smaller back then), a jar of random buttons and odd ear rings, and multiple boxes of old magazines I haven’t touched in years. Needless to say the charity shop was really thankful to receive ten boxes of donations! Backpacking taught me how little I really need and de-cluttering my house has been very liberating.
A more practical challenge applicable too most people is simply getting an income again once home. I haven’t overcome that at all; rather I’ve gone a step backwards and made myself temporarily unemployable by re-injuring my knee and being unable to walk. Luckily I returned home with some contingency money (although I really didn’t want to kneed it quite like this). Unluckily however I spent $3000 of that buying a manual car that I now can’t drive with a knee injury! Yay!
What is your best piece or pieces of advice for travellers returning home after a long trip?
Don’t be satisfied with settling back into your old routine! I think what truly causes the post vacation blues is the realisation that you’re unsatisfied with your autopilot path in life, so you have to do something about it. Coming back from a long trip is the perfect time to be make the changes necessary to live the life you want, whether that be changing jobs, buying a colourful wig, going back to study, buying a lot of delicious cheese or just starting a new hobby. As for me, I’ve decided to pursue a post-doctorate research project as a geologist to challenge myself. And I might try to make wine; I’m longing for Italian red wine already. My point is that now is the time to make life what you want it to be! And it’s also a good time to start planning another trip….