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.