What you should be listening to as you read this:
Homecoming – Kanye West
You wanna know what one of the weirdest parts of traveling is? Coming back home. There, I said it. There’s no place like home, but coming back to your familiar environment after extended travel can be sorta…unfamiliar. Go figure.
There’s a term for this: re-entry shock. Sounds like something astronauts get. Re-entry shock can look different for people, but there are a number of common experiences people tend to have once they return from the sandy shores and hilly hills of another country. One of the more well-known ones is reverse culture shock. Spend a couple weeks in a place where the cultural norms are noticeably different than what you grew up in and watch how quickly you begin to adapt. Step out of that setting and back into your home environment and all of a sudden the simplest cultural norms you grew up with might be a little disorienting. Or at the very least you’ll notice them more than ever before.
But it goes beyond just reverse culture shock, especially if you’re doing some solo traveling or you’re traveling without the friends and family you’ve grown particularly close to. When you’re gone for an extended amount of time, life at home doesn’t stop to wait for your return. By the time you’ve come back, things are different. Your friends’ relationships may have changed. Your family members might have gone through significant developments in your absence, or they might have inside jokes that you don’t get. Your favorite co-worker may have gotten a new job (or maybe YOU did). The world you come back to is always at least a little bit different than the one you left, and you have to figure out how to reintegrate yourself. This can take months, depending on how long you were gone and what changes may have happened.
Most of all, though (in my experience), you’re different. Traveling will inevitably change you, and while you’re grappling with the changes–however big or small-to the world immediately around you, you’re also trying to reconcile the changes within you. You’ll want to talk about your experiences and the impact they had on you, but you might not know who to talk to, or what to actually say. And truth be told, the people around you will seemingly lose interest in those experiences waaaay faster than you will. You’ll feel like the shiny superstar at first because people will want to hear about your travels, and then that interest will kinda fade. Maybe the people around you are annoyed or truly bored now. Or maybe they really care and simply can’t relate directly to what you’re describing. In any case, it can be a little frustrating to wiggle your way through this.
Funny enough, it makes me want to go places even more because I feel like I’m in my element more when I’m moving around. I like the rush, development, and challenge it brings me, seeing and experiencing different things. You know? But still, there’s a little bit of a mental and emotional re-entry process each time. It’s just part of it I guess.
Oh, and it’s totally worth it. So let’s grab a cup of coffee one of these days (you can–I don’t drink coffee) and talk re-entry stuff. While socially distancing, of course.