In September 2014, my partner and I put our jobs on hold, pulled the kids out of school, rented out the house, packed our bags, said goodbye to our friends and family and traveled for 10 months. At least, that’s what I thought. Little did I know, returning home would be one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I hesitated if I should write about this. I simply wanted it to go away, or be able to ignore it.
At first it was the thrill of departure. Packing up the house, loading up the car and heading out of town. At the time, I often thought about how life would be different when I returned home. During the 10 month trip we visited 10 countries, very rich and very poor countries, visited very clean and very polluted lands, visited roman ruins and the beaches of D-day, had a water fight with elephants, saw the effects of landmines on young children, visited countless religious sites and monuments, drank delicious french wine, toured UNESCO historical sites in Nepal (many of which are now destroyed). We taught English in rural Cambodia, skipped the western hotels and stayed with the local people, couch surfed in France, and visited with relatives that I hadn’t seen before.
The hardest part of a journey is returning home…
By the end of the ten months, I felt that I was more than ready to return home. I felt exhausted and excited to start a new direction in my life back in Canada. The last couple of weeks of the traveling went by fast. Before I knew it, I was on the plane headed back to my home town. The first few weeks back were a whirl-wind of unpacking the boxes and re-organizing the house. There was a sense of relief and pure joy of being back in the same bed, and the familiarity with same oddly sloping floors in my old house. Although I was busy, there was a sense that Everything seemed the same – but everything is different. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was the odd things at first. Of all the clothes to choose from in my closet – I was drawn back to the ones that I wore everyday for the past 10 months, even though that I swore I’d burn them when I got home !.
Everything is the same – but isn’t…
It was as if many things in my surroundings had remained unchanged during my time away. Within a few weeks after arriving back home my daily routine had picked up from where it left in September 2014. I sort of felt as if I was back to the same old reality that was there before I left. However, more and more over time it began to be very clear, there were more signs that something had changed – I had changed !.
I felt as if I’ve become a stranger, I felt that I don’t fit in anymore, I was bored, I was restless – not able sit to read a book, not interested in my hobbies and things that I enjoyed before the trip. I had also become withdrawn from my friends, although I was reaching out to make new friends. I was also drinking far too much alcohol and, also experienced a general feeling of being down. There was one more significant change to my life since returning from the trip – but due to privacy, that will not be mentioned.
Now, more than six months after my return – I have figured out that traveling, especially for an extended period of time, changes your thoughts and emotions. I now see everything through new eyes, and a new perspective based on experiencing different cultures, visited the very rich and very poor, learned about the wonders of mankind – and the absolute horrors of mankind, saw incredible scenery, ate stunningly delicious food, and more. Without a doubt, those months of traveling opened up my eyes, mind, heart, and soul. I am changed, and ‘home’ will never be the same again.
The changes that I am experiencing are the Post-travel blues. It sounds like a song but it is a type of depression. It is apparently quite common among long-time travelers. It is that dreaded feeling of returning to your normal, and now boring and unsatisfactory lifestyle and routine after a life-changing experience. Add to that, the ongoing struggle of trying to figure out where I fit into the life I had before the trip. Some days, there is definitely a feeling of emptiness and longing to be somewhere else, or doing something different. It’s feeling that I can’t relate to friends or family because they have not have experienced things and changed in ways that I can’t explain.
Yes, the past several months have been challenging, and I did not anticipate that returning home would be one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Despite those challenges, the previous ten months were an incredible journey – it changed everything !. If you are hesitating about taking a long trip – Do It !. If you feel a bit overwhelmed when you return home, just remember there are travelers out there who understand that you have just been through the biggest transformation of your life. I don’t expect any sympathy for having Post-travel depression. It was a privilege to have traveled the way we did, and for as long as we did. But still, it sucks.