There is something no one ever talks about when they go on these epic adventures across the globe and that’s what happens when you get home. Reverse culture shock is a thing and it SUCKS!
Post- Travel Blues-
Just a few days into being home from my 7-month jaunt in Asia, I found myself sitting on my couch intensely annoyed by the silence. It was too quiet. After living in guesthouses in some of the most populated countries in the world, my ears had learned to tune out all the extra noise. Without me realizing it, the noise had become a comfort. Now, back home, in the silence of the suburbs, the quiet was louder than a Bangkok street had ever felt.
This was one of the first things I noticed, after coming down from the high of seeing all my family & friends again. Then it was the way that my food tasted so bland without the extra spice. Or the time I caught myself bowing my head in apology to someone I had bumped into. Or when I scrolled through the photos on my phone for the hundredth time that day, longing for the ocean breeze again.
It wasn’t the first time I had to overcome reverse culture shock. I experienced it after my study abroad semester in Italy. I remember feeling sad and nostalgic with an intense craving for my favorite Nutella gelato. Eventually, once I got back to school, I settled in and it wasn’t so bad anymore. I thought I was an old hat at this. I knew it was coming and had prepared myself but it was different this time. This time, coming home felt like trying to put on a shoe that just didn’t fit anymore.
I had learned so much about myself on the road. To be honest, I’m my best self when I’m traveling. I LOVE the person that I am when dropped in the middle of a new place where I know no one. I felt that I had grown so much while away. I had this newfound confidence in myself and my body and I just couldn’t figure out how this person I had become fit in the life that she left behind.
Overcome Reverse Culture Shock-
Turns out this is a pretty common phenomenon that happens when people spend a significant amount of time abroad. Once I had looked into it more, I felt better knowing that it wasn’t just me that felt like this. It’s a struggle for many people, especially expats and long-term travelers, to shake off the post-travel blues and settle back into life in their home country.
The good news is there are a few things you can do to make the transition easier on yourself and those around you. Hopefully, the tips below can help you ease back into life at home.
Tips for overcoming reverse culture shock-
Give Yourself a bit of time
First things first, get some rest and make sure all the leftover jet lag is gone. It’s tempting to hit the ground running, seeing all of your favorite spots and meeting up with old friends again but give yourself a minute to regroup.
Don’t try to fit who you are now into a who you were then shaped box
You aren’t the person you were when you left and that’s ok! Let me repeat that, it’s ok to be different, think differently and feel differently about things. This might be hard for your friends and family to understand but it is important to remain true to yourself. If you no longer like going out every Friday night with your friends or if you’d rather take your coffee a different way than your mom usually makes it— that’s ok. Don’t feel like you have to come back and be the exact same person you were before you left.
Find the people that want to listen
When you first get back, people will want to hear about your adventures but it will all be well meaning but really high level “What was your favorite part?” or “Was the food good?”. But after a few minutes, you will find they get bored and move on to other topics. It’s important to find those who are genuinely interested in your adventures abroad and want to hear about all the details, even if it is just your mom.
Keep in Touch with the people you met abroad
One of the best things about traveling and living abroad is all the amazing people you get to meet and those relationships shouldn’t end now that you’re home. Make the effort to keep in touch with the people you met while abroad. Set up a weekly Skype date or just send a text message every once and awhile to catch up. These friends can help you feel connected to the life you left behind and can also help you move forward.
Don’t let yourself lose that adventurous spirit now that you are back home. Sure there is tons of TV to catch up on, but it will still be there when you get back from your hike to that waterfall you always meant to see nearby.
Part of the appeal of traveling is to get away from the mundane of everyday life, but you don’t have to give that up when you get home. Get out there and explore. You might find yourself falling in love with your hometown all over again.
Find a way to hold on to a little bit of where you left behind
One of the scariest parts of coming back home for me was feeling like I would forget everything that I saw and everything that I felt while I was gone. To ease that worry, I created this blog as a way to hold onto my thoughts and nostalgia for my time abroad. If blogging isn’t your thing, you could try keeping up with any language skills you learned using apps like Duolingo or cook your favorite dish from abroad once a week.
The most important thing is to be patient with yourself. What you are feeling is totally normal and with time will pass.
Do you have any tips for overcoming reverse culture shock? Let me know if the comments below!
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