How to Go Home After Traveling… Without Going Crazy -
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How to Go Home After Traveling… Without Going Crazy

Little Corn Island

 

Sometimes I wonder how I’ve had an easier time adjusting to living in the remote jungle, or eating unidentifiable street food in Asia, or navigating the hectic maze of Morocco, than I have simply coming home.

 

I wonder how the shock of what’s familiar, can sizzle my brain with a force far greater than a cockroach the size of my fist or a street congested with motorcycles and donkey carts. I wonder how despite the many comforts, a world that I once lived in, can feel so devoid of what I’ve grown to love.

 

Little Corn Island

 

I wonder, how does reverse culture shock bite sharper than culture shock?

 

Little Corn Island

 

Over the last three and a half years, I’ve returned to my hometown of Seattle seven times. You’d think that at this point, the shock would wear off. You’d think that it would no longer affect me. But, it still does. I still experience reverse culture shock, every time I come home.

 

And from what I hear again and again, from friends, readers, and travel bloggers, is that I’m not alone in this feeling. For those of us who have the travel bug, going home feels hard.

 

Granada Nicaragua

 

But this past year, coming home has gotten easier for me. And not because I’ve gotten my travel fix or finally satisfied my wanderlust itch.

 

It’s gotten easier because I’ve decided to approach my life differently. I’ve decided that the answer isn’t always running away to the next tropical destination. The answer is making peace with where I am, wherever that may be.

 

Granada Nicaragua

 

So how do you do it? How do you make peace with where you are, when it’s not all that awesome? How do you go home after seeing the great big beautiful world with more freedom than you ever knew possible… without going crazy?

 

Little Corn Island

 

Stop Comparing “What Is” With “What Was”

 

I know how dull the city streets and skyscrapers can look in comparison to golden sand beaches and vibrant jungles. I know how empty the suburbs and shopping malls can appear in comparison to beehive communities and bustling artisan markets. I know how boring routine can feel in comparison to life on the road. I know that when you compare climax to stasis, stasis falls flat.

 

But the only thing that makes one experience better than the other, is your perception. And in truth, magic lives everywhere.

 

Try experiencing this time and place without applying it to a background of other experiences. Try to feel it exactly as it as, unaffected by what else you’ve done and what else you’ve seen. Try to appreciate where you are right now, rather than comparing it to what in retrospect seems “better.” This present moment, is the only thing that actually exists, so you might as well enjoy it.

 

Granada Nicaragua

 

Radically Accept

 

Many times I struggled when coming home (read my post The Hardest Part About Coming Home) because I couldn’t accept the image I had of the person I was when I lived here. In turn, I judged myself when I noticed those old behaviors arise, I judged others when I saw my former self in them, and I judged my environment for being the driving force behind all of it.

 

But last winter I decided to actually step into the shadow of my former self and fill it with light. Since then, everything has become easier.

 

So you came home and you started acting like less than your best self. It happens. Own it. Allow it. Maybe you had a mind-blowing experience on the road that changed you forever, and come home to find your friends and family haven’t changed at all. You can get frustrated over the fact that they don’t “get it,” or you can accept them for who they are, redefine your relationship if necessary, and move forward. Maybe where you are physically isn’t as beautiful, or interesting, or laid back as life on the road, but you are here now. And this present moment is the only place to find real happiness.

 

Accept others, yourself, and your environment, and you will breathe infinitely more joy into your experience, whether you’re traveling or not.

 

Granada Nicaragua

 

Talk to People Who “Get It”

 

You wouldn’t expect an alcoholic to quit the bottle without the support of others, would you? So why would you expect that when you go cold turkey off the travel drug, you can do it alone?

 

And I don’t mean spending time with friends and family from home. I mean talking to people who have been through reverse culture shock and have found a way to handle it. Talk to other wanderlust friends, people who are out on the road, and particularly those who have also recently come home. Even if it turns into a bitch fest of why you hate the United States, it’s helpful to remember that you’re not crazy. Other people go through this, you’re not alone, and you will survive.

 

Little Corn Island

 

Make a Gratitude List

 

Yep. Do it. Do it now. Write out everything that you’re grateful for, and any struggle you may be experiencing will lighten. I promise. Do this daily and watch your life transform.

 

Granada Nicaragua

 

Embrace the True Meaning of Adventure

 

I heard a wonderful quote the other day that went something like this, “adventure is life reconsidered.” Adventure is taking a step into unknown territory. And if you’re actually living in the present moment, that means you’ve always in the midst of adventure. But living in the present moment is surprisingly difficult to do.

 

One of the things I love so much about world travel, is that through adventures and misadventures, I find myself pulled into the present. I find myself so immersed in what is happening now. That makes life feel so much richer.

 

How can you bring that essence into the way that you do everything? Can you make even your daily practices and your interactions an adventure, by pushing your own boundaries and comfort zones? What happens when you start saying yes to things that scare you, in an exciting way? What happens when you start sharing parts of yourself that want to come out, but you’re afraid to express? What happens when you start setting boundaries that feel uncomfortable, yet so relieving at the same time?

 

Travel is a beautiful adventure that I would never trade for anything in the whole world, but the journey of the self, is the greatest adventure of all.

 

Granada Nicaragua

 

Do What Makes You Happy

 

Pretty much every time I come home, I notice myself creep into old patterns and habits that don’t make me happy. I stop doing yoga as often, I lax on my daily meditations, I get lazy about going out and exploring. It’s like the simple act of being home leads me to stop doing all of the things that normally make me happy.

 

Anyone else with me on this one?

 

I’m willing to bet that a lot of the routines and habits that we have when traveling, could in fact be replicated at home. No, it won’t be same, but it will certainly make the transition easier.

 

Instead of falling back into an old routine that seems “natural” in this environment, consciously make the decision to set a new one. What are the things that you know make you happy? How can you bring them into your life at home too?

 

If you need some inspiration, read my post 24 Ways to Find Happiness No Matter Where You Are.

 

Little Corn Island

 

Remember Why You’re Here

 

In most cases, I’ll assume that coming home, for whatever reason, was your choice. You decided that this was what you needed to do at this given time. Though despite the fact that you chose to be here, it can often feel like you’re trapped. That’s why you need to remember why you’re here to begin with.

 

Are you here to make more money so you can get back on the road? Are you here to have the time and space so that you can develop a business that you can do from anywhere? Are you here to spend time with people you love, who are important enough to stop traveling for? Are you here because your body and your spirit told you it was time to take a rest?

 

What are you ultimately hoping to create or experience? How can being home help facilitate that? Can you set some goals that help you stay motivated and focused, even through the challenge?

 

Little Corn Island

 

Be Patient

 

It takes time. Be patient. Lighten up. Smile. Know that like all things, this too shall pass.

 

Taganga Colombia

 

Allow Yourself the Space to Grow

 

Sometimes the struggle you feel is more than a transition that you need to just breathe through. Sometimes the struggle comes from living in a way that doesn’t express what you feel in your heart. Sometimes the struggle comes from realizing that you don’t belong here anymore, no matter how much you think you should.

 

Allow yourself the space to grow. Even when the growth comes with pain.

 

Absolutely find peace, contentment, and happiness in this moment. But also find the courage to do whatever it takes, to follow your bliss. Life is too short, and too long, for anything else.

 


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Comments

  1. This post is particularly interesting to me because I’m a traveller at heart, but have spent the last too many years at home. There is a purpose to it all though, and I’m finding my salvation to be zoning in on the essence of what it is I love about travel, adventure and living closely with nature, and expressing those things through various creative outlets. I will travel again though (hopefully sooner rather than later), once I’ve mastered the art of earning money in a more sustainable way doing things that feed my soul rather than stifle me! It’s been a long time in the making but I think I’m getting there! Excited to read about more of your beautiful adventures soon!

  2. I came to the states towards the end of March after doing a year in Australia and I often feel like my life has been divided into two parts – before Australia and after.

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 25, 2015 at 8:04 am

      I totally totally understand. I call it “B.C.” for myself, Before Costa Rica aka My Past Life. Once you’ve been woken up, you can’t go back to sleep 😉

  3. My daughter, my boyfriend who does not have wanderlust, my aging parents, and my adorable little dog keep me “grounded” here (for a few more years) when I would love to be off on adventures elsewhere. Surfing has been my savior while I am here. I paddle out past everyone and pretend I am the only one out there. I love the water at my surfing spot more than every other ocean/body of water that I have ever been in around the world. It is the perfect temperature, clarity, and enough dolphins and seals to keep me feeling pretty lucky. Without surfing I would be spinning.

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 25, 2015 at 8:05 am

      Yes I can totally imagine how much that must help. I miss the ocean dearly, but I go walking on logs on the rocky “beach” here on the puget sound at sunset, and it brings me so much peace.

  4. Matthew Cheyne Says: August 24, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    Where can I start Camille :) ?

    This is truly an awesome read and what I needed to read right now. There is so much great advice in this that can applied throughout all areas of life, not just coming home from time on the road.

    Your advice of stopping comparisons either to self or other, radical acceptance and talking to people who get it really hit the nail on the head for me in particular.

    In fact the Buddhist teacher Tara Brach has a book entitled “Radical Acceptance” of which I can highly recommend based on the many excerpts I have read from the book. She came out of a less than ideal childhood and was able to resolve all the different aspects of her personality and life that were less than whole. The URL for it is long but if people want to look into getting it, they can from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Acceptance-Embracing-Heart-Buddha/dp/0553380990/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440480743&sr=8-1&keywords=radical+acceptance+by+tara+brach

    I really felt as though this piece was written for me in particular – the content of it was so powerful.

    As somebody who aspires to one day write and teach Buddhism and Buddhist meditation both online and in person through one on one, group contact and retreats, I already speak to people “who get it”. I find their full and frank advice extremely valuable. It saves me from having to reinvent the wheel of my life and gets me closer to my destination than I would otherwise have been.

    Thank you. I will treasure this post always.

    Thank you again for who you are, what your are doing and what you will do in the future (great things) :)

    Matthew

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 25, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Aw thank you Matthew. I love and appreciate your comment as always. Thank you for who you are, what you are doing, all that you have done already, and all that you will do in the future.

  5. Nice tips! I go through a bit of this every time I visit home too! I agree with where you said you feel like you have to deal with people’s perception of you, or an old image of yourself that you don’t think applies anymore. I especially can relate to what you said about how you see friends and family and how they seem to have stayed the same. It frustrates me a little too sometimes. I want them to see how I’ve grown as a person, too, but that is sometimes hard if I fall into old patterns.

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 25, 2015 at 8:09 am

      I totally totally feel you. And it’s not easy. BUT that’s why it’s practice, learning and growing. If we never struggled and we were all enlightened beings, we wouldn’t be human 😉 xo

  6. Robbi Rose Says: August 25, 2015 at 10:58 am

    There are no coincidences… I needed this and I got it.

    I’m still trying to figure out my next move and so much of my energy has been siphoned off to feeling out of place in the space I knew so well that I haven’t been able to focus. I’m back again after traveling because I needed to be here for family, but now I’m coming to understand that I also needed to be here for me. I need to get comfortable with all my changes and accept that the change process for others is not running on my personal growth schedule. Nor should theirs be…

    Heck I need to get clear that I may not have grown as much as I would have liked to believe.

    This article has helped me begin the process of self examination with more compassion and patience, and to remember that I am my own peace keeping mission worthy of my full attention and mercy.

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 26, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Robbi, that is so so so awesome that this article has offered you some support and clarity. And you seem to have such a high level of awareness which is most of the work done already 😉 Keep choosing love and everything will flow, I promise <3 I love and believe in you!

  7. “Remember why you’re here” I love this section! This is what I’m doing now. Travel is my favorite thing, but the way I learn the most about myself is through intimate relationships. And that’s why I’m not traveling now. I feel like I need to learn more before I can go on my next big travel adventure. Great article as always <3

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 26, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Thank you sweetheart <3 You have such wisdom and intuition and I know that you are making the progress that you need to be making now, which is why you are where you are. It will just make the global adventure that much sweeter when the time comes. PS Sitting in the airport in Costa Rica now.

  8. Camille, is it ever hard for you to leave?

    I’m leaving indefinitely in about a month. I’m selling/getting rid of my belongings, and following my heart. But I’m terrified. You talk about going back to Seattle to visit. I don’t have that. I don’t have a “home.” Once I leave, and give up my apartment, I’m essentially homeless. Do you feel the same way? Are you essentially just a visitor when you come back, but your home is elsewhere?

    I’m excited to leave, but worried if I’ll miss my life here. I wonder if everyone feels that anxiety.

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 26, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      Hey sweetheart I totally understand. That’s really exciting that you’re leaving, but I know that the unknown can be scary. When I come home to Seattle, I come and stay with my family. I don’t have a place of my own anywhere in the world, but my heart feels at home in Costa Rica. I felt an immediate connection there, and over the years, after many visits it feels like home. I think when you decide to stay in one spot for at least a month it’s easier to have that connection.

  9. I don’t think my last commented posted. If it did, sorry for the spam!

    Are you ever nervous about leaving Seattle? I’m leaving to travel indefinitely in a month, and essentially becoming homeless. I don’t have a home base to come back to visit unfortunately. When I come back, I’ll be starting at square one.

    It sounds like you consider Costa Rica home? Were you ever afraid you wouldn’t be able to make the same types of connections with people? Build friendships? I’m so excited to leave, but so scared to acknowledge what I’m leaving behind.

  10. Hi,i love the feeling happy in the moment where ever we are,mostly all your words resonate with me,we share a similar perspective on life,very refreshing and thankyou for your truth and inspiration.shanti.

  11. i have always had a problem coming home after a vacation. It would usually take a week to get used to the fact that my life is normal again…and I will have to wait for another six months for it to be exciting again.

    Your post definitely helps.

  12. Reverse culture shock is really worse, I also just came back to home and…ufff. Thank you for this article!

  13. So nice to read where you are coming from. So nice to find a like minded person. Thankyou for sharing. You go girl! Have been thinking and praying there must be a better way and you have just provided part of the answer. Blessings to you. K