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Whether you’ve been gone for 3 months, or 3 years, coming home after long-term travel is weird. Actually, that’s an understatement. It’s super weird. Especially if you live in a fast-paced country or city, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone.Everybody is just so strange, people are mostly hurried, cranky and preoccupied with stuff that you just don’t get. Where are the smiles, the smell of kretek, the billion scooters driving around everywhere and nowhere? Fortunately, there are ways to make you feel at home again. Because home is not bound to a place. Here are 10 tips that you might take comfort from.
1. Give yourself timeYou – or other people around you – may think that you’ve already had plenty of time to relax on your travels. My boyfriend and I were traveling for 14 months, so we must have been quite rested. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Don’t make too many plans in the first week or two when you come back home. After traveling you need at least two weeks to adjust back to reality. It’s not something I made up; it’s the advice from a travel & health coach from the University of Wageningen I worked with a couple of years ago. Use the time to get your body back into balance. Your body needs to adapt again to the different climate, to the food and to the time zone. So does your mind. You’ve probably taken home more than a suntan from the countries you visited. Now is also the time to see the doctor for a general check-up.
2. Do more of what makes you happyPerhaps you discovered what makes you happy while you were traveling. Hold on to it and work towards it. If not in one year, then in 10. Work step by step and explore new possibilities. Listen to Bill Gates:
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
There’s a strange feeling you might recognize: it’s the pressure you feel from ‘society’s expectations’ of you. So what if you don’t want that career everybody expects you to have, that house, or that car? Or that baby even? The most important thing is that you do what makes you happy. You will find a way to succeed. success is a subjective concept. Everybody has their own interpretation of success. Find your own and stop caring about what others might think.
3. Meditate and do YogaYou don’t have to whirl yourself around in all kinds of twists and backbends. Just do yoga your way. Even if it’s only sitting every morning for 10 minutes, concentrating on your breathing. That’s enough. It will help you stay calm and centered. It will lift your spirit, and prevent you from falling into depression. Because that is certainly something that can happen after coming home from traveling. Post-travel depression. And that’s okay too. Just don’t let it keep you down for too long. Here’s a little meditation that you can do every morning when you wake up:
- Sit on a pillow in a crossed legged position (or on a chair if your back or legs hurt), preferably in a quiet area.
- Activate your spine, pressing your tailbone down to the ground, lifting the crown of your head up to the sky.
- Relax your face and your throat. Let your eyebrows soften, your eyeballs rest heavy in their sockets.
- Feel your sit bones resting on the floor (or chair), feel where the pressure of your weight is strong and where it is light.
- Concentrate on your breathing. Feel your belly expand on the inhale, and sink back on the exhale.
- Feel your whole upper body moving up and down on the rhythm of your breath.
- Stay with your breathing. If your mind wanders, focus your mind with a mantra, saying the words (mentally) “I’m calm and free”.
4. Reconnect with friends and familyThe best thing about coming home is that you finally get to see your friends and family again! That’s awesome! But, after the first excitement of being reunited with your loved ones wears off, you’ll find it a challenge to communicate with them. They all love to hear your travel stories… for the first ten minutes. But eventually, they will have enough of the sailing adventures and the elephant stories. You have changed, maybe they did too. You are no longer the same persons as when you left. Some friends may have given birth while you were gone. Some may have gotten married, or divorced. Learn what has changed, and see if you can still talk about or do things that you have in common. And if that doesn’t work out, check out Tip Number 5.
5. Keep exploring and meet new peopleAlthough you think you already know your own country, there are always places you haven’t seen before. Take a different road every once in a while. New places will give you new energy. Join events, spend time doing what you love, and meet like-minded people. Find out where the expats are, where the travelers are, so you can keep talking about your love for traveling. Find work at a travel company, even if it’s voluntary.
6. Enjoy the little thingsWhat did you miss while you were traveling? In my case, it was eating haring (herring, a Dutch ‘delicacy’ which we eat raw – but not alive! – from the tail), being able to flush the toilet paper, and a comfortable bed. How nice is it that you can drink the tap water, have such a big range of options at the supermarket, and that you can use your ATM card everywhere?! These are the little things that you have to hold on to when the consumerism, the range of options at the supermarket (yes, that one is two-sided), the first world problems and the materialistic lifestyles get to you… Just breathe, and enjoy the flowers, the birds, the trees and the good food.
7. Go through your photos and make an albumIt took me almost 3 weeks to be able to look at our pictures without feeling like there’s a knife through my heart. I was so home-sick for traveling, for the places we visited, for the people we met. When I finally got to it though, it helped me process our trip far better than I imagined.
8. Keep workingEven on long-term travels, I would advice you to work for a while, to learn new skills, to educate yourself. To me, long-term traveling is not about doing nothing. It’s not only about seeking ‘freedom’. It’s about finding out what you love to do, what you want to learn and use when you come back home.
We all have to work, and it’s good that we do. I would be so bored without work! Even surfing every day without doing anything else gets boring. I see long-term traveling as an investment in myself. Then, when you come back home, use your new skills and find work that you like.
My goal is to create a life I don’t need a vacation from – Rob Hill sr.
9. Find new hobbiesStep out of your comfort zone. Ask your friends if you can join them on their next rugby match, go to a book release party, or take up martial arts lessons. Learning new things will boost your energy level and keeps your mind happy.
10. Plan your next tripYou either have a Traveler Soul or you don’t. If being on the road makes you happy, then keep on traveling! Do try to return home with an emergency fund. Don’t spend all your money while traveling. Trust me, I did it once before, and it wasn’t fun. Find work that you love, like or doesn’t give you a migraine, and save up for that next trip. Remember that work is a means to an end. Remember what you are working for. You are the designer of your own life. To know that you’ll leave, makes it easier to appreciate being back home again.
Have you ever returned from long-term travel? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share?