Anyone who’s ever travelled knows the familiar bittersweet feeling of returning home. Going from discovery of the new and exciting to the regularity of home can be a culture shock of its own. The stark contrast is a painfully beautiful reminder of the mundanity of our day to day lives. Nothing at home has changed, but you yourself feel so different. How can that be? This realization often brings on a certain wistful sadness directly after travel. However, it is balanced with the happiness of a return to routine, to your loved ones and to the indescribable feeling of home. It’s a remarkable contradiction, but I think that’s what makes it such a unique feeling. It spurs an appreciation for what you already had when you left, while simultaneously inspiring a need to fly away once more. I find myself asking: how can I honour my personal growth from travel after I have returned to something that has not grown with me? Travel gifts us with this challenge to keep that invigorating energy and growth with you, and to weave it into your regular life. Don’t fall back into the exact same mindsets and routines, fight the mundanity with any part of you that has been changed by the world outside of your comfort zone. This is why I love travel so much. It continues to mould, challenge and inspire you after you have returned, and I can’t think of anything better to spend my life doing.
Ideas on How to Keep IT With You
My own experience consists of three international multi-month backpacking trips, all ending in a return to my hometown of Toronto, Canada. To my supportive family, my friends, and a reliable restaurant job. Cue the realization that the whole world you left behind went on without you and suddenly you’re thrown back into it. Your own bed, your own house, your regular coffee shop. You’re a stranger in your old life. I describe it to my friends as feeling like an imposter. I half expect someone to call me out; “Hey you, do you belong here?”. It’s an important question to ask yourself…do you? Does your old life fit as snug as it used to?
Don’t worry if it doesn’t. This means you’ve grown somehow; you’ve changed. It’s exciting and terrifying all at once. The easiest mistake we can make upon returning is viewing our trip as an isolated experience. What we did or how we behaved can be put in that box with your travel gear and saved for the next trip. Just because your travels differ drastically from your everyday life, it doesn’t mean they exist separately from each other. This is your opportunity, right here, right now, to bring those two lives together and to make positive changes in your life. Here are a few ideas that helped me maintain and build upon my growth from my travels.
- An Opportunity to Learn About Yourself: Remind yourself daily the person you were on your trip, is ALSO the person you can be in your regular life. Were you more relaxed? More adventurous? More productive? More attentive? More confident? More active? More positive? Choose the qualities you loved about yourself from your trip and let them surface in your everyday life. Identifying and changing aspects of yourself is not easy work, and requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. However, this is the kind of challenge that will foster true self-growth.
- Celebrate Your Experience: My favourite way to honour my experiences is through pictures. I immediately load them onto my computer, TV and cellphone so that my screen savers are some of my best memories from the trip. This constantly reminds me of what I’ve just accomplished. I see my friends and family and tell them about my trip and give them gifts from abroad. I find places for my souvenirs in my own house. It keeps your thoughts about the trip at the forefront of your mind, making it easier to carry that happiness with you day to day. However, this is just my way of celebrating my experience. Do whatever you feel would work to keep those memories close and present with you.
- Make Resolutions: Instead of seeing your return as heading back into your exact same old life, treat it as a new beginning. An opportunity to sit down and re-define how you want to live your day to day life. Your world has just expanded; maybe you’ve seen the way other people live their lives, maybe you’ve learned something new about a country, maybe you’ve gained new experiences or learned something about yourself. Whatever it is, it will help you sift through your current views on your life. What have you taken for granted? What have you put too much care into? What goals have you let go of? Have you spent too much time worrying about things that now seem trivial to you? Re-evaluate your goals, take stock of your values, ditch the silly things you concerned yourself with before, breathe, and focus on what you find truly important. Make those changes now, with your new beginning.
Our careers, money, location and family all put limitations on our ability and means to travel, as much as we wish we could do it more often. However, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made is to make a conscious and continuous effort to inject travel and adventure into my life even on a local basis. Camping, stay-cations, or hiking can do so much for our personal happiness. Go skating, try a new activity, head to the park with friends. Doing anything out of the ordinary can continually instill in us the same adventurous spirit we had while travelling, and remind us of what we truly value.
This is Your Chance
These realizations about yourself and your life can remain simple observations or, you can take up the challenge and rise to the occasion. This is your chance. Use them to inspire you, to affect you. Why are we so happy when we travel? Why are we so bored in our everyday lives? Why can’t you work to invigorate your life with the spirit of travel? What is truly important to you? Do not let this vacation remain simply that, take a look at this big beautiful world and who you are in it, and let travel change you for the better.