It’s almost a rite of passage for young twenty-somethings, with feet on the ground and eyes to the clouds, to move city, country or hemisphere. Whether for study, for work, or just to jump heart-first into wanderlust and a calling to see the world – immersion in a different place moulds and inspires huge personal growth.
But how to cope, when you move back home, after the big adventure?
You may have moved back on your own terms, or unwillingly (and abruptly, in my case!) via the restrictions of a visa. Hot tip here – the difference between an ordeal and adventure? Attitude.
Here are nine tips that I’ve actioned to handle the move back home, stay sane… and as it turns out, totally thrive.
1. You will have changed, so bring that person home with you.
You’re a different person after travel. And honestly – with the experiences and stories you’ll have collected along the way, how could you not be?
Travelling and living away is a surefire, fast-tracked pathway for learning, changing and growing. I was terrified that by coming home, my environment, history, or old connections would “revert” me back to my previous self.
I’m here to tell you, simply – it won’t. It doesn’t work like that. Your time away will have shaped you and evolved you – locale will not prevent you from staying the person you have become, if you don’t let it.
Know this. Continue to be the person you have become.
2. Remember that just as you have changed, so will have the others who remained.
Friends will have engagement rings. Babies might soon, or will have been born – on purpose. Relationships will have stretched, or tightened, or broken. Coffee shops will have rebranded – refurbished – or been replaced.
For me, after two incredible years away, my beautiful grandfather wasn’t around to welcome me home.
While life at home may not have moved at the same speed, life will have shifted along without you. Know this, and anticipate it. Be open to these changes, and adjust to them, as your family and friends will do for you.
3. Throw yourself into the local community, head first.
Talk to your barista. Make new friends via Instagram. Hang out with your old friends, and make an effort to get to know the friends they have connected with during your absence.
Plan an Insta-meet in the park for people with a shared interest, or for travellers who have also returned.
The world is a small town, and people, who know other people, will help you along your new path.
4. Revisit your old familiar haunts, and make new memories there.
Take a trip down memory lane, revisiting favourite beaches where you have watched sunrises, restaurants where you’ve had birthdays, or houses which you’ve called home.
But be sure to add new memories to those places, so they don’t remain in a place of nostalgia. It’s time to make new memories to complement the past ones.
5. Do things you’ve never done in your home city.
Treat life as a tourist. Living your own rules – a full, unbridled, adventure-filled existence is ridiculously important to me after travel. I hold my freedom fiercely and gracefully.
Adrenalin may no longer be a part of your everyday, but you can still seek out adventure. You’re not able to travel in the same way from home, but you can continue to practice travel, on a more local basis.
Go for spontaneous road trips, hop on a bus and see where it takes you. Drive to the sea for sunset. Go for morning hikes somewhere in nature.
Sidenote – you may actually be treated as a tourist! Especially if you have a lingering accent. A stranger asked me how long I was visiting from the UK for. Laugh this off. Explain the backstory, or go along with the assumption.
6. Reverse culture shock IS a thing, so be gentle on yourself as you adjust.
Chances are, you’ll wake in the middle of the night and be completely disorientated. You’ll forget the names of streets you’ve driven down hundreds of times before. It will take some time to refamiliarise and reintegrate.
It will take time to adjust to the place, even if you’ve spent most of your life there and everything is familiar. Give this time.
7. Accept you may never ‘belong’ anywhere again.
Just that. You may not feel you ‘belong’ anymore – anywhere. Ever. You’ll be torn between two, or three, or ten co-existing realities, where only one parallel life can exist.
After you’ve seen the world, home will be familiar, and likely, a whole lot easier for living. Away from home, the simplest of tasks can be an overwhelming endeavour. Language, culture shock, and no comfort of the familiar. Heightened. But you may return and not feel “at home”.
Even if you returned back to where you have most recently been living or calling home, you mightn’t feel at home there, either.
Seeing the world carves depth in you. Your eyes widen, your heart expands. You’ll be cracked open with the sheer whelm of adventure flooded through. Your whole being shapeshifts and the capacity to feel, live and love deepens profoundly.
It’s surreal to have the realisation you no longer belong to a place, but know this: you don’t have to. You belong with yourself. And you will belong with you, always.
8. Accept that there is no such thing as getting the travel bug out of your system.
The more you travel, the more you will want to. Fact.
You’ll crave travel, and that’s okay. The travel bug will likely never be allayed. The more you travel, the brighter it will burn in you.
9. Never forget how strong you are for having moved away in the first place.
These experiences you’ve lived – whether joy, heartbreak or adventure, are all character building. How better to have experienced this, than never to have experienced this at all?
Over to you: Have you travelled or lived away, then moved back home? What helped you to adjust, and thrive?