Adjusting back to life life after long-term travel can be the hardest part for many people.
And as someone who’d just finished a 13 week sabbatical, I’m going through the process right now!
So I thought I’d reach out to some seasoned travellers for some advice on how to negotiate re-entry….
Here is their best advice on adjusting back to life after extended travel.
1) Amanda from NotABallerina.com
“Build new habits, and seek out people
you can share your adventures with”
I moved back to my hometown of Perth, Western Australia, after nearly six years of travelling, working and teaching English abroad in places as diverse as Japan, Slovakia and Germany. It wasn’t easy, and a decade on I still feel homesick for my living abroad days, but thankfully I eventually found some ways to fit back in.
One of the hardest things for me was trying to fit back in with my old friends. They’re delightful people, but they didn’t want to talk about anything I’d done, and some couldn’t even remember what countries I’d been living in. It was nice to catch up with them but I realised I needed to find some new friends as well. The best thing I ever did was hunt down people who’d also just returned from travelling, or were from other countries and were living in Australia temporarily. I was lucky because I got a job teaching English as a second language here in Perth and these people were everywhere there – my new teaching colleagues were a mix of returned Aussies like me, and people from other countries on a working holiday here. We spent many hours chatting about our travels and what we missed from life abroad, and that made the transition much, much easier.
I soon realised, too, that the habits and routines I had before I moved abroad weren’t going to be ones I fitted back into easily. My time abroad had changed so many things about me – the kind of interests I had, the goals I had for life, even some aspects of my personality – and once I realised and accepted this, I shaped a completely new way of life at home rather than tried to fit into the old one. I went to evening classes to keep up my Japanese language skills; I learnt to cook new dishes from the cuisines I’d loved abroad; I used the bus instead of a car so I felt more like a visitor, and also saved money that way to fund future trips.
Travelling long term and then coming home can really be a tricky thing, but I always thought that it was better to have had the chance to see so much of the world, and then struggle to settle down, than to have been just living in my hometown for all those years.
You can find Amanda at her blog NotABallerina.com.
2) Arimo from ArimoTravels.com
“Take time to finish your trip”
I finished a 2-year trip around the world a few weeks ago. Although I was prepared for a bigger shock, the end of my trip has gone very smoothly. I believe my return has been so easy because I took my time to finish my trip.
Instead of taking an abrupt flight home from a completely different culture, I chose to travel overland through Europe instead. I also slowed down my travel pace so I could focus on arranging my return. During the last months of my trip, I reunited with many old travel buddies around Europe as I said goodbye to travel life.
And although I’m now back in Finland, my slow transition phase still continues. I’m staying my first post-travel month with family and friends. Once this month is over, I’ll finally move to my own apartment and start studying and working again.
Arimo runs the blog ArimoTravels.com.
3) Rachel from AdventureAndSunshine.com
“Bring your travel experience into your life at home”
The transition back to regular life after 12 months of full time travel is more difficult than we expected. After visiting 30 countries on 4 continents, staying put in one place for more than a couple of days now seems unusual.
We soon realised that our experience of long-term travel has changed us. So instead of returning to life as it was, we are gradually creating a new normal. Some of the ways we do this are:
- Learning to cook some of our favourite meals from around the world. Whether it is Bun Cha from Vietnam, Dhal from India or a bowl of ramen from Japan – cooking and eating these delicious foods reminds us why we love to travel.
- Living more simply. Traveling out of a backpack for a year is a great lesson in how to live with less ‘stuff’. Now we are home we try to resist the urge to buy the newest gadgets and live a simpler, less consumerist life.
- Switch off the television. While it is near on impossible to travel without some technology these days one thing we did live without is television. Back home we might now read a book, take a walk outside or try our hand at a new craft. Life is too short to spend it watching others on TV.
You can find out more about Rachel’s adventures at AdventureAndSunshine.com.
4) Claire from PastThePotholes.com
“The best thing we did was to start something
new that we could be excited about”
After living, working and exploring Mexico for two years, returning home was really hard! It’s pretty exciting moving to a new country, discovering new cultures and meeting new friends. We discovered that home wasn’t the same place we had left and it was impossible to just slip back into our old lifestyle. So many things had changed since we left – including us.
Undoubtedly, the best thing we did was to start something new that we could be excited about.
As soon as we settled in Terry started playing squash, a sport he had never tried before. He spent hours at the gym learning, practising and meeting new people. It didn’t take long before we had a new circle of like-minded friends from the squash club. A few years later I also joined the squash club. We are currently traveling again and it has given us a way to make new friends. It also gives us with something to look forward to when we go home!
I signed up for additional qualifications courses for my job when we returned home. While not as exciting as squash, it gave me something to focus on besides missing everything about our life in Mexico.
It doesn’t really matter what it is, but having something new and exciting will help you to spend your time in the present, not thinking about the past.
You can read about Claire’s experiences teaching and travelling at PastThePotholes.com.
5) Josie from JosieWanders.com
“Manage Your Expectations Before you Return”
Before I returned home from my gap year, I heard a lot about other travellers finding it difficult to return. They struggled to fit back into their previous lives, discovering other people and life had moved on. Many of the issues were caused because things were not as they expected them to be.
My way to combat this was to manage my own expectations before I returned home. Remind yourself that while you have been travelling, life has continued on in your hometown too. If you are going back to the same job get ready for changes of procedures. Maybe the person who replaced you had some fantastic new ideas or the laws have changed! Accept that the rest of the team has learned these new methods and you need to be the new kid on the block for a while.
Realise friendships and relationships change too. This could be a hard one, but expect to come back to some differences and be prepared to work maintaining the friendships you want to keep. Expect to see the world differently too. Don’t force those around you to care about certain causes like you do – they didn’t have your experiences. Remembering all these things made my return home a good experience rather than a difficult one.
Josie has recently returned from an ‘adult gap year’, and you can read all about it at JosieWanders.com.
6) Thais from WorldTripDiaries.com
“Take a break. Relax. Don’t even open the curtains or change clothes. Stay in bed. Relax for as long as you can”
After 28 months of traveling full time, we’re back home.
We thought we’d have to go out a lot and do a lot of tourist things in the city, move around, and do weekend trips. The truth, though, is that we need downtime. We wanted to rest, stay in PJs, have some homemade meals, and just stay inside.
As much as we loved all of our family-time, all the amazing places we’ve visited, the lovely people we met, the incredible food we had the chance to try, we got tired.
We were in need of some quiet, relaxing, alone time. We go out to the supermarket, to the library, and then we’re back home. And we love it! We’re loving not having to do anything if we don’t feel like it.
So, my advice is: take a break. Relax. Don’t even open the curtains or change clothes. Stay in bed. Relax for as long as you can. You’ll need some time (especially if you’ve traveled for over 2 years with 4 kids in tow).
Read about Thais remarkable story of travelling the world with four kids at WorldTripDiaries.com.
7) Danny from CoddiWomp.co.uk
“In an effort to preserve the positivity, try limiting
the answers you give to people upon your return”
Arriving home from an extended period of travel sparks an inevitable flow of questions from everyone around you.
In some ways it is really nice.
After all, people mean well and may have a genuine interest in what you’ve been up to. But over time you’ll find yourself repeating the same answers over and over and over again.
It gets tiresome. But worse, it starts to remove the enjoyment from your memories.
Interestingly, I heard that one approach to PTSD treatment is to ask the individual to continuously repeat the story of their trauma to the therapist. Gradually their emotions get separated from the experience and the emotional impact of it is reduced. I think something similar happens when you have to repeatedly answer the same mundane travel questions.
In an effort to preserve the positivity around your travel memories (after all, they’re all you have left!) try limiting the answers you give to people upon your return.
Develop script like responses that only touch the surface of how you truly feel and what you actually did. It’s impossible to fully describe the experience to someone who hasn’t done it anyway!
And, if you’re lucky, it’ll preserve and prolong the positivity you experience from remembering your trip.
Find out more about Danny at CoddiWomp.co.uk.
8) Cate from SmallPlanetStudio.com
“Intentionally make time and space to deeply reflect on my time abroad”
Whenever I return home after living or traveling abroad there are a few things I like to do to make the re-entry and readjustment process smoother.
I’m often not terribly thrilled to be back home, so I quickly develop a daily routine that includes exercise, eating well, getting out of the house, and (re)connecting with people important to me. Doing these things helps me stay in the present and feel like I’m still moving forwards (because sometimes returning home can feel like going backwards). It also helps me not get stuck in a nostalgia rut, constantly wishing I were somewhere else.
I also intentionally make time and space to deeply reflect on my time abroad, how my travels changed me, who I am now, and what I most want to do next (I even created a workbook – The Re-entry Roadmap – to help returnees reflect on these important things).
Once back home, I miss being surrounded by new cultures, food, and people, so I also make a point to integrate things in my life that make me feel global, like meeting up with other travel enthusiasts, recreating my favorite meals from abroad in my own kitchen, and planning my next trip.
Find out more about the ‘Re-Entry Roadmap’ at Cate’s site SmallPlanetStudio.com.
9) Lisanne from ChapterTravel.com
“Take on a goal and create a routine for yourself”
My boyfriend Jeffrey and I travelled together for 18 months through Australia and Asia before heading back home to the Netherlands. I was afraid of returning home, mostly because I’ve heard it’s really hard for backpackers to adjust back to normal life. During the last few weeks of my travels, I read a lot of articles that claimed that travellers can experience a depression once they’re back home. Luckily, it wasn’t the case for me.
There are a lot of reasons why it wasn’t so hard on me and the two most important ones are that I took on a goal and created a routine for myself.
Having a goal in life is always important. By having a goal, you basically have a reason to wake up in the morning. So I advise you to create at least two goals during your travels that you will achieve when you get back home. Start with two easy goals that are doable even if you’re not super motivated. Once you achieved those two goals at home, think of two new ones and so on.
Creating a routine also really helps with adjusting back to life. Travel can take away your whole routine, because most travellers don’t really take note of the time. So make sure to get some routine in your life, and just like with goals, take it slow. Just make sure you at least take a shower, dress yourself and eat breakfast when you wake up. By the way, creating a routine can actually be one of your goals!
Have a look at Lisanne’s 10 best tips on selling back home after long-term travel at ChapterTravel.com.