I meant to publish this before my flight… but seeing how I have had half an hour of internet in the past 3 days…. here it is, a day late…
You’re probably reading this now as I sit on a flight somewhere over the Atlantic, on my way back to Southern California. The plan is to be back home for 3 weeks before flying to Southeast Asia on a one-way ticket… this time with no set return date in the books.
I’m still in a bit of disbelief that this Europe trip has ended, but a part of me is ready to be home for a while too. By this point, D and I are both absolutely exhausted and the idea of doing nothing sounds so, so good. And we’re grateful for 3 weeks of free accommodation (will be crashing at D’s parents’ place) and the luxury of laundry machines!
Ten months ago, when we were booking our flight for Europe, I was adamant that we get round-trip tickets, so that we can come home to somewhere warm and familiar after the long trip (surely we’d be homesick by then!). I thought returning home would be easy. And definitely joyful. But now as I’m only hours away from landing back on home soil, I feel apprehensive.
There’s the saying that “you can’t go home again.” I never really understood that because of course you can! Home will always be there waiting for you. There will always be loved ones waiting eagerly to see you again. Home will always be a place where you’re welcomed and loved
Home isn’t so much a physical place, as it is a place where you feel safe, warm, and loved.
Except it doesn’t exactly feel like that.
All I know is that going home after a stint of long term travel is not the same as after a vacation.
After a vacation, you return home and your friends and family can’t wait to hear about your trip. You come off the high of vacation-land and re-enter seamlessly back into the routine of life. Your own bed and pillow will feel amazing. Nothing will have changed.
But long term travel is different. And during the months that you’re away, strangers are making a life in your old house and everything is changing.
Maybe your family didn’t support you and you start to wonder if they ever will. As the months drag on, you start becoming more and more fearful that maybe you’ve lost them for good. And then before you know it, you’re on a homeward bound flight, faced with the realization that you no longer have a warm home to return to.
You fear that instead of coming back to hugs and laughter, it’s coming back to face a barrage of questions and tears. So maybe it’s easier to just not face it.
And you also worry that as time goes on, your friendships back home won’t be the same anymore. You worry that they’ll feel like they can’t relate to you anymore. You may feel like that you’re now a burden to your friends who have to rearrange their schedules to fit you in during the short window you’re back. Their lives have continued in your absence and now instead of “one of the group”, you’re slowly becoming an invader.
But really, who can blame them?? After all, you’re the one who left, and who will once again leave in a few short days.
And after all… weddings, birthdays, babies & other important events have happened, and you weren’t there for them. Your friends who meant the world to you… you gave them up for the world.
The pessimistic side of you wonders if anyone even gives a crap that you’re back. (Except for your mom, of course… which is pretty much mandatory.)
This long term travel thing… it’s a lonely business.
You’ve chosen a life that few understand, but many either disapprove or envy. For the ones who do understand, you’re still separated by oceans, months, or even years. You wonder who will be left at the end of it all?
I don’t mean to sound so melodramatic (and confession: this could entirely be the PMS talking), because I really am happier now than I ever thought was possible. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for being able to live this life. But this is also the reality of living such a life. You’re disconnected. You inadvertently alienate peple. And maybe, worst of all, you feel homeless.
So I guess all this to say… I’m going home and I’m nervous. And wish me luck.
Anyone else has ever felt this way? How did you deal with returning home after a long period of travel?
(P.S., I’m aware that I’ve only been traveling for 6 months and not 3 years. I guess I’m just feeling bittersweet about it because for once, I don’t know when the next homecoming will be. And also, I don’t know why I wrote this whole thing in 2nd person… when I really mean “me”.)
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