What It’s Like Coming Home After Traveling for One Year
Many travel blogs I read before going on my trip around the world didn’t tell me what it would be like to ACTUALLY come home from being gone so long. So, after I returned from my 14-month trip, I wasn’t exactly prepared for what was to come… If you’ve read about the awkward things that happened to me upon coming home then you might know some of this… So, here we go, what it’s really like to come home after traveling for a year.
I consider myself a fairly strong person with a strong personality. I’m pretty independent and am not super emotional, but coming home took a toll on me and I felt weak and helpless.
I became emotional, dependent, slightly depressed, scared, culture shocked and completely shaken up.
Luckily this only lasted about a month, but I thought that upon coming home I’d be beaming like a changed person who had just “found myself”, but instead, I felt stuck.
I felt like I didn’t know what to do with my life. When people started to ask me “what was the hardest part of your trip around the world, I answered with, “the coming home part”. The answer never was, “being sick on the road, or “missing a train/plane”, or “dealing with a creeper”. Who would have thought that coming home would be the hardest part of traveling long-term?
The transition from being on the move constantly to being stagnant was weird.
Adjusting to the cultures of new countries monthly or even weekly were the norm for me. I’d hear a different language spoken behind me daily and I “lived” with people from all over the world. Adjusting to hearing only English and talking to people who judged a country based on what they heard on the news or people who had never left their home-state, kinda made me sad.
Little ‘reverse-culture shock’ things like this tripped me up on a daily basis. The realization that my trip was all over and that no one really would ever sit down and listen to my entire story was a brutal thought. Probably one of the hardest things was feeling like my whole trip didn’t even happen because everyone had moved on to something else. I got a little depressed and I cried almost every day for the first month of being back. I also spent the majority of my time looking up flights and trying to find the cheapest ones so I could get out of where I was.
FYI: moving locations does not help with fighting off these strong emotions and that’s why I don’t recommend going on a trip around the world to “find yourself”. I recommend being mentally healthy before going in the first place.
After my year-long trip, I flew directly from Singapore to San Francisco and then to Boise where I was to meet up with my entire family for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving fell on the day after I returned from my trip and I was anxious to be home, excited to see my family, but dreading the question I knew I would start getting constantly, “so, what are you going to do now?”
I’ll be honest, after an epic trip like the one I just had, the LAST question I wanted to get asked was “So, what next?”
I wanted people to ask me what I had just done, ask me my favorite place I traveled, my favorite foods I ate, what I learned on the road and how I had changed. I got those questions too. But the “So, what’s next?” is the one that I got a lot and the one that freaked me out the most.
I understand the question, I ask this to people all the time because I’m curious. But the problem is that I didn’t know. I was going through a huge change and needed to just sit with the fact that I was back. I was NOT close to being ready to go back to a career. And I sure as hell didn’t have any money to pay rent. I got lucky and had my parents to fall back on and ended up moving in with them for around 3 months.
I’m not going to lie, the transition coming back was sad and lonely, but I got through it.
My advice to anyone coming back from a long trip like this is that, it will be a change, but you’ll be okay.
Don’t try to think you have to have it all figured out at once. It will weirdly all fall into place and you’ll be fine. Give yourself a month to mope around and be weird and funky and depressed, but then try and snap out of it. Enjoy your surroundings and explore new places around your hometown so you can still get that excitement back in your life.
Then one day you’ll wake up, living in a city you didn’t think you’d be living in, with an awesome job, an awesome view, friends, and family surrounding you and you’ll have memories and experiences that some people only dream about. This is when you’ll realize it was all worth it. Every second of the unknown, every second of the adventure and every second of the what if’s and the OMG’s because you’ll realize you’re exactly where you’re meant to be…for now. 😉
And since I love making lists, here’s what else I’ve learned since being home on stable ground:
I’ve learned that you don’t have to have it “figured” out.
In fact, you never really do figure life out.
I’ve learned that I can relate to almost everyone new I meet now that I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people from so many life experiences.
I’ve learned to be easier on myself.
And that I did this trip for me, and not for anyone’s approval of me.
I’ve learned that life’s journey is the sweetest thing.
Things really do fall into place exactly how they are supposed to.
I’ve learned that it’s hard coming back from a trip like that.
But I’m not the same as when I started my journey and it sure as hell ain’t over yet. 😉
I’ve learned that I have a lot of photos now…and what do I do with them all?!
I’ve learned that I want and crave stability.
I realized I wanted to live by myself, somewhere close to the outdoors and close to family. I realized I wanted a place to call my own and want to be able to cook my own meals with food from my own fridge (what a concept)!
I’ve learned that we, as Americans, do NOT do everything the right way.
Yes, some cultures eat with their hands instead of forks and knives, some cultures wear headscarves or go naked, and some cultures carry things on top of their head instead of in bags or out in front of them. Just because we do things differently doesn’t mean they are wrong and that is the beauty of the world!
I learned that no one will ever ask to hear about your entire trip and you will never tell someone your entire trip.
This is for you to have for your own memories, but you’ll always take them with you no matter where you go.
I’ve learned that after almost one year of being home, I’m happy to say I’m no longer crying all the time and sad.
I’m actually happy to be home, settled, with a place to call my own!
I’ve had many awkward things happen to me and I have learned a lot, but I wouldn’t change this experience for the world!
21 Awkward AF Things That Happen When You Get Back From Traveling Long-Term
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The 30 Best Travel Apps to Download Before Going on a Trip
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100 Things I Learned & Experienced from 1 Year of Travel: A Letter to Myself
I can actually relate to what you are saying about being constantly on the move and then you are not anymore and it feels really weird. Never been on the move for that long though so i can only imagine yours was on another level.
Hahah thank you! Yes, it’s confusing and weird, but also so nice to have had that experience and be home at the same time 🙂
I spent a month traveling all over England and Scotland one year and went through something similar when I came home. Probably not as intensely as you did, but there was definitely some adjustment time needed to get over the sudden weird depression I felt when I was back in the states. I ended up talking with a friend who had managed a committee running the Olympics in a European country one year and he said it is a common phenomenon. In fact, it was so common that they’d lined up counselors for his staff to talk to who were preparing to wrap up the job and head home. Apparently “post-travel depression (PTD)” is very real and there is a bit of information about it on the interwebs. Yours is a great article describing that experience.
This is another great article that talks about it: https://www.wanderluststorytellers.com/post-travel-depression/
Omg yes!! It was soooo weird coming back. Who knew there was PTD?! Now I don’t feel as crazy! So good to know others had the same experience as me!
This will be me in one weeks time. The only thing I think that will keep me motivated to plough on through life as a normal person working 9-5 all over again when I haven’t worked a single minute for over 6 months, is the thought of saving up enough money to do it all over again but next time for longer.
In fact before I put my mind to save up money to go travelling the first time, I was waking up at 6am for work, working 730-6 and was in bed by 12. I didn’t feel like I was working for anything, I was working for the sake of it being a necessity to earn money to survive. As soon as I realised I wanted to save money to travel, purpose was introduced into my life, and working become more tolerable.
When you’re travelling, you have essentially reached peak human freedom, unless you’re a digital nomad who works on the move. For me, over 6 months of absolutely 0 obligations whatsoever. Absolutely none.
Then thrust back into a life that is the opposite.
I suppose it would be like winning the lottery in the millions and the next day just burning it all.