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Coming home blues?

Travel Forums General Talk Coming home blues?

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1. Posted by bibu (Budding Member 4 posts) 8y

I spent 6 out of the last 10 years on the road, and I've been back in europe now for about 1,5 years.

I’ve had it many times – the “coming home blues”. I find coming home to be the hardest thing of the whole travel experience. The initial excitement of being back home and seeing friends and family wears off quite soon. It didn’t take very long, to find out that no one was really interested that much in my adventures abroad, simply because most people cannot relate. That in turn made me feel quite disconnected from the world.

However, things had changed for me. Living in different cultures and traveling the world has given me a new perspective on the “real world”. My ideas about the world and my place in it have changed drastically. I see my “home” from a distant, more detached point of view. Material things that seemed so important before now seem relatively insignificant, and sometimes I feel critical of people who are so invested in these superficial details and who fail to appreciate the material advantages of their first-world existences.

Nevertheless, despite my best efforts, I sometimes catch myself falling back into old patterns. There is a constant struggle to remember lessons learned on the road, and somehow to combine elements from my old and new identities into some kind of coherent whole.

Have you had a similar experience?

  • ) In what ways do you think the travel experience has affected you and your view of the world?
  • ) How do you apply the experiences learned on the road to everyday life?

I'd love to hear your views on this topic!

2. Posted by joezer3003 (Budding Member 5 posts) 8y

I know this feeling all to well - getting back home is great and seeing everyone again, but very soon I crave the adventure of being away from the things that seem so boring and linear.
What really upsets me most is what you mentioned - people not being able to understand your adventures and travels. Sure, they listen to you but deep down they don't feel that passion you do!
My suggestion to you is to consider an expatriate lifestyle. Perhaps you've heard of it, if not, google it. This way every day and job is a new adventure that lasts as long as you want it to, plus you get to really know the society you live in well.

But to get back to your questions, living and traveling abroad has certainly changed my perspective on the world in ways I wouldn't be able to describe all too well in this thread. I can say that I amaze myself on a constant basis how much more I know about the world (history, geography, cultures) than other folk back home (and other places I've lived).
The thing that changed most about me was my desire for material objects like large screen TVs, the latest gaming console (indeed, I don't even watch TV or play video games anymore!) etc. and I placed much more importance in the values people hold themselves by. Of course, my own personal set of values grew in importance and I treasure them as they define me.
Finally, I became more spontaneous and extroverted. Once you're able to meet someone from a totally different culture and make friends with them, you can make friends with anyone.

- Hope this helps! And be sure to check out the very rewarding expatriate lifestyle!

3. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4834 posts) 8y

bibu: You might want to mention that you'll be using people's responses here for your PhD thesis. (There's nothing wrong with that (the reason your earlier request was deleted can be found in a combination of this thread and the forum rules, neither of which applies to this new thread), but I do feel it's honest toward those who'll answer your posts to know what your purpose in asking is.)

[ Edit: Edited on Sep 16, 2008, at 12:27 PM by Sander ]

4. Posted by bibu (Budding Member 4 posts) 8y

Sander,

thanks for the reminder. I was waiting for an official answer from you as to what I needed to do to post a link to my PhD blog. since I still haven't gotten it, I will refrain from posting my link on your website.

but I guess, it worked this way as well ;-)

cheers,

bibu

5. Posted by bibu (Budding Member 4 posts) 8y

joezer3003:

thanks for sharing your views. I absolutely agree with most of what you said. I decided to return to Europe to finish what I started before i went traveling: my PhD thesis on exactly that topic. this helps me come to terms with the emotional turmoil involved in the travel process. (the stress of leaving and adapting to a new or more new cultures, and the stress of returning and trying to adapt again).

so your suggestion, the expatriate lifestyle is no option for me - at least for the moment.

you wrote: "living and traveling abroad has certainly changed my perspective on the world in ways I wouldn't be able to describe all too well in this thread."

this change of perspective, which is so hard to describe, is what I'm interested in. how does traveling affect your perspective and does it have a lasting effect? I noticed myself slipping back in old patterns, that I thought I had long rejected.

btw, do you live an expatriate lifestyle now?

6. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4834 posts) 8y

Quoting bibu

thanks for the reminder. I was waiting for an official answer from you as to what I needed to do to post a link to my PhD blog. since I still haven't gotten it, I will refrain from posting my link on your website.

Not my website - I'm only a lowly moderator :) (and not even on this specific forum), who just happened to see your previous thread before it was removed.
Peter and Sam I Am are the admins, and I presume one of them was who you contacted (and likewise assume they'll reply in due course).

Anyway, to reply with some thoughts more or less related to your original post...

I travelled for 25 months immediately after finishing university, and for 3-4 months a year every single year since returning. When I first set out all I knew was that I didn't want to look for a job in my chosen specialization, as my Master's thesis had shown me that while I loved the theory behind it all, I loathed the reality.
For many years it had been my habit to obsessively triple-check everything I did; minor journeys would be meticulously planned out with all details written down and constantly checked against. I'd started escaping this mindset when my watch's strap broke a couple of years ago, and I made a conscious decision not to get it repaired so that I'd stop looking at it quite so obsessively, and a minor reason to do the big trip was that it was simply too large to plan, so that I could force myself to learn to go with the flow.

This has indeed happened. Perhaps I've slightly overshot my mark - on my last trip I got to the point where I stepped into a new rental car and realized that I didn't even know if I should turn left or right at the end of the street to get to my (arbitrarily) chosen destination - but it's made me a much happier person, and the confidence I have because of this stays with me outside of travelling as well; I know exactly how much information I need to gather to get to new places, and don't worry about getting there.

Far more importantly, a part-time job as web developer which I held before I started travelling was the basis of earning me my way through New Zealand and Australia, and since the standard in Australia was for everyone to be freelancing, that's what I did as well. And I learned how ridiculously easy it is to support yourself in this way, and how valuable my skills really are. And so returning home, I escaped the rat-rate of getting a "real" job which most of my friends had appeared to have fallen into, and set up my own company, making up my own rules and schedule and finding the time to keep travelling between projects.

I've had the same experiences with friends and family not really relating to my travel experiences, but this seems to actually be getting better with each new trip I take; a significant part of them now follow actively along with my blog posts, and seem to have real interest in some of the things I saw and did.

Still, of course, life back home is incomparable. When you're on the road, every day holds a multitude of reasons to get out of bed for, and it's a lousy week which doesn't hold at least a couple of moments that take your breath away and leave your mind soaring. Back home, meanwhile, you're too often merely looking forward to the weekend.

And yet - the more time I spend back home, the more people I seem to meet who've also travelled long-term, and who can relate.

Travelling gave me a lot of confidence. I know now that there's few things in this life I can't tackle. Yet surprisingly, this confidence seems to also be seeping through toward being happy at home. I've been spending a lot of money on building up my house (I even bought two frickin' lamps while on the road!), and am currently considering a mortgage. I feel I can do this, because this confidence has seeped through and I am finally confident that even with such, I won't forget what life on the road is like, and will continue to find my way back out there.

Like Joe, I don't own a TV (nor radio) - and although I'd stopped bothering with both before I started travelling, travelling did strengthen the realization that both were a complete waste of (my) time. I'm still no extrovert, but I've grown leaps and bounds closer to being extroverted than I was back when.
I care far less about "news" than I once did, yet follow "world news" much more; I've started to see how everything is connected, and how complex and rich local histories often are, and how few people have any idea about local history other than their own.

[ Edit: Edited on Sep 16, 2008, at 1:52 PM by Sander ]

7. Posted by bibu (Budding Member 4 posts) 8y

Sander,

I’m with you all the way. :) I’ve had very similar experiences, and can relate to not wanting to look for a job in your field of study. When I finished my Master’s I came to the same realization, and needed to come up with a plan B. I was still uncertain about so many things in my life and simply had no idea of the many different options to live your life. I guess I just always kind of knew what I didn’t wanted.

Traveling, though, has helped me put my life in perspective and opened up a whole new world of options I would have never thought possible before. (e.g. having the courage to say “no” to a lifestyle that you can’t really identify with, but that is kind of expected of you). I guess it gave me reassurance and confidence to just follow my heart more than my brain.

After university I set out on a 6 month trip, which ended up being 5 years in total. I had saved up money to travel for a year, but somehow found a way to travel for 5 without really working all that hard. I had three jobs in those 5 years, each lasting for about 3 months in total (dive master + bartender, English teacher and jungle guide)

Now that I’m back, I’m trying to make sense of the last five years. Back home, I’ve found a way to sustain myself with a minimum of external control (i.e. no office, no boss), and maximum free time (which of course, is eaten up by this PhD project). Like you, I’m also self-employed (I teach at two different Universities on a free-lance basis), and I absolutely cannot imagine having a 9-5 job following the same, monotonous routine day after day.

My friends are still my friends, which was probably the greatest surprise about coming home. However, I feel that I connect much better with people who’ve traveled before for an extended period of time.

I do know, that I cannot imagine a life without travel. Sometimes I wonder if there are people out there who’ve had the long-term travel experience and hated it so much, that they decided never to travel again. :(

8. Posted by joezer3003 (Budding Member 5 posts) 8y

Quoting bibu

joezer3003:

thanks for sharing your views. I absolutely agree with most of what you said. I decided to return to Europe to finish what I started before i went traveling: my PhD thesis on exactly that topic. this helps me come to terms with the emotional turmoil involved in the travel process. (the stress of leaving and adapting to a new or more new cultures, and the stress of returning and trying to adapt again).

so your suggestion, the expatriate lifestyle is no option for me - at least for the moment.

you wrote: "living and traveling abroad has certainly changed my perspective on the world in ways I wouldn't be able to describe all too well in this thread."

this change of perspective, which is so hard to describe, is what I'm interested in. how does traveling affect your perspective and does it have a lasting effect? I noticed myself slipping back in old patterns, that I thought I had long rejected.

btw, do you live an expatriate lifestyle now?

I suppose I live somewhat of an expatriate lifestyle right now, but it's not something I'd want to get into on a public forum =)
There are certainly aspects I take from my travels and keep with me throughout the rest of my life - for example, I will never forget how nice it is to turn the cold water faucet on and have cold water come out rather than hot (and vice versa). Unfortunately this was not the case when I lived in the Middle East where, because of the extreme heat outside, the reverse would be true. Pipes carrying hot water were located underground therefore keeping cool during the summer, and pipes carrying cold were above ground, exposed to the sun. So I suppose it's the little things I appreciate (and hence have a lasting effect) when I'm back in a country that resembles home. Another example would be people greeting you in your native tongue, simple things like that become so significant when you can't find it traveling abroad.
Unfortunately I can't answer what you're most interested in because I haven't been home in over 4 years, which is when I started living an expatriate lifestyle!

9. Posted by joezer3003 (Budding Member 5 posts) 8y

Quoting Sander

Like Joe, I don't own a TV (nor radio) - and although I'd stopped bothering with both before I started travelling, travelling did strengthen the realization that both were a complete waste of (my) time. I'm still no extrovert, but I've grown leaps and bounds closer to being extroverted than I was back when.
I care far less about "news" than I once did, yet follow "world news" much more; I've started to see how everything is connected, and how complex and rich local histories often are, and how few people have any idea about local history other than their own.

Yes, I've noticed this in myself too. I have world news set as my homepage instead of local news. I can't stand local news anymore, it bores me!
World news is far more interesting!

10. Posted by Swept Away (Travel Guru 1113 posts) 8y

This whole "It change my perspective thing" can be an illusion for some travellers.

I am tempted to take my Ph.d too, because I thought travelling for 13 months has changed my perspective about life and the universe.

I was 4 minutes away from going home and take a job as cultural studies/ tourism lecturer in a university, when I realized that I am not ready to assume that illusion.

yes, you are right, not everyone wants to hear about our adventures. Even our closes friends who spend the whole year working the same old job, should be spared from our perky narratives about the wonders that we have seen and experienced.