How to survive homecoming
I'm sorry I've been terrible when it comes to updating this page and keeping everyone posted with new and exciting travel stories. Now that I've somewhat settled into a steady motion, hopefully I will be better about telling stories, posting about more adventures and keeping a general level of stoke alive.
It isn't without good reason and perhaps a few good lessons though. For those of you who are travelling or have traveled for an extended period of time in the past - you will absolutely be able to relate to this.
Part of the reason I haven't been fully present within this platform, within my surroundings and within myself is because people may or may not tell you (but i'm going to tell you now) - Homecoming is a bloody huge jolt to your system. Quite frankly so much more intense than I had ever imagined and it has taken me longer than I expected to settle back down from the hype of travelling. In fact, I still don't think I have.
But instead of making this a long piece about feelings and recollections of strange moments, I think it's best to just make a simple 'how to survive homecoming' piece about the things I wish I knew and did, and the things I did do that I found really helped settle me down.
Just to get a general idea of this feeling you have to imagine your natural daily routine. For me, I went to work, went to the same gym, hung out with my usual group of friends (that I still absolutely adore), went to the same places to party on a Friday or any given occasion and saw the same people pulling the same ol' tricks. All of which I really enjoyed, I loved where I stayed and doing all these things. I think at a stage it was definitely safe to say I was the ultimate routine person. I did well in it.
But a stage came where I thought, this can't be IT! So I travelled, and when you decide to travel you purposely decide to unhinge yourself from that comfort zone and routine. You have to, so that you can be comfortable in the uncomfortable. And oddly enough, you really do end up becoming completely comfortable in this un-routined, uncomfortable lifestyle. In fact, it's what you thrive off of. It's where your impulse and inspiration come from. Where you prove your bravery and capability to nobody else but yourself, which matters most.
And then you come home...
And it's as if nothing has changed but you. Naturally everyone evolves and grows and life goes on. But everything is suddenly familiar and the routine you purposely left somehow gets thrust upon you even though you don't want it. It is the quintessential square peg round hole situation. It send your emotions, thoughts and instincts into a complete frenzy and remaining present in a moment is not quite as easy as you had found whilst travelling.
So here are a few things you may encounter if you are coming home from a stint of travelling, and some (hopefully helpful) advice on how to deal :)
"All objects lose by too familiar a view"
- John Dryden
When you are abroad and listen to other travelers perspective of your own country, you realise something that I think we all inherently know - Our country is absolutely beautiful! And you know you took it for granted. So, you vow that when you come back you're going to explore it in the exact same way you've explored these other countries you've visited. But unfortunately familiarity seems to dull the edge of perception. You end up being thrust back into the same habit of routine you left with and somehow you lose your eyes that you wandered so inquisitively into the world with.
My Advice: try to look at everything with fresh eyes.
This is difficult, you can't un-see, un-experience, un-live a place. I remember even saying to my mother, 'I wish I could come back not knowing South Africa and Cape Town as a place at all because then when I see it, it will take my breathe away.' This can't be done, unfortunately, but we can try our best.
Surf more, hike more, don't go to the same place twice, always say yes and don't be afraid to do it all alone! Traveling alone made me so content. I saw everything through my own eyes, with my own perspectives. Why do I not do this at home? My natural instinct at home to plan things with friends and family, so you end up never being alone!
Traveling alone made me curious, made me ask questions everywhere I went, made me make friends and chat to complete strangers about their journey. This should not change the second you get home. This is the gift you give to yourself when travelling, but it is one that needs to be harnessed and practiced - because it does fade in familiarity.
So when you get home, try to see everything as new again, a clean slate and see it all alone! This way you won't fall back into the perspectives of your previous comfort zone.
People are going to talk about marriage, baby's and the future...a lot.
This one I really struggled with, the conversations.
I found when you travel, your conversation is exactly as is. You find two inquisitive people out in the world, observing. With this your conversation can range from philosophical beliefs, storytelling at it's best of faraway places, buddhist monks passing on life lessons and tattoos, the nature of things and how we are adapting to them, the value of observing and 'being' instead of being someone that doesn't observe. The route of the word serendipity told by a man that works in the archives in Venice...the list goes on.
Unfortunately and I suppose to a certain extent, naturally your familiar surroundings don't really want to have these conversations. Immediately the conversation turns from exciting topics to questions like; 'So what you doing now?', 'How are you making money?', 'What are your plans for the future?'.
And to be perfectly honest with all of you - I hate this type of conversation. My reason; because the answers are short, obvious and don't open up a dialog of interesting and unique thoughts. When I answer these questions I feel like i'm in a job interview and my answers are going to sound like job interview 'what can I say to make you happy' type answers.
People are also going to load a whole lot of emotional conversation about things you've been completely out of touch with for your travelling time. It's difficult because to a certain extent you cannot relate. So you feel horrible when your advice is pretty crappy and you know it. But, don't feel like you have to apologise for it.
The reality is, life moves on and directions change, yours just changed completely and coming back into it - you realise just by how much! I think the only thing to be done here, is smile and accept the fact that your journey has just hit a wind shear and you might be heading elsewhere. But stick out the job interview questions, because I think it's also important to understand that not only is it you that is in unfamiliar territory, your family and friends are too. You can't expect them to relate to you and your experiences either so these are the 'go to' questions anyone would ask. Just answer them with a smile on your face and a glass of wine in your arsenal.
Even when you're broke, go out anyway!
Everyone is going to want to catch up and you are also going to want to see everyone, this usually happens over drinks or a night out. You're not always going to have that end-of-month payment party because you either; just got back and aren't in a new job or you, like me, have decided online & freelancing is where you want to position yourself - in this case payment is almost never guaranteed. But if you are also like me, and have felt that urge to kick off and travel again in the New Year it is clear that your time is limited and life being what it is, time cannot be wasted.
So knowing this, my advice - Say Yes anyway. Go out have fun, enjoy...something always seems to workout in the end. ;)
There's always two sides of the spectrum
On the other side of the spectrum to the above, you're going to feel as if you are being pulled in a million different directions all at once. It's going to be a case of; you have to see and stay with your family, you want to see your friends, your friends want to see you but they have their routine going and you don't have a routine so 'how possibly can you not fit into my schedule?'...but you do want to do your own thing too, well...you get the point. It's going to exhaust you, and make you feel completely unbalanced. I really struggled with this one because with my recently polished go-getter say 'yes' to everything attitude, I forgot to consider my own space, my own mind and my own need for moments of silence where I can reflect.
So my advice here: you are still a priority, know this and know when you need space to regroup and reflect. Don't feel bad if you can't see everybody, you don't have to apologise for that. Just as much as they want you to fit into their routine, let them know that although you lack a routine, it doesn't mean you don't have things to do. That is life and that is fine.
it's a jolt, but enjoy!
It is a huge change from traveling and somehow it feel as though people expect you to have your life together because it seems like they think you spent the last year figuring it out. This could not be further from the truth! I didn't figure out my life traveling, I observed life. There' a huge difference there and to a certain extent personally, for the better. Life isn't something that has to be 'figured out' - that's a losing task. But if we can observe life in all it's different forms and all the different cultures, religions, practices and beliefs, I think we come closer to finding and mixing many different elements we observed and harness a way about life that works for us.
So yes, it's a jolt and you don't have it figured out. Good! Observe, change, grow, keep observing, keep changing, keep growing and don't ever feel the need to fit the mould or figure it out.
Just adapt and enjoy!