Adjusting to Life After Travel
aybe you’ve just completed a semester abroad or are just returning from your first trip to another country outside of your own and you return back to your home…..depressed. Maybe you’re an experienced traveler, but every time you finish a trip you’re filled with sadness that the journey is over.
The first time I traveled to Spain for a summer and then returned home to the United States I couldn’t have been more upset about it. My brother will tell you one of the first things I said when I got off the airplane was “I wish I wasn’t in America right now.” It sounds harsh, and in retrospect I should have realized that my family and friends would take that comment as though I didn’t want to be with them either. When in reality, I was wishing I could take all my family and friends and transplant them into another country with me so we could all live there together.
I think one of the best ways to describe how I overcame this is through sharing a conversation I recently had with a good friend of mine. She recently traveled to Spain for 3 weeks to visit her boyfriend playing professional basketball in Játiva. When she came back to the states we had this conversation…
Nat (friend) – Lili…I’m at the airport waiting to come back and I need some advice. How do I not feel sad about leaving? How do I replace the good memories with that rather than feeling sad and overwhelmed about going back to reality?
Lili (me) – I went through the same thing for months the first time I came back from Spain.
For me, it was a process of 1: being so grateful for the experience and how it has changed me and the new world view and dreams it gave me. That gratitude really helped me feel like ‘wow, I’m so sad to have to leave, but this pain over leaving is just a testament to what an incredible experience it was.’
And then 2: My question to myself was ‘okay, now that I have had these experiences and been changed inside, how am I going to live live out those changes in my everyday life and not just let them fade away. I came back home and I wanted to eat differently and drink more espresso and walk all over the city and travel so much more and live abroad again. And it’s so easy to come back home filled with passion about all these changes you want to make and everyone around you is like, “oh yeah, she is so excited right now, but it will fade in a month or two and she will stop talking about all these things and go back to the way she was before she left.”
And I could totally feel that everyone around me was thinking, “Oh she says she wants to go back to Spain, but she probably never will. She’s just on a travel high from being abroad.” And the thing is, because everyone around you is thinking like that, it’s so easy to just slowly let all those memories of your travels fade and fall back into normal “American” life and do everything just how you used to.
But for me, I was determined to keep the passion alive and actually live out the changes that had occurred inside me. And that really helped me feel the reality of my experiences and that it wasn’t all just an amazing dream that never really happened. It’s still living on and manifesting itself in my everyday life.
I loved being able to share these lessons with her because it’s such a shame to go abroad and return home with these amazing experiences, only to forget all about them a few months or a few years later. The number one thing that helped me deal with my “re-entry” culture shock and missing Spain was incorporating the things I loved about Spain into my daily life. I came home almost panicked that I would forget all the memories and the incredible feelings. So each day I would look at a picture or two, or read something from my journal while I was abroad, make myself a “Spanish” meal or make Spanish meals for my family, study Spanish still, watch tv shows with Spanish subtitles. All these things kept the memory and the passion alive and ultimately led me to fulfill my dream of returning to Spain a year later.
If this is something you’re struggling with I’d love to hear about what you’re feeling or how you overcame it! Comment below with your questions or thoughts 🙂
It’s true. I often look at my own country differently after traveling abroad. Travel opens my mind to see things more clearly.
I have loved being able to use these experiences to encourage my own self-reflection and hopefully make me a more well-rounded person.