Returning home after travelling the world: How to make a post-travel plan
When we talk about solo travel, the scariest moments are surely the ones when we get started:
- getting on the plane for the first time
- landing in a new place alone
- negotiating your new reality as a solo traveller
- finding people to hang out with whilst you travel.
I don’t know about you, but just thinking about all of that can easily make me feel a bit clammy.
A few years ago, I would have agreed that those first days of any new trip are the hardest. You struggle with the adjustment of leaving your life behind and starting again somewhere new. But now I’ve come full circle and pressed the pause button on five and a half years of backpacking, I can tell you that returning home after travelling the world can feel pretty painful too.
What does it feel like to return home after travel?
Are post travel blues a thing? Most definitely.
Do a quick Internet search and you’ll find lots of articles all talking about the same thing. Some of them actually use the term post travel depression and it seems that for some, the reality of coming home again after travelling can be pretty distressing.
There doesn’t seem to be any easy way to ease yourself back in. Once home, your old environment envelops you: traffic, people, culture, language… Suddenly the old familiar faces and routines are there in front of you again and it can be overwhelming
Just like attempting to rip off a plaster, I went for the short and sharp technique because, I didn’t know how else to do it. Once my feet touched home soil again, I had no plans to resume my old wandering ways.
I just stopped travelling.
Then, I floundered.
Although it felt great to sleep in my old bed and not in a shared dorm and pick my (clean!) clothes out from a drawer instead of my packing-cube organised backpack, those beautiful luxuries quickly became the norm again.
And then what?
I was faced with a big void and nothing to fill it. That was what was most difficult to overcome and the one thing I would strongly suggest you dedicate some time to before you board that plane.
How to make a post-travel plan
What post-travel options are available to you?
Now is the time to have your post-travel plan organised. Kind of like the strategy you may have made before you went travelling in the first place, I think it’s a great idea to also have some rough road map for your life post-travel.
Grab a notebook and take some time to brainstorm your lift post-travel. What does it look like? Where do you see yourself and what do you want to be doing? How are you going to earn money? Who will you live with? What kinds of things will you be doing for fun?
Below I’ve listed out some things to consider as you create your mind map of life at home (or wherever you intend to be!) once you’ve returned from travelling.
What are some of your post-travel options?:
- Go off travelling again! Sounds simple, but there are so many variations of travel open to you: long-term work as you go, multiple shorter trips, living abroad…
- Move to a different country and find work/voluntary placements/study
- Move to another part of your own country for work – just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean to have to be at home…
- Plan a career change – now is a good a time as any with your refreshed experience
- Take the opportunity to study – the current break in your employment may mean it’s the perfect time to start that course you’ve always fancied
- Continue to develop your new language (or anything else….) skills (if you’ve picked up some lingo or a new talent on your travels!)
- Volunteer – to expand your knowledge and experience. If you’re based in the UK you can check out the National Council for Voluntary Organisations for ideas on how to get started. Or do some internet research and discover there are loads of opportunities out there for international voluntary placements.
How will you use your travel experience to shape your life going forward? Although it’s quite a mammoth prospect, sitting down to map out a few goals for yourself will help mitigate the initial aimlessness of your life back at home.
It’s that lack of purpose that can be killer.
Without the context of long-term travel keeping you going, it can be potentially damaging to float around at home without a plan, job or goal to keep you motivated.
What travel will have taught you about yourself and the world
I’m never one for focusing on doom and gloom. Using the old glass analogy, I’m definitely a half full kind of person. Perhaps it’s because I’m English and we are known for our stiff upper lip, but there’s definitely a practical head on my shoulders that tries to see the best in a bad situation and declare breezily “oh, that wasn’t so bad was it?”
So whilst I’ll tolerate a certain amount of wallowing and moping in your post-travel despair (I can be a first class moper when I feel like it), after a while it is time to shift our focus onto the positives.
Those positives will slowly help us realise that whilst we may feel temporarily crappy and awkward about our new life back home, we have an added richness to our life that wasn’t there before.
What kinds of things am I talking about?
1. A changed perspective
I challenge anyone to remain unaffected by the world that they encounter after spending time exploring it.
Different sights, smells, customs, religions will all leave their mark on you, as will the amazing variety of people you meet along the way. Your knowledge of other countries, their people, their problems will increase and your world will never quite shrink back to the one you once knew.
Solo travel is also a time that we can focus well and truly on ourselves and although that sounds a tad selfish, it’s a revelation in many ways. Self-care and me-time may be the current buzz words for busy, over-stressed souls, but long-term travel is the perfect opportunity to prioritise your own needs and build a life you love.
2. Increased confidence
I certainly felt a huge surge of confidence following my first solo backpacking trip when I was twenty to study abroad in the United States. The person I was getting on that plane was definitely not the same one who hitched up her backpack and travelled the USA by train at the end of the college year.
Similarly, the nervousness I felt flying to Thailand alone in 2011 did not stay with me as I hit my stride as a backpacker. Travel forces you to be resilient, resourceful and enjoy your own company.
If you feel overwhelmed by life at home, just put yourself in your backpacker shoes. What would you have done if you were travelling? We tend to over-complicate our home lives and that can hold us back, so remember the choices you made on your behalf on a daily basis while travelling and tap into some of that boosted courage.
3. Renewed and refreshed relationships with friends and family
Keeping in touch with old friends and family whilst you are away can sometimes be a challenge and this may affect your relationships when you are home. But, that won’t be everyone’s reality and it can feel wonderful to be surrounded by your nearest and dearest once more. In addition, you’ll have made a whole swathe of new friends whilst on the road, and these people will add a new complexity and richness into your life that wasn’t there before.
4. The chance to start something new
This is tremendously liberating. What could this look like for you?
Given that you’ve already stepped away from the linear life path many choose to follow, could there be something you can do now that continues means you stay on an alternate course? This could be choosing to study or going for a job in a completely unrelated field to what you used to do. You may want to weave further travel into your life going forward, or move to a new city.
What do you want to do next?
Opting to travel means you’ve already opened the door to change and new beginnings, so how are you going to shape your life after travel?
Returning home after travelling
So, in the first few weeks after you come home, mope around and eat as much of mum’s cooking as you can. But, once you’re done feeling sad, squeeze as much positivity out of the experience you’ve just had and use it to fuel a supercharged plan to help you create a happy and fulfilled post-travel life back home.
- I thought I was supposed to find myself travelling?
- The five stages of travelling alone for the first time
- How to prepare for solo travel when you’ve never spent time alone
- How to overcome your solo travel fears
- What’s it like to be the home bird who flew the nest.
If you’ve put a stop to your travels – whether you were away for two weeks or two years – I’d love to know how you feel.
Would you say that travel has changed you in any way and your perspective of your life back home and the world in which you live?
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