The Scariest Part About Traveling Is Coming Home

Exactly one month ago I got on a plane in Bangkok and came back home for the first time in 18 months. I was terrified. Going to a foreign country? Meeting new people? Living in a strange culture? Bring it on! Going back home? Honestly the scariest thing about this whole experience.

I’ve had bad experiences with coming back home in the past. When I was 16, I lived abroad for a year and once I got back, more than half of my friends didn’t talk to me anymore. I had the biggest existential crisis of my life, wanted to quit school, go back to Canada and do – well, didn’t get that far, but something other than have to face my life in Germany. Of course, this time I wasn’t 16 anymore, but the fear remained.

There are a few things that helped me with this experience, and maybe they’ll help you, too.

Tell your family exactly how you want to arrive.

They won’t know unless you tell them. Last time, they thought I wanted a quiet first day – but I wanted the big party. This time I told my family that I wanted nobody to know that I was coming back (I didn’t want my whole extended family there because I knew I’d feel overwhelmed), instead I planned a family get together for the following weekend. I wanted to meet everyone on my terms. My sister picked me up at the airport, my parents were waiting at home with a homecooked meal and a glass of wine. Perfect!

Reach out to your friends before you get back.

Last time, I didn’t really keep in contact and then I got back and was like “Hey I’m back, let’s meet up!” – needless to say, that didn’t work out. In the end I’m glad I got rid of those friends anyway, but at the time I was devastated. This time, I made plans with everyone for the first two weeks. I wrote the dates in my calendar, planned different things with everyone and in general just let everyone know way beforehand how much I was looking forward to seeing them. I went to a festival with some, ate breakfast with others and we had the best time. So glad to have them in my life!

Make a plan for the next steps in your life.

Now, this is all depending on what you’re planning to do with your life. The first time I came back, I thought it was all planned out anyway – I was going back to school. That was seven weeks from then though because the summer holidays came first. With barely any friends, nothing to do and the fear of going back to school building up, those weeks were horrible. This time, I wrote job applications on the beach in Thailand. I planned a holiday in Portugal in October. I made sure that I had things to look forward to and it worked. I am having a bit of downtime right now and it’s quite boring until I start my new job, but at least I know what I’m waiting for and I’m not having doubts.

Talk about your struggles.

When I was 16, I wasn’t able to show how hard coming back was. I cried alone, I got angry at the weirdest things and at myself, and it was not a good experience. This time, almost everyone who has asked me how coming back home was got an honest response: It’s not easy. It will never be easy. It’ll always feel weird and that’s okay. You can also reach out to others who have gone through the same thing, that has actually helped me a lot. Even though everyone goes through different stages, you’re not alone!

Remember that it’s not the end of traveling.

Just because you are back home now doesn’t mean you have to stay there. I looked for a job in the city where I really wanted to go back to (which is kind of home for me but quite far from my parents, I went to university there) and I also know that I will always be traveling. For now, it’s not going to be another huge trip like my last one, but I will always leave the country for a few weeks at a time to explore new cultures, to visit my friends abroad and who knows, maybe one day I will leave again for a long time. It’s comforting to know that I can. It’s also comforting to know that I don’t have to. It’s all up to me, the same as your life is up to you. There’s always a way, you just have to find the one that’s right for you.

While the scariest part about traveling is coming home, it’s also a very exciting part because it’s a chance to change how things are at home, too. To reconnect with your family and friends, to find out which parts you didn’t know you missed. There are easier days and more difficult ones, and sometimes you just have to accept that a day will be just you lying on the sofa, missing traveling. It happens and you have to get through those days, too.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re having a bad day, trust me, I will understand.


18 thoughts on “The Scariest Part About Traveling Is Coming Home

  1. When I first saw the title of your post I thought, “Coming home is scary? That doesn’t make any sense.” And then I thought about it for a second and realized, “Oh wait…I know exactly what you mean.” Hehe. The last two times that I traveled to India, and then Japan, every single day was packed with new experiences and awe. I thought I’d be happy to return home, but instead there was this crushing feeling of isolation, and every day seemed so mundane. That feeling didn’t actually go away for months. Everything is so alive in Asia, and in Van, it feels like people barely even notice each other. With my most recent trip I was very scared of returning home and experiencing the same thing, sitting around wishing that I was still traveling, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn’t happen at all! So random. But, I didn’t even consciously notice that this was happening until I read your post! Anyhow, I’m glad to hear your return home was good!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can so relate to this. I have been living abroad for over 15 years now and in the beginning going home was still home since I kept in touch with everyone. After a while relationships fade and you lose contact with people… I have a new home now and I don’t think I’ll quickly go back to my home country, but if I were to go back, it would be extremely difficult to pick it up again. Going back after a long trip might be a very tough experience, since everything and everyone else has moved on with their lives. It’s normal it takes some time to adjust.


  3. We’re looking at going back “home” in the next couple of years. Well my home and my husband immigrating. But in 11 years I’ve been back to Canada for a grand total of 4 months and when we go back it will have been 13 years. It makes me panic a lot. I actually have no home to go back to anymore. Your final point of it not being the end had helped a lot. We wont be able to travel as much if we do move back. We just wont have the time and the money. But if it isn’t working out after a few years we can always leave again. We’re not stuck there forever (hopefully!).


    1. That’s so ironic because Canada is actually my country of choice when it comes to living abroad, I’ve spent over two and a half years there since I was 16! Anyway, I can imagine that it’s super scary after such a long time, I wish you the best of luck! 🙂


  4. Just going home after two years and NOT moving back is scary! I can’t imagine what it’s like to move back. It gives me anxiety just thinking about it! Glad you have a support system and it sounds like it will all work out 🙂


  5. This is a great article that I’ll share with our international volunteers when it’s time for them to leave Uganda. Reverse culture shock can be hard, but if you’re prepared, life at home can be something everyone can look forward to.


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