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Coming back home from a long trip: how it feels and how to move on!

After spending 4 months in 7 countries I realized that today was the day when the dream I had been living in for 12 weeks had come to an end. After a time of pure freedom, amazing moments, meeting great people and just doing nothing I sadly found myself sitting in the plane back to Germany.

The best time of my life, I had been so excited about for months and working towards, was over now. Goodbye green palm trees, blue sea, loose clothing and fresh coconuts at the beach. No daily adventures and new exciting experiences any more.

Coming back home is the hardest thing about travelling

Well tanned and with swollen eyes (yes, I had shed some tears) I arrived in Germany: 10 degrees and rain. Welcome back! It was only April though. Actually that’s a pretty bad month to come back since it’s still dark, cold and grey. Better plan your return in May or even better in the middle of summer to avoid the nasty weather completely. The reintegration into your home is way easier and the difference to where you’re coming from is not that huge.

For me the step back into reality in Germany also meant a step into a new exciting future that was completely insecure. I had worked in several PR agencies for six years, quit my last job and knew I was definitely done with this sort of work. But what was I really looking for? What was it that would make me happy and satisfied? I had no idea – not yet.

Of course I was also looking forward to coming back home, a little at least. Even though I had been travelling with a friend for 3 months so there was no need to feel homesick. The last three weeks I had been on my own in Bali. Not my first trip „solo“, but the most intensive. I can only advise you to try traveling on your own at least once. You get to know other people quickly if you want to and are open for it. Only if you head off on your own you will change and grow!

My initial phase of acclimatization actually went pretty well, especially in comparison to when I was 20 something and returned from my semester abroad in California. At that time I fell into a deep, dark hole. Everything seemed grey, boring and depressing. I had changed a lot, had become more open and happy about life and the people back home had stayed the same.

This time was definitely not easy for my family. You probably know what I’m talking about. They had been so excited to have me back in their arms safely, but I was caught in my own world. I had the feeling I didn’t fit into the strict daily life in Germany. But this also settled when time passed by.

Maybe this time it was due to the fact that I had grown up and gained more life experience that I could deal better with coming back. I just said to myself that I can be very happy to having been able to do this kind of trip. During that time I had made friends with locals who live from 70 € per month and only have the money for going home to their family on the neighboring island once a year.

Additionally, coming back from that kind of trip doesn’t mean you won’t experience something similar anymore and are caught in your home country from now on. Just keep all the positive from this amazing trip, the memories, the experiences, the new You and try to simply keep this new zest for life!

So which insights do I have gained during my trip?

1. To relax more and not get upset that quickly!

We always let daily life and our job stress us out way too quickly. That’s not good for our body and, more importantly, it’s just not worth it. In most of the times we can’t do anything about the problem and in the rarest of cases the world is coming to an end. Nevertheless it’s the small simple things of our daily life that increase our blood level. What I did is, I consciously tried to not take these daily life problems too serious and to stay relaxed.

So, just stay cool! You will experience it makes you feel better and in addition avoids ugly wrinkles!

2. Openly approach other people and smile more!

You probably know this: Without knowing it you walk around with a grouchy face. Your fellow humans are the same. Us Germans are mostly so busy with ourselves and live in our own, little world. What’s the problem with saying „Good Morning“ to a foreigner in the middle of the street or start a conversation with your neighbor in the subway? We should really take other nationalities like Australians, Kiwis or Balinese as an example!

If you implement this back home you will feel the difference. People will smile back, maybe not all of them, but just one person smiling back at you is sometimes enough.

3. Work doesn’t need to come with stress and inflexibility!

During my trip I have talked to many different people and found out about totally new life concepts, which inspired me to create my world of working differently. For example there was Bob, an American who founded and manages the Ahhhh Bali Bed & Breakfast in Bali and makes sure all his guests from all over the world have the best stay with his individual tips. Or Mark, an Australian, who almost lives on his boat and brings tourists to the amazing Whitsunday Islands almost every day. Or Emily, who decided against an office job for becoming self-employed and starting to work as a life coach. She actually finished writing her first e-book in Ubud.

Maybe working as a diving instructor on the Maldives would be just perfect for you? Or what about teaching English in Nicaragua? Let your creativity run free, if you really want to change something!

4. You need less for life than you think!

If you’re travelling for months and always wear the same clothes you don’t care eventually and don’t think about which treasures are slumbering in your closet back home. Clothes become secondary and luxury products (yes, I’m a woman!) like cosmetics, high-tech devices and other „important“ belongings don’t matter anymore. It’s other things that really make you happy!

Of course I wouldn’t deny that during nights in open bungalows with all different bugs on the walls and ceiling I was really looking forward to my cozy bed, fresh and lovely smelling laundry and a few favorite pieces from my closet.

5. It’s really worth it to break the routine!

You think you can’t eat fish with rice or soup for breakfast? You believe you are a night owl because you don’t get out of bed in the mornings? At home you’re lazy and prefer to take the subway rather than hopping on your bike or walking? On your trip everything is different. You will feel that it will make you so happy to break of your routine and see how you’re changing. Be open, try out everything, take everything you’re offered and break the routine, the ordinary!

Back home, keep the habits you have taken on. For example, starting the day with some exercise, drinking a smoothie every day or walking instead of taking the subway, even it’s a one hour walk. These habits will help you to keep up the vibe of your trip and don’t let you fall back into the routine of your daily life.

6. Going out for dinner every day is so convenient!

Especially in Asian countries you will rarely cook. It’s just too cheap to eat in small restaurants just around the corner. When I got home I needed to undergo a process of adaption again and was overwhelmed what to eat every day. I was hungry but totally uncreative and found out that it’s really some sort of stress that’s eliminated if you always being cooked. Lucky me that I stayed 2 weeks with my Mom first who looked after me and treated me like a baby.

Tips that will help you to settle back in and wash away the fear of the unknown future!

1. Clean your apartment before leaving!

Before leaving everything behind you should get your apartment shipshaped: clean up, wash up dirty dishes, put clean sheets on the bed and do the laundry. Also very important: thoroughly clean the fridge, otherwise you will be welcomed by disgusting mould!

If you enter a tip-top apartment you can concentrate on settling in again and don’t need to touch the cleaning rags. Additionally, you will feel so much more comfortable than in a messy apartment. It’s actually just a small detail, but it really makes a difference! I can already feel it if I’m away for only a week.

2. Clear out your closet and your apartment!

If you hadn’t had the heart to put your closet and apartment in order, now is the time. You may have noticed that you can live with less but are still excited about the wealth of clothes you own – but ask yourself: Do I really need all of this? The answer is: NO. Even at home you always wear the same pieces and most of the clothes stay in your closet unworn.

So please be honest to yourself, have a look at your closet and ask yourself: When was the last time I wore this piece and is it still my style? I can tell you, at the end it’s gonna be a massive bunch of clothes if you do it precisely and honestly.

Sell these cleared out treasures at the flea market, online or donate them to a charity organization. You can image how happy refugees will be about a warm sweater or trouser in their current situation.

Conclusion: After having freed from the burden of the past you have space in your closet and eventually made other people really happy! What else is there more satisfying?

3. Meet friends and reminisce about your trip!

Now you’re back and all your friends want to know everything about your big trip. This can be great on the one hand since you can revive all the great experiences you had, but on the other hand it can get pretty annoying to tell everyone the same story over and over again. Therefore, here is my tip: bring together as many friends as you have and cook something from the country you’ve travelled through! Maybe you have participated in a cooking class like me in Vietnam and thereby can implement your plans to cook some of the recipes at home.

The alternative is to spread meeting friends and leave some time in between. Thereby you don’t get annoyed but are rather happy to show all your pictures again. Don’t take it as a reason to get depressive, rather be happy to share all these great moments with your family and friends. You will soon feel how nice it is being back home with your favorite people, establish relations and attract honest interest in you and your experiences.

4. Take as much time as you need and don’t rush!

In my opinion it’s the absolute horror to go on a long trip and only have a few days after your return until you start a new job. This just won’t work out! You need at least a month to settle in again and work up all the impressions and experiences.

If you need to find a new job, take your time until you know what you really want to do. It took me 3 months until I decided to get self-employed and started to work for Off The Path. Until then I enjoyed my free time, went to the gym more often, did some smaller trips in Europe and a lot of research what kind of job I would be interested in. At the end I had thought about everything: becoming a photographer, graphic designer or even importing stuff from all over the world and opening an online shop. Luckily I skipped all this because it just wouldn’t have been me.

You can find several tests online that might help you to find out about your strengths. In addition, there are many books that can help you find your real passion or gain clarity about the requirements your future job needs to fulfill.

So please, don’t stress yourself and don’t get frustrated by the rejections, better enjoy life and take your time. By now everyone has found something new, including myself. And – I didn’t had to make any compromises and am happy all over!

5. Carry out your plans!

Your big trip should be a turning point of your life! Falling back into old patterns and routine would really be a pity, don’t you think? During your trip probably many ideas had come to your mind that you want to implement back home. Would you like to learn a new language or refresh one? Or do you want to join a sewing class or learn how to play tennis on a professional level? Do it! Choose a class and maybe a friend to join you and start!

I admit, my list was long and I didn’t make it to cross off all it. But that’s not the point. At home you might have other priorities and it’s still a good feeling to even having implemented parts of it and it keeps your trip still alive.

6. Start planning a new trip!

This one is definitely not a secret anymore, but it really helps! Many travellers run away again soon after coming back home because their wanderlust is so big. You may also think: why haven’t I just stayed longer? If your last stop was Asia for example you could have visited so many more countries just around the corner. Now they have moved into a far distance not only money wise. It will help you to create a ray of hope you can work towards and look forward to. Maybe only in a few months, but still.

So please don’t hurry and stress yourself. Take your time to settle in again, but start planning a new trip. A little bit of dreaming will help you to get over the reality of not lying under palm trees anymore. It doesn’t even have to be another long-distance trip. Even short trips are very fulfilling and will maybe show you how beautiful Europe can be! Beautiful destinations are sometimes only a couple of hours away.

Maybe you should also think about becoming a digital nomad and working from the most beautiful spots in the world? This was actually my starting point of research. Of course you can’t do every job location-independent, but maybe it feels right for you to orientate yourself in a new direction like online marketing, website designing or blogging.

Coming back home and finding out what you really want for your future is definitely not easy. I wish you all the best and good luck!

Do you have any tips for settling in? How did you feel after coming back from a long trip?

Sebastian Canaves
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