A Travellerspoint blog

Being Home

It's a funny thing about comin' home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You'll realize what's changed is you. - Benjamin Button

We have now been home for a month - one whole month. I don’t know how we’ve been home this long. It feels like just yesterday we landed and stood confused in our apartment.

I read countless blogs before I left for our trip: where to go, how to pack, what to buy, what not to buy, how to budget, what to worry about, what not to worry about, what to eat, what not to eat, and even more ‘how to’s and ‘what not’s than you can imagine. But I haven’t taken the time to search for much literature on how to cope once you’re home. I think somehow I wanted to figure out my feelings on my own.

I’ve had a few people glare at me or make snarky remarks when I talk about how it’s strange to be home. They write me off as dramatic or spoiled when I use words like “cope” to explain how we’re doing now that we’re home. And that’s actually the most difficult part of being home: we struggle relating our emotions to people.

So, in an effort to better understand my emotions and our emotions - and in hopes of relating to those who have ever felt similarly - here is our list: Our feelings about being home.

No. 1 – Separateness

As I just mentioned, one of the hardest parts of being home is trying to relate our emotions to people who have never traveled independently and long-term.

Our couchsurfing host in Rio de Janiero, Paulette, sent me an email before our last day and told us to be patient with family, friends, co-workers, etc. once we got home. She said no one would really understand what we had just experienced.

People have of course been interested to hear our stories. But, we don’t have the proper words to convey just how amazing the experience was as a whole – the ability to be spontaneous, the awe of witnessing world wonders, the arguments, the coincidences, the people, the illnesses, the languages, the feeling of being lost, the wonder of creation. It’s impossible to convey just how amazing/incredible/spectacular our experiences really were when they are combined to make up our trip as a whole.

Then, I had one person make the comment that we must be so glad to finally be home. I told my best friend how I was struck by the remark – surprised, with no way to explain why. She sarcastically replied, “Oh yeah! I just had the most amazing and wonderful adventure of my life, and now it’s over. I’m so thrilled!” And I remember thinking, “Yeah, that’s it.”

Then, of course, there are those people who have asked us how we enjoyed our “European vacation.” Um, what?

No. 2 – Difference

It’s hard to explain to someone how you’re different when you do and say and “are” the same as you were before – seemingly, at least. But I know we are different people. The way we communicate, the way we love each other, the way we think and see the culture we live in – those things have changed. How? I’m not sure how to explain that.

The closest I can get is a magnet on my mother’s refrigerator. I remember asking for it as a child. It has a squirrel on it and reads “Love stretches you and makes you big inside.” I remember picking it out thinking the squirrel was funny and the saying meant something. Somehow, that magnet explains it.

No. 3 – Grief

I didn’t diagnose this feeling until a couple of days ago. It dawned on me just after dinner with David that I felt like I had lost something.

David and I had just finished talking about an email he sent to me the day before. He sent me Nat Geo’s Photo of the Day and it was Copacobana in Rio de Janeiro. He said in his email, “We’ve seen THAT view. We’ve stood on THAT beach… and now I’m sad.” I read his email and immediately felt his emotion. We had lost something – an experience, a time in our lives. It’s over. And we’ve found ourselves at different times grieving our travels wishing we were in the midst of them again.

No. 4 – Freedom

A friend called it “drudgery.” How I hate drudgery. There is no such thing when you’re moving from place to place, exploring new things, meeting new people and pushing yourself consistently outside of your comfort zone. But the ole eight to five is one monotonous lifestyle – especially in comparison.

And I’ve come to believe that freedom is really the abundance of time and most importantly, the ability to control your share of it.

On a trip of this nature, your time is really your own. You aren’t restricted by a schedule unless you want to be. If you had a late night, then sleep. If you want to watch the sun rise, then wake up early. It’s just that simple.

This, I believe, is what I miss the most. I miss making decisions on the spur of the moment and feeling like I am able to say “why not?” and do something spontaneous because my day is as wide open as I want it to be. You really get accustomed to moving at the pace of our own internal rhythm and doing and going where ever it is you want to do and go. That just doesn’t take much adjusting.

No. 5 – Reconciliation

Finally, there is one thing aspect of being home that I’m not sure how to reconcile. All the other feelings make sense to me. But how I can be extremely grateful for something and still be so incredibly thirsty for more at the same time.

I have never in my life been more appreciative of something. Words cannot express how grateful and happy I am that David and I got this chance to do something extraordinary. But our travels didn’t quench some thirst I had. It made me much thirstier. I long to see more. Traveling made me realize that we only saw roughly 5% of the world, as far as the number of countries goes. But, then again, it’s way more than the vast majority of people in the world ever get to see. And as a few people have told me, at least I got to travel in the first place. And I agree with that – whole-heartedly.

So how those two emotions, gratitude and yearning, can exist together – and simultaneously –I don’t know. All I know, is they do.

Overall, I believe these aspects of being home are normal. I don’t think I’m crazy, I don’t think I’m unique or odd. From the few people I’ve talked to who have taken similar trips, they felt very similarly when they returned home.

I know it’s mostly about being in an adjustment period and that eventually things will more “normal” and less weird, less strange, less new and less different. So, I expect and I hope that these things will lesson with time. But for now, they are our reality and we’re “coping” with them as best we can :)

I got a lot of great information before leaving home from Nomadic Matt. He's one of the few bloggers who has written about the culture shock of coming home. I found his article after writing this post of my own. I'm glad because it allowed me to iron out my own feelings before being influenced. But his personal experience is definitely worth sharing (and if for nothing else, it shows me that truly, our emotions aren't crazy) I also decided to steal the Benjamin Button quote he uses in his article http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/the-culture-shock-of-coming-home/

Posted by smweaver24 17:42

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Comments

This is great to read. It's super common with Foreign Service Officers coming home. Suddenly America - when compared with how little many other nations have - just seems so different. It certainly is trying to "cope" with it.

by Ashley

I've been back in the USA for 3.5 years after living in Italy for a year. I recall feeling all the same emotions you describe. But my longing has never ceased, so I'm not sure yours will either. My husband and I have been back to Italy for two long periods and will go again next spring. If someone said "here's the ticket," I'd go right now.

The way we coped was to write. And eventually we finished a book about how we changed and how the world looks from a foreign perspective. We tried to capture the elation and freedom we felt, even when things were going really wrong.

Thanks for bringing it all back.

by Nancy Petralia

Thanks, Ashley! I appreciate that.

Hi Nancy, I've wondered if the longing will ever go away. I'm not sure it will. And I just wondered this morning if writing would be a good outlet for our emotions - help us to understand what we're feeling, record memories, keep the life lessons we learned, etc. I really appreciate your post and the suggestion. Also, knowing that others feel the same is comforting. Thank you!

by smweaver24

Your blog and comments really rang a bell for me. My first trip to Europe was 41 years ago at the age of 18. When I came back after three months of travel I thought that I was having a mental breakdown. My mind had expanded so much and everyone at home was exactly the same! I went to a shrink and thought that he would commit me. He assured me that I was not crazy but that I had experienced so much and my friends and family had just gotten on with their daily routines while we were away.

I have traveled ever since and am still amazed at how much my own world expands because of it. I think that there is a lot of truth to the saying
'This world is a book and if you don't travel then you only read one page'.

Wanderlust gets into your blood. It is addictive.For me it is my 'university education' every year when I travel to a new country and learn about the history religion and customs of the people there. I hope that you have many many more years of travel ahead of you.

by debbep

@debbep

Hi there! I really appreciate your comments. It's definitely nice to know that others have these same feelings and have dealt with something similar. I definitely agree with that quote! Seeing new parts of the world really opens your mind in a way that's impossible to understand without experiencing it yourself. And the hope you have for me is VERY much appreciated. I'm hoping the same :)

by smweaver24

Are you writing? When we decided to write our book we knew it wouldn't be easy, but it took longer than we ever anticipated. Not in a Tuscan Villa was published the end of August...and this past week made the BESTSELLER list on Amazon.

Hope you don't mind a bit of shamless self-promotion. This is the link if you'd like to read our story or share with your friends. Thanks.

http://www.amazon.com/Not-Tuscan-Villa-discovers-rose-colored/dp/0615762530/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378671406&sr=1-1&keywords=not+in+a+tuscan+villa

by Nancy Petralia

Wow, that's awesome, Nancy! I read the summary, and it sounds really intriguing! I bet that was really helpful and cathartic to write all those feelings and memories down. Especially when it becomes a bestseller on Amazon! Congratulations! That's really something awesome!

I actually haven't written a lot since this post. But, I have been working on something else. In the spirit of self-promotion, I just applied yesterday for another opportunity to travel. If you wouldn't mind, watch it. If you like it, please do "like" it on the website. It helps my odds :) And you're welcome to share it with your family and friends, as well! :D

http://www.bestjobaroundtheworld.com/submissions/view/6269

by smweaver24

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