You see the world, try new things, fall in love, meet new people, visit breathtaking places, learn about other cultures – then it’s all over. People always talk about leaving, but what about coming home?
We talk about the hard parts while we’re away – making real friends, staying safe, not spending too much money, learning social norms, misreading people you think you can trust – but these are all parts you get through. All of these lows are erased by the complete highs you experience. And for the most part, travel brings you bliss and joy.
The hardest part of traveling is not happening during the journey, it’s happening after. When you’ve been away for a while and get on the airplane back home – you feel the post travel feeling in every inch of you body. You recognize your language being spoken again, and you feel distant straight away. You’re still wearing your backpackers outfit, sitting next to men wearing suits and reading the local newspaper. You’re looking out the thick window, still dreaming, and trying to remember how it felt when you first left. You know you’ve changed and that nobody will ever understand.
Despite all these feelings you have to face and the sad goodbyes you have to get through, they are bolstered by the reunion with your family you have pictured in your head since leaving in the first place. Then you return home, have your reunions, spend your first two weeks meeting with family and friends, catch up, tell stories, reminisce, on and on. You’re their “Hollywood” for the first few weeks back and it’s all new and exciting. And then it all just… goes away. They get used to you being home, you’re not the new shiny object anymore and the questions start coming: “So will you go to university now? What’s your plan? How are you doing with your savings?”
So you tell them you’ve grown and evolved more than they’ll ever imagine and that you’re dreaming bigger than before. You tell them you’re more minimalistic and not so materialistic, now. You tell them you don’t dream about building a stereotypical life with a house, two kids, two cars, a garage, a white fence and a full-time job, which you hate. You want to make your own way of living and work with your passion while you’re traveling. You have seen the rapid change in how the society works and you want to be a part of that change. It doesn’t take long until someone will say that you have to be realistic and deal with the rutines and duties that come with adulthood. You feel manipulated, you feel lonely and distant. Like you’re a flower growing in the Death Valley – one that won’t be recognized.
You’ve done your obligatory family visits for being away for a while, and then the shock hits you: You’re sitting in your childhood bedroom and realize nothing has changed. You’re glad everyone is happy and healthy and yes, people have gotten new jobs, boyfriends, engagements, babies etc., but part of you is screaming: “Don’t you understand how much I have changed?” Of course I don’t mean hair, weight, dress or anything else that has to do with appearance. I mean what’s going on inside of your head. The way your dreams have changed, they way you perceive people differently, the habits you’re happy you lost, the new things that are important to you.
You want everyone to recognize this change and you want to share and discuss it, but there’s no way to describe the way your spirit evolves when you leave everything you know behind and force yourself to use your brain in a real capacity, not on a written test in school. You know you’re thinking differently because you experience it every second of every day inside your head, but how do you communicate that to others?
You feel angry. You feel lost. You have moments where you feel like it wasn’t worth it because nothing has changed, but then you feel like it’s the only thing you’ve done that is important, because it changed everything. What is the solution to this side of traveling? It’s like learning a foreign language that no one around you speaks so there is no way to communicate to them how you really feel.
This is why once you’ve traveled for the first time all you want to do is leave again. They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited.
This is the hardest part about traveling, and it’s the very reason why we all run away again.
Text by Dametraveler & me