Returning From Extended Travel
Fishing Village - Phu Quoc, Vietnam
So you are back – what now!
You don’t feel like you fit into the ‘world’ you’ve returned to. Where you once were reasonably or even madly happy and content, you now look around you and nothing seems as it once was. Many of your friends and family no longer understand you and you feel as if you’re in a dream – an extremely surreal one! Welcome to the world of returning from an extended period of travel. It’s easy for people who haven’t experienced your journey to wonder who this person (you) is – what have the aliens done with my, son/daughter, friend, sister/brother and who IS this person.
With the whirlwind of experiencing long term travel, where little remains the same for very long and your fears, views and perceptions are constantly challenged and put to the test, it’s easy to see how you grow into, sometimes, a different person. The only problem is, whilst you may have lost a pound or two in weight, your hair may have grown a few inches and you’ve probably got a good tan, these are the only changes that people at home can physically see. You are not the same person on the inside and I think it leads to a lot of confusion for all involved as the people around you can’t ‘see’ the change and you just know that everything is different.
I remember the journey back from the airport as if it was yesterday, my well meaning parents meeting us and driving along the M25, trying to focus on what they were saying, trying to focus on anything at all actually, other than the fact that I didn’t want to be here and what the heck was I going to do now. Their voices echoed in and out of my head as I tried to concentrate and listen to what they were saying. Those few hours were probably a few of the most surreal hours in my life, quickly followed by unlocking and entering into what I once called home. The subsequent few hours were a blur as I just sat there looking out of the window, blinking away tears, until finally I just sat and cried like I haven’t in years. It’s tough coming back, make no mistake about it, it can’t be underestimated and I really had no idea just how tough till I experienced it.
So many people will say ‘you’ll be alright once you settle back in’, but settling back in is the very last thing you want to do, you want to keep your experience alive, keep the change you feel inside of you, do things differently, squeeze every last drop you can from the vision you’ve been given. You’ve been given a whole new perspective on life, you may have seen people laying dead on the streets of India, seen people living on a bowl of rice a day, seen kids as young as 3 out on the streets at night time trying to sell things to make a living for their parents or worse still ‘gang members’, seen people who have had limbs blown off or be completely disfigured in other ways by land mines - to know it happens and to see it are two very different things - and suddenly someone wants you to give a damn because their boiler packed up for a few hours or their train was 20 minutes late or the lady in the sandwich shop got the order wrong AGAIN!
You need to put some thought and planning into your return before you leave for an extended trip. Particularly for those first few weeks as an adjustment period is inevitable, not an adjustment period to return to life prior to your trip, but to adjust to who you have now become and how you can best accommodate your environment.
It’s often difficult to change a person’s perception of you, particularly if they have known you for a long time and the people around you may find it hard to adjust to the ‘new’ you and some may not even want to. All you can really do is appreciate and treasure the ones who do want to come along for the ride and are interested to see how this fresh chapter in your life pans out.
To anyone who can resonate with this, and following various discussions I’ve had over recent months I know there will be many, my advice is to just keep ploughing ahead and be the person you’ve now become. It can be difficult at times, but the rewards when you finally see things taking shape are immeasurable.
Break free from the mould people have created of you!