Not All Who Wander Are Lost. (Until They Get Home)

25/10/2015 6:40 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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When it comes to travel, we see endless articles and Instagrammed quotes dedicated to wanderlust or the top 10 off-the-beaten-track destinations splashed across social media. We can completely relate to the hilarious accounts of terrible in-flight stories and language barriers experienced abroad.

But few travel writers talk about the re-adjustment period that can take its toll when you return home. No one talks about these stages of re-acclimatisation and just assumes that their friend, brother or colleague is simply happy to be back.

Not so much.

Stage 1 - Excitement

Usually the initial excitement of being home lasts 1-4 weeks, depending on how long you were away. During this time you are ecstatic to not live out of a suitcase or in someone's spare room anymore. You revel in driving in your own car again and catch up on all the gossip from friends and family, whilst regaling them with all your crazy travel stories. You get to eat out at your favourite restaurants once more and enjoy the normality of simple everyday things you've missed.

Stage 2 - Confusion

Not long after this euphoric first stage starts to wear off, many find anxiousness sets in and a general overall feeling of panic about what you are now supposed to do with your life. You thought you knew why you were coming home, but suddenly you start to question everything and become a little confused while everyone else returns to daily life, which you are no longer a part of.

You start switching between applying for all kinds of jobs you are not qualified to do, because you are so keen on making a fresh start and continuing with new experiences as you had done overseas. But you never hear back.

You start secretly plotting to go back overseas. It's all too hard. The reverse culture shock has you spinning, and suddenly you have no desire to be back home. Accepting a random gig cleaning boat decks in the Mediterranean seems much more appealing. Yes! Shall do that. You start researching and getting excited about this fantastic solution when you slowly come to realise you actually have no money to go back (which is possibly why you came home in the first place) and this would, in fact, be only a short-term solution before you are jobless over there and in the same position as you are here.

Stage 3 - Depression

Finally, you resign yourself to the fact that you came home for a reason, whatever that may be, and realise that "home" isn't such a bad place after all. For some true expats this moment will never come. But for the majority of us returning to reality, you would be well aware of the final stage of adjustment -- travel depression.

You have slowly started to build up your life again, but the painful daily reminders of your amazing journey still tug at your heartstrings every day. This will no doubt consist of your new Facebook profile picture smiling back happily at you from the coast of Italy, that incredible video footage you took of giraffes running wild in Africa, or the little maple leaf hanging from your car keys, reminding you of snow and mountains and another life in Canada.

Stage 4 - Acceptance

Re-adjusting takes time and generally only those who have also spent considerable periods away from home will understand how you feel. Speak to these people. Laugh about your adventures over a cocktail and keep up your new habits. If you learned a new language don't let it go. If you learnt how to cook a special dish, keep cooking it. If you learned to love a new sports team, wake up at 3 am to watch those playoffs.

As someone who has done this time and time again, I can tell you that not everyone will understand or even care. Because when you left, life continued as usual and as far as they are concerned you are just that person who splashed photos of your globetrotting, carefree life all over their news feeds daily.

Your travel experiences become a part of you. As soon as you learn you don't have to leave it all behind, and simply add it to who you are, you'll feel better. You can move on and get excited about the next journey life has in store for you.

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