A Little Confession… Readjusting Post Travel is Tough

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Reconnecting with friends at a CCR concert in Orlando.

I’ve been back from my around the world trip for six weeks. And I am struggling to adjust to being surrounded all of the people I love. For a year I have had physical distance from them, and distance created by living a different life, talking less, and generally having no idea what was happening. It’s also tough to have the assault of information and conversation hijacking my every day. For nearly half of my trip, I traveled solo. I saw the sights on my own, I kept my own company on long bus rides, and slept as a stranger amongst many in countless dorm rooms.

And now I am thrust back to the once achingly familiar. Nothing has changed at home, and yet it’s all different. Even though we shop at the same Publix and eat at the same Thai restaurant, everyone here has lived a year of stories I missed.

There are so many lessons I’ve learned from travel, sharing those ideas is the classic way to cope with these aching feelings of joy tinged with nostalgic sadness. But beyond those big epiphanic moments arising from even the most mundane of my travel experiences while I lived them, I’ve actively processed more about that year on the road during the past six weeks than I ever did while I was actively backpacking.

I went through every emotion possible over the past month-and-a-half, and I kept it all off of the blog in an attempt to deny that I was quite so lost. I’ve talked before about the fact that I’m a crier—I am it helps me process.

So, there has been some crying since I returned.

Those first few weeks, I was lost. I felt adrift from the lack of direction—when traveling, I had a route and a need to always continue moving forward.

Once home, I lost my compass and my purpose.

I was supposed to come back from my round the world trip changed, but I am still me.

I pretty much feel like a spaz most days. I’ve gotten right back into the swing of things, visiting friends, attending concerts, and hanging out with my niece and nephew (I love them to pieces!).

But I realized some things that are harder to recover.

  • How the heck do you feed yourself when you have to plan a week in advance?! I have eaten out at least one of meal every day for a year. And in Asia, every meal was lovingly prepared by someone else. Now, what is this thing called cooking? My favorite days are when my friend Niki invites me over for dinner . . . she calls and I manage to accept her invitation with just right the amount of self-control. Inside my head, I’m secretly cheering “Yay! Crisis averted. Thank the sweet lord, one meal down.”
  • What do I do with myself while everyone else is at work? I still work remotely, so all of the “bonding” time I anticipated having with friends only happens outside of traditional work hours since they’re all nine-to-fivers. When I asked a fellow long-term backpacker for ideas, she suggested “exploring my home-town.” But . . . meh. I’ve lived in Florida for mostly all of my 25 years of life, so that gets nothing more than meh.
  • Why are there so many bloody choices? Although I wanted to burn my hideous orange and brown shirt after wearing it for the entire trip as one of my five shirts (and the only one that didn’t fall apart), I miss the simplicity travel brings to your life. It’s forced minimalism and it’s wonderful. Now, every morning I battle with my closet to make a choice. And some days, I stay in my pajamas as long as possible just to postpone the overwhelming feeling of opening a closet (and let’s not even talk about the grocery store—they make me want to hide).
On display at Krka National Park: The hideous orange shirt that made my life so simple.

Beyond all of these silly little problems, I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that a lot of people, even the people who love me, are used to me being gone. Everyone said goodbye to me more than a year ago, and then they moved on with their lives, they found someone else to call for a quick coffee, because I was on the side of the world. I don’t receive random updates on their life via text, because someone else fills that role in their life now. And that’s OK—that was a choice I consciously made when I left. But it doesn’t take away the pangs of hurt. I feel anonymous and a tad forgotten in my hometown—a place where I know hundreds of people. I know how to make new friends on the road, it’s often instant when you stay in a hostel. But huddled into my childhood room at my parents’ house—well, I’m working out a new pace of life that will work better here.

Anyhow, forgive me for the ramblings, I’m just a little adrift . . .

~Shannon

23 thoughts on “A Little Confession… Readjusting Post Travel is Tough”

  1. I have a pair of shoes I wear that are 8 years old and look pretty beat up. They've traveled everywhere and I can't let them go, no matter how ugly they get. One of the few things that have gone everywhere with me, I guess Andy's right. One of the ways to establish a routine.

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    • Wow, eight years is a really long time for them to hold up! Are they chacos or some sort like that? My chacos are pretty durable…but not many other types of shoes I've owned…

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      • They are Diesels that were pretty snazzy at the time but now they look, well…not as snazzy let's say. I just feel bad getting rid of them since we've been so many places together. Besides they get stepped on all the time, I can't abandon them now!

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        • I understand that sentiment, lol – when I studied abroad a few years back I had a pair of leather sandals that I felt that way about – I told my friend to take them from me and dispose of them because I didn't have the heart…I still kind of regret it ;-)

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    • Thanks for the comment, I've found it just takes a bit of patience on my part, I really wanted it to go back to normal without much effort – not the case! :-)

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  2. I understand this feeling..I used to work on small cruise ships and after I returned after being gone 2 years, I went a bit nuts. Emotionally, it was just a huge adjustment to come home. I feel for you, but imagine you will be off on another adventure soon. It gets addictive!

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    • Wow, that must have been a really intense adjustment time after two years on the road…I can only imagine how overwhelming it must have been to be home after becoming so accustomed to your nomadic cruise shipping…my family have had to put up with a few tears for my readjustment time!

      As for more travel..you can be sure of that! In fact, I doubt I'll be able to wait much longer than a couple of months!

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  3. It's interesting how when you're always on the go, you pine for the things you had when you were home. Then when you're home, you pine for the things you had when you were on the road.

    Our bodies/brains just aren't geared for change, but we try to grind them down into a routine. Your routine (the same pair of shirts, apparently – we won't ask about socks and pants!) got you into the habit of being always adrift, and now that you're floating closer to shore, its time to recalibrate that internal compass.

    Thanks for opening up and sharing how you're feeling. I can't bring you a meal but always here to listen!

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    • Thanks Andy :-) I appreciate the support…I can't say I much like this recalibration period…it kinda sucks! But it really has just been a process of letting go of my “on the road” routine and being okay with the fact that I was letting it go…for now ;-)

      (Oh, and thankfully socks were easy to handwash and cheap to replace, so I wasn't too horribly attached to those!)

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  4. Thank you Sprout, I appreciate that offer, and I just may take you up on it; you still haven't called to brainstorm so I just might have to hunt you down for dinner and a chat :-)

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  5. For me the strangest thing about coming back from traveling is how little everything changes. There I am feeling like a completely different person with so many experiences and stories behind me, and there is my house, family and friends, pretty much exactly as I left them. It's really disorienting.

    But I do love having my closet back!

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    • That’s precisely it Stephanie, I remember driving across the one bridge from the airport that leads to my side of town the day I returned, and I had this weird disorienting sense of never having left in the first place! I’m starting to get with you on the closet – or at least the shoes :-) those are my weakness, lol

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  6. I just haven't really stopped!! Five years is the longest i've spent in one place (even then I had more than one house) since I set off 15 years ago (I can't believe it either).
    It's really hard to settle back into 'normal life, and the realization that people have gotten on with their lives while you were gone. (I dunno, maybe I thought they would just spend the whole time waiting…. ) It can be really emotional. You said it though, they're used to you being gone….. so start planning your next trip ;)

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    • Good plan Emma, lol, once I get some finances in line I am out the door! I think that's the conclusion I found too, just stay on the road exploring – huge props to you though for 15 years traveling, that's really amazing that you've managed to continue traveling through life and kids and the such; gives me hope :-)

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  7. About the choices: I have a friend who does missionary work. She was in Russia for 3 years and when she came back she was went to the grocery store to get a few things but had to leave. It was too overwhelming for her.

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    • I believe it Cassie! The sheer amount of selection and commercialism in the US just doesn't really exist in most other places – the bombardment of adverts and the such has gotten me a bit – I find myself offended sometimes by how much we are “sold-to” on the radio and TV…and that's saying a lot for me since I was an advertising major in college! :-)

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  8. CCR was great! (and the pic isn't as bad as I had feared!) You can come to my house WHENEVER and I'll cook you (ie order out) dinner anytime you want! I understand the feeling of “lost” too. It's been 10 years since I came back to the states after a year away, and there are still days that I miss it…

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    • Thank you Sprout, I appreciate that offer, and I just may take you up on it; you still haven't called to brainstorm so I just might have to hunt you down for dinner and a chat :-)

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  9. Even though I didn't travel around the world but moving here from Thailand, I had the same experience as you regarding food. People expect me to cook Thai food for them when they met me. Little did they know that we don't actually cook when we live in Thailand. Why cook when food is so readily available and so affordable? I still miss it even after 10 years here. :)

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    • Wow – I think I would have been one of those same people asking for some “good ole home cooked food!” But I definitely understand where you're coming from, the Thai food was incredibly tasty and there were just tons of cheap options :-) Are you heading back there any time soon?

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