Tough times following a return home

Chateau Frontenac in my hometown, Québec City
Chateau Frontenac in my hometown, Quebec City

Most people talk about how incredible and fun it is to travel the world. But one thing that is often overlooked is the difficult moments that follow a return home.

You don’t have to be gone for a long time to experience the blues of coming back. Most people go through the same few difficult moments.

Travels are so freeing

When you travel, usually you can be true to yourself. You meet new people and they don’t have any preconceived ideas or common history with you. You can be the true you. You are also on vacation, more relaxed, open to new experiences and encounters. Who’s never had a summer flirt, knowing full well that it would never have happened if you were in your usual environment?

They happen for the same reason: you stopped worrying about your normal life and allowed yourself to be totally relaxed and free. Enjoying such freedom is liberating of course but it makes going back to everything waiting for you at home harder. and especially challenging to appreciate after such unrestricted fun times.

Usual irritants become experiences

You are on holidays so things that would usually stress you out like delays in public transport, traffic, annoying people surrounding you, all of this becomes part of the  travel experience. You are more patient when stuck in traffic as you tend to decide to enjoy the surroundings. You might even decide to stop in that little bar or coffee for a drink and let the traffic pass. You’ll make an experience of what are usually irritants in your life.

When you are away, it’s a lot easier to live in the moment. You do not have to worry about what you’ll wear for work, or even what you’ll have for lunch tomorrow. Chances are you’ll be eating out anyway! And you get a well-deserved break from people who annoy the hell out of you in your regular life. The new people you meet are most likely also on vacation, and thus more relaxed, allowing everybody to get along even if it’s just for one day.

Traffic in Jakarta
Traffic in Jakarta, Indonesia

Things and people don’t change much, but you do

Coming back is also very difficult as people and situations usually haven’t changed all that much while you were away. But you did. There’s a pretty good chance you discovered other ways to live, different ways to think, some new food, etc. You’ve become acquainted with that relaxed, adventurous, worry-free you. And it changed something. While you may not be quite ready to let that go yet, your family and friends will probably be expecting the person that left to be the same one coming back.

If you were gone long enough, when you’ll see your family and friends you’ll notice that while some of them might have changed jobs and/or had babies (especially if you are in your mid-twenties or early thirties), most of them will be in the same exact spot you left them. That’s one of the things I find the most challenging when I see people from my past. As most of you might expect, I have changed a lot in the last few years. It feels like I’ve had different lives, and most of my friends from those different lives are still in the same cities and jobs. To be fair, even though it feels like a lifetime ago, it’s only a few years back that I was working as a Quality Control Manager in a welding shop. Anybody meeting me in the last couple years would probably never believe this; I mean there’s not much left of that old me in the new vegan yoga-loving constantly-moving living out of a small backpack person I’ve become. It also means that when I speak with people from my previous lives, I feel like we have absolutely nothing in common anymore. Don’t get me wrong, though. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about them as individuals, but it does mean some conversations run much more smoothly than others.

When you see or talk to people from your past, it is sometimes tough to avoid slipping right back to your old bad habits. The ones you thought you finally managed to get rid of. Some bad habits are insidious. They’ll sneak up on you when you least expect it. And you’ll find yourself back to your negative complaining self. Someone you hadn’t seen for a very long time and hadn’t missed at all. And if you don’t pay attention, you might not even realize you are back to your old tricks.

Blue Mosque in Istambul, Turkey
Blue Mosque in Istambul, Turkey

Remembering and sharing your stories

I find that coming back is the hardest part of travelling. Missing trains or buses, getting lost, saying goodbye all the time, all of this I can deal with. But stopping and going back to where I grew up is a guarantee I’ll lose all motivation to do anything for a little while. And I’ll regret stopping in the first place.

Another thing that’s often overlooked is that while most people are happy to hear about your experiences for a few hours, chances are they’ll quickly get tired of it. And if you are anything like me, you’ll want to share some of the things you went through, but not necessarily during your welcome back dinner. It takes some time to process your different experiences and when you’ll be ready to talk about them, there’s a good chance people will no longer be interested in hearing about it.

Kabir Kouba waterfall close to Québec City
Kabir Kouba waterfall close to Quebec City

Now, what?

Once you are back, after spending a few weeks visiting everybody, you’ll inevitably come to a point where you’ll have to decide what you are going to do next. If you already have a job waiting for you, you will not have to worry about this part, but there’s still a pretty good chance you’ll wonder if that is still the right kind of job for you. And if you don’t have a job already, after travelling, chances are you’ll need to find one ASAP. You might have to settle for something you are not interested in just to make money to afford food and housing.

For some people, myself included, coming back home means I’ll slip into a depression (something I’ve been struggling with for as long as I can remember). Trying to avoid that is partly the reason why I can’t seem to be able to stop moving. While it’s fun to see my friends and family, it usually doesn’t take long before I realize I no longer feel home in Canada. It’s a great country, don’t get me wrong, but at this point and time in my life, it’s not where I want to be.

As you know, coming back can be painful. And if you are anything like me, you probably will start shopping for flights before you even step foot in the first of your many connecting flights to get you home. And you’ll start daydreaming about your next vacation.

So that’s where that leaves me now. Trying to find a way to make money, and decide on which direction to go.

East: back to Europe?

West: what about Western Canada or even New Zealand?

South: the Caribbeans, fresh coconut, beaches, the sun…

or why not North: after Antarctica, it’s only fair to visit the Arctic as well, right?

If you had a totally clean slate in front of you and could go anywhere or do anything, what would you pick?

Any suggestion to find money, inspiration or a new destination is very much welcome at this point!

1 thought on “Tough times following a return home”

  1. If money or any other difficulties were not an issue, I would rent an art studio in Spain for a couple of months, probably in Mallorca, to paint and make 3D creations to finally do the exhibition that I have in mind for so long time. A dream so strong in me…

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