Life after travelling is a big topic – because everyone talks about how amazing travelling is and how much it changes you as a person. But what happens when you come home? What happens when every fibre of your soul feels different, but everything about home feels unchanged? It's no wonder so many travelers end up traveling again when adapting to life at home is so tricky. But it doesn't have to be.
This is yet another hotly requested post and one I've been meaning to write for a long time. It's one I've had in my drafts folder for years but have struggled to find the words until now. But in my 4-5 years of full time travel, I've fluctuated between being on the road constantly, to moving abroad and setting up a new home, to moving back to my hometown with potentially no future travel plans. It's been a real yo-yo of a few years and I've loved every second, but there's no denying that coming home is always a bittersweet experience.
How does it feel to come home after traveling?
Don't get me wrong – I love coming home and I am blessed to live in a beautiful part of the world and to have amazing people to come home to. But it doesn't matter how great your set-up is, it doesn't make you immune from the extreme feelings of displacement you feel when stepping back into your old life. Because at some point, the novelty and excitement of being home will wear off and normality will kick in. Suddenly you're faced with the realisation that actually, life did go on without you, people did continue living their lives and start moving on.
Despite this, everything about your life at home feels unchanged. It feels like stepping into a time capsule of your own life, as though you hit pause but somehow you kept on living. It's hard to come home and feel like your very soul has shifted, and yet to feel like you've stepped straight back to square one. It's easy to be surrounded by supportive friends and family and yet feel incredibly alone. To feel that no-one understands this enormous event that just took place in your life, that they treat you just the same as before.
And yes, I'm well aware that this could sound like incredibly entitled Gap Yah wanker rubbish – but knowing how much travel has changed me as a person, I don't see how anyone can invalidate these feelings. If anything, it's important to acknowledge them and to deal with them if you are ever going to overcome them. It's normal to feel the anti-climax after traveling, it's normal to feel waves of joy to be home, and at times to hate it with every fibre of your being. It's normal to feel lonely and isolated, it's normal to question why you stopped traveling, and it's normal to want to run away and travel forever. For some that is an option, but for most it is not.
The five stages of life after travelling
For those who are finishing travelling or struggling with being home – I've created this cute little infographic that I feel really sums up the five stages of adjusting to life after travelling. You may not experience the process in this order, you may not experience all of these stages. But much like a break-up or the end of any major part of your life, it's okay to treat it a bit like a grieving process you have to go through. And most importantly – I want to stress that it's okay to not be okay.
Top tips for adjusting to life after travelling
Don't try to slip back into your pre-travelling life
Whatever you do, don't try and squeeze your new self into the life you had before travelling. It's like trying to squeeze a square block into a round hole – it's never going to work. Acknowledge that you have changed and that's okay. Realise your life before was small and you've grown beyond it. Don't go back to the same job, don't live in the same place, don't do the same things. You might enjoy the comfort of this in the short term, but before long you'll feel trapped or left behind and you'll just want to run away and travel again.
Remember that life has gone on without you
The world doesn't revolve around you. Your friends and family moved on while you were away and got new jobs, bought houses, got married, had babies. Their lives changed and their new lives might not have as much space for you. You have to respect this and not be petulant about it, don't feel hard done by. Instead, change your attitude and realise you have to make strides in order to catch up.
Invest in your friendships & relationships
This one is so important – realise that while you were away you might have neglected friendships and relationships. It happens, don't feel bad, but use the time you are home to make sure everyone around you feels so valued and loved. Be there for them and support them as you couldn't when you were in a different timezone. Feel like everyone has forgotten you? They might have become used to not being able to reach you – you might have to be the person to reach out first if things are going to change.
Keep the travelling magic and spontaneity in your life
Remember how fun it was to constantly be seeing new places and meeting new people? Variety is the spice of life and just because you're home, it doesn't mean that excitement for life will disappear. If you want to stop the boredom of life at home creeping in after all your adventures – the best cure is to make life at home an adventure! Make your life spontaneous by stepping outside your comfort zone, do different things, join groups, get hobbies, meet new people. Don't spend all your time in the same routine you had before traveling – it's a recipe for disaster. Make a new routine that has huge blank spaces in it where you just go out and have adventures, meet new souls, and connect with home like you connected with every new destination on your travels.
Find a place of your own & stay independent
After travelling, you may not have the money to go out and get your own place or immediately start a new life. You may even crave the comfort of home. There is nothing wrong with crashing in your old bedroom at your parent's place (if they'll have you) but this is not a long-term solution. Trust me, it can be pretty depressing to try and cram your new, grown self back in your teenage bedroom. After being so independent for so long, coming back to a world where you parents want to look after you can seem strange. So take control of the situation – stay independent! Whether that means doing all your own cooking and laundry, or it means saving a deposit for your own place, or even moving into a house-share with friends. You have options and you have to choose the one that is right for you.
Make a plan for the future & build a new life
Just because traveling is over, it doesn't mean your life is. After all, this post is about adjusting to life after travelling! If I can advise you of one thing when you get home – it's to make two lists. Make one list of all the amazing things you saw/did during your time away, all the achievements along the way. This one will remind you when you're feeling low that you have done something incredible and you should be proud. The second list should be all your goals, hopes for the future and how you plan to achieve them. Making a plan for the future – from short-term goals like unpack your backpack and get a job, to longer-term goals like buy a house or get a new car. What you're doing here is setting your intentions to not just "adjust" to your old life, but to "build" a new life worth sticking around for.
It doesn't matter if you were travelling for three months or three years – if you're struggling to adjust to life at home, try out these tips to help you take back control of your life. Don't feel alone, it's a topic that often isn't talked about because no-one wants to deal with the harder sides of traveling. It's not all dream Insta filters and sun-kissed bodies – sometimes travelling is bloody hard both when it's going on, and after. But as ever, it doesn't matter how hard the situation – what matters is how YOU choose to deal with it. Don't wallow and live in your memories, instead build a future you're excited for and start creating new memories.
How did you cope with coming home after travelling? What helped you settle in at home?