The Hardest Part of Travel is Going Home

Many moons ago before eighteen-year old me left for her first solo adventure, if someone asked me what I thought the hardest part of travel would be, without a doubt I probably would have said something like eating the local food or navigating your way around a country you don’t know or understand.

But these days, as a relatively seasoned explorer of countries I probably shouldn’t go to alone, I’ve realised that for me the most difficult part of travelling is simply coming home at the end.

It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been away for, be it a week, a month or a whole year, or where exactly I’ve been, I always always always find going home more nerve-wracking than anything else. Just the thought of it absolutely petrifies me!

Jump out of a plane? Piece of cake! Swim with sharks at feeding time? No problemo! Navigate one of the world’s most dangerous cities alone? Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But go home? Go back to normality and family and friends?

I’d rather jump back in with the sharks, thanks.

It’s actually incredibly disorientating returning home after however many months ‘on the road’ in some of the most far flung corners of the world.

Because when you travel you grow accustomed to a certain way of life that’s just different from all you knew before. You grow accustomed to living in a different language, paying in a different currency, driving on the opposite side of the road, eating food that’s sometimes still alive when you chew it. Depending on where you go, you get used to paying a pittance for life’s essentials like water, food and the odd trip to the cinema. You get used to the kindness of strangers. And when you go home, it’s just not the same.

onarock

Sometimes you need to leave to really see your own stomping ground.

The UK is unnecessarily expensive; we are a nation obsessed with money and making profit. The UK has way too many rules and regulations for its own good. We are so straight edge it’s actually funny. And the people? Well, sorry if this offends but they’re kind of rude. WE are kind of rude.

From the outside we may seem a little too polite – we say please and thank you for everything, we open doors for absolutely everyone and we put our rubbish in the bins (go us!). But when it comes to person-to-person communication, we are so damn rude!

We don’t say good morning to strangers, we tend not to do nice things unless there’s something in it for us and we have this really odd aversion of sitting next to strangers on public transport. Heck, if a stranger so much at smiles at us we’ll probably start mentally planning our own funeral because of course they want to murder us in our sleep.

Culture shock is real when you land in a new country for the first time.

Culture shock is even realer when you head home.

I know exactly what’s going to happen when my plane touches down at Heathrow on Saturday evening.

I’ll go through security and customs without so much as a smile from any of the officials. I’ll drag my bags from the carousel without a single offer of assistance from strangers or airport staff. I’ll go to buy a bottle of water from one of the little shops at arrivals and will be shocked and appalled by how much they’re charging. The miserable National Express driver will grunt as I board and I’ll take a seat. Nobody will sit next to me unless they can help it, no other passengers will make eye contact. I’ll spend the next three and a half hours staring out of the window listening to sad Avril Lavigne songs and pretending I’m in a 90s music video.

It’ll be cold. So, so cold! The food will taste bland. Traffic and roads will annoy me. Why can’t they just overtake each other?! For a while the money will confuse me; whereas before I could have confidently stuck my hand in my pocket and pull out a 50p piece by touch alone, now it’ll take me a good few seconds of fumbling about before I manage to scrape together that £1.20 I need to buy a bottle of coke. Which, by the way, will just taste weird.

Every morning for at least a week I’ll wake up confused as to where I am. Why does it look so miserable outside? Why is there no sun? Why can I smell bacon instead of garam masala?

For a while I’ll revel in the novelty of being home. I’ll eat way too much cheese, I’ll catch up with everyone I’ve missed, I’ll finally build the Lego Simpsons Kwik-E-Mart that’s been patiently waiting for me for a whole eight months, I’ll rejoice at not having to resort to charades when it comes to ordering my own food and I might cry at how good the WiFi is.

But after a while the honeymoon period will be over and I’ll be miserable, a little lost and completely out of sorts.

When you go on an extended trip you kind of forget that although you might not be there, life back home does go on. People go about their daily business the same as they always have, the only difference being you’ve swanned off somewhere to ride buffalos through the forest or something.

Your colleagues still go to work every day as they always have except you’re not there to share the lunch break jollies. Your family still get together for special occasions just like they always have, the only difference being you’re not there to jot down everyone’s takeaway orders. The restaurant you used to work at is still standing, still cooking and still raking in the dough, except everyone’s favourite barman is absent (FYI, that’s me, hi).

Oh Wales you pretty little thing

Oh Wales you pretty little thing

Life goes on with or without you.

Which makes it all the more difficult to just slip right back in where you left off.

I always find it extremely disorientating returning home after however many months ‘on the road’. And that feeling tends to stick around for a really, really long time.

Things happen when you’re away that you miss out on and by the time you get back, it’s old news that nobody really wants to talk about anymore. It’s as if you’ve woken up from a really long Sleeping Beauty-esque sleep with huge gaps in your memory that just can’t be filled.

You won’t know why your friend and her boyfriend broke up because it happened four months ago now and you know, that’s old news now so why even bother bringing it up? You might never find out what happened to make so-and-so quit their job and start selling homemade candles instead because you just weren’t there and you don’t really want to ask.

An attempt at taking photos..

When you go home, everything is different.

Life is not the same. And more importantly, you’re not the same.

Not to sound too cliché or reminiscent of a tree-hugging hippy but travel does change you. Things get put into perspective and your outlook on life is completely altered, hopefully for the better. So going home, trying to slip back into every day life is a lot harder than it seems.


Do you find it difficult re-adjusting to ‘normal’ life after a trip? I’d love to hear if others feel the same way!

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43 Comments

  1. 23rd November 2016 / 7:33 pm

    I literally couldn’t have put this better if I wrote it out 1000 times over, I feel like you spoke the words directly from my feelings.
    I’ve been trying to explain this to people but it is so so hard, I had never felt it until my year abroad but now I understand that travel really does change you- and its impossible to say without sound like a hippy I know but it’s true!
    It’s that mixture of feeling like you and your entire life/outlook on life has changed, clashing with the fact that everything at home has stayed the same.
    Some people will ask ‘how your trip was’ or something like that but they won’t care much if you just reply like ‘really good’ haha, then you’ll be expected to completely go back to normal! Even though you know you’ll never feel quite the same again!
    Oh writing this out is just depressing 🙁 I guess all we can do is just plan the next adventure xx

    • rhiydwi
      29th November 2016 / 12:19 pm

      Exactly! I’ve had a constant scowl on my face since getting back just because everything about this country is annoying me for absolutely no reason! I had to pay £1.99 for a bottle of water at Heathrow and almost punched the self-service machine I was so angry at it!
      I came across an article the other day (can’t find the link now..) and it mentioned ‘reverse culture shock’ which is a term I’d never heard of before but it rings sooo true now! xx

  2. 25th November 2016 / 2:32 pm

    Oh, god yes. I call it re-entry, as in bursting through the Earth’s atmosphere after a long strange floating trip outside it, and it can be harsh. I try to stay cocooned in my house for at least Day 1 because I am generally unit for human company. It’s not because I’m tired; I just want to re-enter gradually and people are the most jarring part of being back. Unlike with you, though, things improve every day for me with the honeymoon coming a few days later. Of course, then the itch starts up again soon after that, and the whole cycle begins again!

    • rhiydwi
      29th November 2016 / 12:39 pm

      Oh I wish I’d seen your comment before deciding meeting up with my friends on Day 1 was a good idea! Don’t get me wrong, it was lush to see them but I just felt like a walking talking zombie the whole time!
      That’s such a good way of explaining it – because sometimes it really does feel like you’re on a different planet when in fact it’s just a different country!

  3. 25th November 2016 / 8:52 pm

    I hate the sinking feeling of knowing real life is looming back on the horizon and I have to start thinking about it all again. It doesn’t help landing in Heathrow or Gatwick where people are even ruder and less friendly than in Wales and getting shouted at for not leaving room on an escalator or something equally beige.

    http://fourcatsplusus.co.uk – Amy x

    • rhiydwi
      29th November 2016 / 12:37 pm

      Yes!! I hate to say I hate England when there’s no rugby involved, but Heathrow really does make me hate England. And Stansted, oh my days Stansted is hell! If I could just land in Cardiff, be greeted by the world’s happiest T9 bus driver and then be in my own bed less than 45 minutes later, that’d be swell! x

  4. 2nd December 2016 / 6:19 am

    It’s SO hard, I completely agree! And the one thing that makes it the hardest is that people who haven’t done any sort of long term travelling, will never understand. They couldn’t. I couldn’t before I actually did it for myself. So yes, it’s hard to say it without sounding too hippie like, but it really is just that way.
    I really believe that if more people actually tried to immerse themselves in a different country, culture and climate for more than a week or two vacation, the world would be a better place!
    Now doesn’t that make me sound like a hippy?! Haha.
    As usual, loved this post Rhiannon!!!

    • rhiydwi
      3rd December 2016 / 12:54 am

      A family friend asked me today if I think I’ll settle down in the UK or abroad. I didn’t quite know how to tell her I don’t think I’ll ever settle! Not now. My feet are way too itchy for any of that.
      100% agree with you! The majority of the countries I’ve been to have definitely changed me for the better, and it’s all because I’ve properly gotten to grips with them and not just sat by the pool for 7 days straight. Except for Italy – Italy just turned me into a pizza snob.
      You sound like a hippy but in the best way! Haha!

      • 11th December 2016 / 3:44 am

        Oh I know exactly what you mean! Settle? Why do we have to SETTLE for anything?
        Haha I love Italy, I will definitely go back one day. I was so desperate for good cheese after leaving Asia that I ate it almost exclusively for the 7 days I was there!
        Glad I sound like a good hippy 🙂

  5. 12th December 2016 / 3:04 am

    This is completely ironic as I was writing something about post-travel depression just the other day. I, too, felt many of the same things you mentioned in this post. The culture shock being on of the biggest considering I was coming back from Japan to the United States. I find it hard to put down roots because my family was always on the move. Someday maybe I will be able to, but for now, I’m completely okay with the vagabond lifestyle!

    • rhiydwi
      13th December 2016 / 2:50 pm

      Oh wow, Japan to the US must have been a massive leap for you! I’m with you there – vagabond lifestyle suits me just fine for the time-being (:

  6. Ticker Eats The World
    12th December 2016 / 5:40 am

    Funny thing is that home for one person is a traveling destination for another, so UK has been a major traveling destination for me since I was a 2 year old. As for going home, I really don’t know what to make of it. Yes, getting back into the every day life can be boring at times especially if you are returning from an adventure, but then again it is the time at home that is often used to reflect back at those experiences and realize how lucky some of us are to have had this opportunity in the first place. The travel blues that hit a few days after returning home are tough no doubt.

    • rhiydwi
      13th December 2016 / 2:47 pm

      Yes, absolutely! The latter part of my trip was spent in India which to me was vibrant, exciting and to some extent exotic. I found excitement in the smallest of things, but to my Indian friends everything was boring abd same-y, and to them my home was “vibrant, exciting and exotic”.

  7. 12th December 2016 / 11:33 am

    Very true. Travel is so much about momentum, physically and emotionally. When that momentum comes to a stop at home, it can really smash into you.

  8. 12th December 2016 / 4:28 pm

    Great post. Although I partly agree and partly disagree.

    I wholeheartedly agree with how difficult it can be to return home after traveling. While it’s nice to have some familiarity, that same familiarity can quickly become boring when you’re used to constantly exploring new places and meeting new people. Plus, I’ve found very very few friends can really understand or relate to the experiences. In our case, we left careers to improve our quality of life and travel the world – that’s not something most people can even imagine doing and therefore find it difficult to relate to us (or us to them) now that we’re (temporarily) back. The way I look at it, this is just another evolution in life, and helps weed out friends that weren’t really friends to begin with.

    The part I disagree with is I think you’re way to hard on the UK 😉 I’ve lived in the UK before, and traveled there many times. We found locals in some other countries were much less friendly. And when we were there this summer, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food (and conversely disappointed with the food in other places where we thought it would be great). It may just be a case where your “hometown” just seems a little dull compared to the amazing places you see on the road. A cold, snowy day in Ontario, Canada (where I am right now) seems pretty dreary compared to the beaches I came from in Cyprus, but to a non-local maybe it looks like a winter wonderland. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

    Anyway, great post!

    • rhiydwi
      13th December 2016 / 2:57 pm

      Oh I have no issue with the UK. In fact, I’m actually quite fond of it 😉 I just share the sentiment of millions in that I hate London. It’s pretty to look at but I have always found people to be so unfriendly there compared to the rest of the UK, especially Wales (I’m not biased, I swear haha), and so landing there after an international trip just makes me super grumpy!
      And as for the food – everything seems bland after India! My poor taste buds will never be the same again 😉 Thanks so much for reading and giving your input – I really enjoyed reading it (:

  9. 13th December 2016 / 1:17 pm

    Loved reading your post and your honesty. Although, I can’t relate to not wanting to come home. I think most places and people in my country, the US, are friendly especially in the South. The only thing I hate is going back to routines and the 9-5.

    • rhiydwi
      13th December 2016 / 2:59 pm

      I feel like I should have been slightly more specific in this post – I don’t find the UK unfriendly as a whole, just London and mainly just in the airports haha. Oh, going back to routine is definitely the worst!

  10. 15th December 2016 / 1:57 am

    The thought of going home is scary for me also. It’s how my six-month trip has now turned into nearly three years traveling!

    • rhiydwi
      15th December 2016 / 1:21 pm

      Oh wow 3 years! That’s a bit of a long stretch.

  11. 16th December 2016 / 5:46 pm

    You have put it down so perfectly…hit the nail on the head. I think as travellers, we tend to create a different world for ourselves, and home is just not part of that world. And that is why, switching seems so tough.

    • rhiydwi
      18th December 2016 / 12:25 am

      Oh definitely! It’s so strange going back after some time, it’s almost like a different planet.

  12. 17th December 2016 / 9:56 pm

    Great post. Reverse Culture Shock is so damn hard to deal with, I got it really badly when I first returned home from living in Tokyo. I was depressed for about 2 years afterwards, so much so, that I eventually went overseas again – that was ten years ago, and I haven’t looked back since! However, now I no longer live in the UK (so don’t have the fear of it being my reality again), I absolutely LOVE going back to the UK.

    Yes, London airports still totally suck, but I love British supermarkets, pubs, and actually, I think the people in the UK are really friendly. Believe me, when you live in Central/Eastern Europe, everywhere else seems friendly!!

    • rhiydwi
      18th December 2016 / 6:20 pm

      I find it hits me even before I make it home; so much so that I almost always have a new trip booked before my current trip has even finished! Tokyo to the UK – wow, that must have been a hell of a shock to the system!
      Oh I think we’re friendly enough when we actually know each other – but when it comes to strangers (sitting next to them on buses, saying good morning in the street etc.) we’re just the worst.
      I’m dipping my toes into that area for the first time in Feb (does Montenegro count?!) so I’m excited to be able to compare!

  13. 20th December 2016 / 5:04 am

    I absolutely find this to be true! Returning home from studying abroad was nearly as hard as going off to study abroad in the first place. The hardest part for me is people who listen to my stories but I can tell they’re not actually engaged. I usually end up trailing off in the middle of my story and changing topics 🙁 coming home is hard!

    • rhiydwi
      22nd December 2016 / 2:28 pm

      YES!! That’s the absolute worst, when you’re getting really animated about retelling some story to a friend and you can just see their mind wandering off! To be honest that’s part of the reason why I keep this blog, so I don’t annoy too many real life people!

  14. 6th March 2017 / 1:28 pm

    You captured the true feelings of so many travel writers. It is amazing the difference that time away has on your memories of your home. While being on the road can wear on a person, being at home you find yourself filled with wanderlust. Thanks for this eloquent synopsis of a real life feeling.

  15. 6th March 2017 / 6:52 pm

    I love this post and totally relate. I even wrote a similar post last week just not as eloquently as what you have! Very glad I’ve found your blog!

  16. 7th March 2017 / 3:08 am

    You make an incredible real point here. Going back home, you don’t expect there to be any challenges, but there certainly are! I travel for the freedom, and there’s just not that kind of feeling at home. You were spot on!

  17. Sourav Aggarwal
    7th March 2017 / 7:02 am

    I love British supermarkets, pubs, and actually, I think the people in the UK are really friendly. Living in Central/Eastern Europe, everywhere else seems friendly!!

    • rhiydwi
      7th March 2017 / 9:50 am

      I keep meaning to clarify myself in the post – I specifically mean Central London 😛 I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Wales, but we take friendliness to the extreme down here! We apologise to doors if we shut them too hard. So comparatively C London is my worst nightmare!

  18. 7th March 2017 / 8:52 am

    100% agree with this, it’s a really hard feeling to describe and I’ve read so many people try but just not be able to get across exactly what its like, but you’ve really managed to. The worst is when youve spent so long taking care of yourself that as soon as you’re back its like a throwback to childhood again – your parents just want to look after you! It’s so strange how the biggest culture shock actually ends up being your own culture isnt it. Really well written!

    • rhiydwi
      11th March 2017 / 1:43 pm

      Oh my gosh, yes!! My stepdad asks me at least 16 times a day whether I’ve eaten. If I can manage to navigate my way around the world and keep myself fed and alive, I think I can manage a day being left at home alone at 24 years of age! Thanks for reading 🙂

  19. 8th March 2017 / 10:54 am

    The aftereffects of coming back from a trip are real hard to deal with. Everything looks boring and uninteresting. Loved reading your blog – totally relate to you!

  20. 9th March 2017 / 4:37 pm

    For me the hardest part of long term travel is washing my clothes. I often buy new clothes then donate them to homeless people when they need washing which sounds pretty bad! I love to come home though, clean air, beautiful views, good food, the friendly people of Yorkshire, get back to the gym and I love the unpredictable and cold weather too!

    • rhiydwi
      11th March 2017 / 1:41 pm

      See, if I was able to fly straight back into Wales I’d LOVE it! But London gets me down every single time without fail.

  21. 11th March 2017 / 3:51 am

    Thank you for this candid account!
    Though, I don’t agree with all of it. I always think that life is what you make it. I find that if you smile at people that look grumpy and have a nice word for them they will smile back (border police are different – they get paid to look grumpy all over the World…). I revel in the oddities of home and can smile at them because I know I don’t have to play the games.
    So my advice would be to change your outlook on these things. Try not to get frustrated about things being what they are at home or nostalgic about life somewhere else; instead, discover this old world with the new eyes you’ve brought back home!

    Happy continued travels!
    C

  22. 12th March 2017 / 5:09 am

    I loved this as coming home to Toronto’s bitter cold winter gave me similar feelings. We had such a terrible experience flying home from Australia and endured the same annoyances as we made our way back. I do agree that things are always different when you return, especially oneself.

    • rhiydwi
      13th March 2017 / 2:45 pm

      Absolutely! Although I definitely feel that if my home was somewhere slightly more sunny than the UK I’d be more than content returning to it…

  23. 12th March 2017 / 10:39 am

    Hey Rhiannon, I so totally hear you! But I don’t think the only problem is the UK or simply coming home. The problem is the conventional lifestyle that you are not necessarily made for. I think that the not smiling, unfriendly and cold part of returning to your country, you’ll have it for many western europeen countries. I experience exactly the same thing every time I’m returning to Luxembourg… I think you/we need to figure out a way of living and earning money that is in accordance with more open-mindedness perhaps. It’s difficult, bu it’s doable 🙂 I absolutely loved reading your post!

    • rhiydwi
      13th March 2017 / 2:47 pm

      That’s a great way of looking at it! And now you’ve pointed that out I actually feel slightly less resentful towards the UK, it’s not the country’s fault after all 😛

  24. 12th March 2017 / 10:45 am

    I can totally relate! Travel has ruined home for me too. I love my friends and family but a week or two tops is the maximum time I can handle being home. Now I had to come back to finish my drivings license and remove my tonsils and I am already dying inside that I have had to stay so long. Also, the way I see the world has changed so much and I think completely differently than people at home. Traveling is a blessing and a curse at the same time, haha.

    • rhiydwi
      13th March 2017 / 2:48 pm

      Oh bless you, hope you’re recovering well from your tonsils removal! I’ve been home for four days now and I’m already itching to get going again, but for the first time in years I don’t have any immediate travel plans. It’s a strange feeling.

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