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This is a post written by fellow travel writer, Calli Duncan – one half of Have Blog Will Travel. This week I’ve partnered with Calli & Travis to bring you a two part series all about the emotions of long term travel. As Calli & Travis just returned from their lengthy backpacking trip through Europe, I’m preparing for long term travel. We decided we wanted to showcase the comparison in emotions of these two life changing events. You can find my post on their website here.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
If the past five months of travel through Europe encompassed the ideal balance of freedom, adventure, and urgency Travis and I have been chasing since our first trip together nearly eight years ago, then returning home was the miserable sucker-punch of reality reminding us that nothing gold can stay. As is often the case with travel, the grandness of our trip was directly linked to the threat of return. It’s what made us treasure every moment, pause to take in each experience, and value each new adventure. Unfortunately, it was also what awaited us at the inevitable end of our journey.
After a quick stopover in Iceland last September, my boyfriend Travis and I traveled across North Eastern Europe for two months; through Berlin, Poland, and into the Balkans where we were exposed to a gritty, war-torn aspect of the continent we’d never experienced before. Upon landing in Turkey at the end of November, we straddled Europe and Asia in the hectic, bustling streets of Istanbul, sailed over Cappadocia aboard a hot-air balloon, and felt the flowing hot-springs of Pamukkale rush over our bare feet while it began to snow. To this point our adventures were wild, endorphin-pumping, and exhausting all at the same time, and by Christmas we’d made our way to Prague for five days of much needed recuperation. Unfortunately, we knew we couldn’t sustain this level of travel both emotionally and financially; we’d never intended to travel forever and had people and possessions back home waiting for us. Therefore, shortly into 2014 we found a cheap flight from London to Vancouver, booked it, and with that our fates were sealed. From this moment on our entire trip changed. Although we had a full month until our February 13th flight – the day of travel reckoning – it was impossible to shake the fact that we were in the latter part of our trip. These were our travel golden days and there wasn’t anything that would change this.
Even with this time to prepare, the act of coming home was difficult. We spent our last month of freedom trying to see as much of the British Isles as possible and were exhausted; in the end we managed to hit Belfast (Northern Ireland) with a daytrip to the Giant’s Causeway, Derry, Galway, and Dublin (Republic of Ireland) with a daytrip to the Cliffs of Moher, Glasgow and Edinburgh (Scotland), and Liverpool (England). Seven cities and four distinct regions in just 23 days. Completely burned out from travel we were desperate for the comforts of home – our own bed, a fully equipped kitchen, clean clothes, and a shower not requiring the use of protective flip-flops – however we were also acutely aware of a sinking feeling deep in our guts telling us that heading home was a bad idea.
For many months we had adapted to the freedom of being 5,000 odd kilometers away from the obligations of life in Kamloops, British Columbia, reveled in the unknown of arriving in a new city, accepted our new roles as nomads, and grew closer together in the absence of friends and family to lean on. Most of all, Travis and I created a thriving life of travel and were terrified of giving that up. However instead of running from the plane like a couple of crazy people (surely an act worthy of placement on a no-fly list somewhere) or freaking out and bawling all the way home (it was a 26 hour journey from start to finish, a bit long for a cry), we sucked it up and made our way home via two trains, one subway, a long-haul flight, a short-haul flight, and numerous delays due to poor weather in the UK (read: hurricane). In the end we were too tired to feel much of anything upon stepping foot on home soil.
The Transition from Travel to the Unknown
The weeks that followed were a difficult transition to life back home. With our house rented out we moved into Travis’ childhood home and swapped our time spent excitedly exploring cities and planning our next adventure for the unknown. We don’t know when we will be able to travel next, and although it’s a priority we can’t say for sure whether we will ever be able to undertake such a prolonged trip again. It’s this unknown that has been the single hardest issue to overcome. It is a sinking feeling in the middle of our stomach that we can’t shake, and unfortunately it’s present every time someone asks about our plans; a moment reuniting with friends and family soured by the uncertainty of what lay ahead and our guilt about not wanting to come home.
Returning home may have been an adjustment, but saying goodbye to travel is more difficult than we could have ever imagined. Our trip began as a dream and grew into the best thing we’ve ever done, and now that it’s over we are closing another chapter of our lives that we can never get back. However, while the golden glory of travel couldn’t last, we wouldn’t know its splendor without the grey that follows, just as we can’t know love without also knowing heartbreak or dark without light. Comparison is a guiding force to discovering true happiness – the only catch is that you have to know the bad at some point.
Now, settling back into the routine of being home, Travis and I try not to let the disappointment of the end of our trip taint all the wonderful adventures we have yet to discover in our own backyard. The feelings we have about returning home say more about the wonderful trip we experienced than the negatives of our hometown. In the end, if travel were easy to give up it wouldn’t be such a wonderful and worthwhile undertaking.
Have you ever returned from long term travel? What were your thoughts on it? If not, what are your feelings on the possibility of having to return?
Want to know more about Calli & Travis? Check out their blog, Have Blog Will Travel. It’s full of wonderful stories all about their journey through Europe and lots of wonderful information about their home, British Columbia.
- When the Travel Ends – Thoughts on Coming Home - May 6, 2014
This Post Has 32 Comments
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I’ve been back on firm ‘home’ ground for seven months after an eight month trip, and am still feeling a bit off balance. In my case the only way that balance will be restored will be to resume moving at some point. And for that to happen, I have to set and meet very specific goals. Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to resume my work life which itself involved lots of travel. Best of luck to both of you.
Thanks so much Bob – I love that you say restoring balance will come from picking up and moving again. I feel this way right now too 🙂
After traveling for a year and a half, being home seemed something completely abnormal to us. Actually, we are still not sure if this kind of “normal life” would fit us again. We are dealing with it now, but a huge part of us already thinking about leaving again…
It’s so wonderful to hear from others who are in the same situation and reaffirm we aren’t freaks for struggling to fit back in to life at home. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever be able to stay put now that we’ve experienced a life of travel. Thanks for taking the time to comment Gabor 🙂
Such a life changing event. In a positive way but life changing nonetheless. Very well written piece, Calli 🙂
Thanks so much Erin!
Wow! Pretty intense. I can see you are still struggling with what to do now. Change is always hard, but as you so aptly say, inevitable! Good luck finding your new flow!
Thanks so much Corinne! I didn’t want to come off as complaining or sniveling but it has been a very difficult transition, more so than I could have ever imagined. It’s comforting to hear from others that have gone before us or are in the same spot now and know we aren’t alone 🙂
Great post. I had studied abroad and was away for 7 weeks. Even though I was mainly in the same place for my classes, I still traveled a decent bit. I would have to say it is possible to get reverse culture shock, and we were actually told this when we started our program. I couldn’t talk about my experiences too much because people were bored with my stories or didn’t understand what they meant to me. I think that was the hardest because I wanted to share my love of travel (and France) to anyone that would listen. . .
I hope you adjust back but keep on traveling!
I can completely relate to you Angela – when you come home you want to tell everyone all about your experiences but they don’t want to hear it. Not because they aren’t your friends or don’t love you but because they have been living their own lives, doing their own thing and none of us want to listen to hours of stories no matter how awesome they might be. We’ve really noticed this lately and it’s difficult because I feel like every time someone brings something up in conversation the only input I have somehow relates to our travels which people are tired of hearing about. Maybe that’s why we travel bloggers need to stick together. If there’s someone who is always interested in reading about a new destination or attraction it’s a travel blogger 🙂
leaving a destination can always be heartbreaking and i think it can sometimes its harder for a full time traveller.
for us its horrible leaving but not as hard as we have a home base and work full time.
We often travel to Sydney and wish we could live there but im not sure it woudl be the same!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment Sam 🙂 I completely understand how living in Sydney might not be the same as regularly visiting it. We find that as soon as we are “living” somewhere the urgency of getting out and seeing the city seems to decline. There’s always “next weekend” which is a shame but also probably a pretty regular part of life.
I know exactly how you feel. I finished a 13 month trip at the end of October last year and I still don’t feel completely readjusted. I felt depressed and lost for the first 3 months and I was so worried that I wouldn’t feel ‘normal’ again. I wanted to talk about my trip to everyone but people got sick of listening. It takes time and you need to embrace the things that you can do at home that make you happy – go hiking/camping in the weekends, spend time with friends and family, yoga, set up your house so it feels like a home. Stay in the traveller mindset and try to see where you live as a traveller would. Make an effort to explore! Connect with likeminded people in your home town, we started going to couchsurfing meet ups. Don’t worry, you will get there, it just takes a bit of time. I am not all the way there myself yet but I am working on it everyday.
Thanks for all the great ideas Katie! We are definitely trying to look at home through our traveler eyes and get out and explore as much as possible. Hopefully “normal” will begin to feel more normal soon 🙂
I really can’t tell how you come back from travel and that kind of scares me. We’re planning to stay and work in Asia and I really hope it does, I just can’t go back to Europe.
It’s hard to get back in balance, when Robb came back from his 18month trip in India/Nepal etc I think he never re-adapted to European life.
I think you’ll just figure it out! Or you’ll want to go and live somewhere else, in another country, or you’ll save for your next trip or you’ll just adapt back. I hope it all goes great for you guys!
What a weird predicament Marie-Carmen, we can’t adapt to North American life after being in Europe and you are hoping to stay in Asia to avoid returning to Europe. I guess where we feel “at home” is more accurate sometimes than where home technically is 🙂
I used to get depressed after trips, too. But I’ve been a “nomad” for 6 years and that solved it. It’s good to find the right balance. My vision is a home base in an awesome place, so I don’t have to live out of a suitcase.
Sounds like a great lifestyle Sunshine! 🙂
We are about to return home to Israel after 3years travelling inChina Taiwan and Korea and frankly I am feeling much as you describe apart from excitement of seeing friends and family again. I know I will be bored depressed and restless. Already planning our next escape from monotony and boredom. ..
That sounds like quite the trip Ruthi! I hope you get out of the monotony soon!
Wow Ruthi, I can only imagine that this will be an adjustment. I like your idea to plan your next escape! 🙂
We are currently three months into a long term travel adventure and already I am thinking about the challenges of going home. I am glad to see it is not just me that finds this a challenge.
Thanks for commenting Michele! I haven’t even started my long term travel but already cringe at the thought of coming home.
Definitely not Michele – sadly it’s something we all have to deal with eventually. The cost of undertaking each new adventure! 🙂
I can only imagine the feelings you are going through. We haven’t have the opportunity to travel for longer periods of time as yet, although we hope to undertake a longer stint of travel at the beginning of next year which I know means that we will come home feeling the exact same way that you do now. I fear that this will mean only one thing for us – that we will never truly be able to settle again which probably doesn’t help you with how you are feeling now. We have always had wandering feet and the way we overcome it at present is to pack our tent into the back of the car each weekend and head off to somewhere new to explore. Ok, so it may only be an hour or so down the road, and now that you have experienced the UK you also know that the weather is not always on our side, but it always makes for a great experience and, at least makes us feel like we can get through another working week whilst we work out how we can achieve what it is we really want to do – which is travel but still keep a base that we can call home! 🙂
Thanks for the kind words Tam! One thing we are quickly learning is that an adventure, not matter the distance, is still an adventure and sometimes these small weekend outings are just what we need to make the time between bigger trips more bearable.
A great post! It is funny how emotions change when the return day is looming in your mind. It seems that thoughts of returning creep into your mind and like you, I will go into fast mode, taking in whatever I can and challenging myself to explore as many places possible. However, my situation is a little different. I am a Canadian living in Taiwan so when I return home to Canada it is a real treat – to enjoy the food, to catch up with family and friends, and to immerse myself with everything familiar.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Constance! That “fast-mode” definitely kicks in when the threat of returning home is present, but it can also be the kick in the butt we need to get out and be active. Sometimes I wish I felt this kind of urgency at home instead of feeling like there’s always next weekend 🙂
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What a wonderful post! Though post-travel returning blues are real and palpable, I’ve never thought about them from this perspective before. It would certainly be an impressive feeling to go from not being sure when you’re returning home to having a flight date suddenly hanging over your head.
Thanks for sharing this post. It’s beautifully written! I’m sure you two will be travelling again before you know it. When something’s truly important, we will find a way 🙂
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