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Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

We have all heard about culture shock, and of course that works in both directions, especially if you have been away for months or years, rather than weeks.

This may seem like the easiest part of travel, but in my own experience it is not. For example, I got sick for the better part of a month the day AFTER I stepped off the plane from a recent trip to Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia, and Laos. We have all heard about culture shock, and of course that works in both directions, especially if you have been away for months or years, rather than weeks.

Then there are the usual problem of what do you do now if you don't have a job? In my case I am semi-retired so I don't have this particular issue, although there is an intensity to travel, a freshness, that is absent when I return to my lovely home.

Comfort, and the Hardest Part

The hardest part to get used to when I return is that many of my friends, not all, but many, don't really give a damn about my experience.

It is nice to have all the creature comforts since I usually travel to Third World countries. The extra space is also good. I can always go to a separate bedroom if I have a fight with my wife, an option that is missing when the two of us travel together, as is usually the case.

The hardest part to get used to when I return is that many of my friends, not all, but many, don't really give a damn about my experience. They act happy to see me and all, but they go on with their busy lives, and sometimes I feel as though I have been out of sight, and therefore out of mind. Perhaps they feel abandoned? Sometimes it seems that they see me more like this, as an outsider.

Laotian Hill Tribe Villager

Laotian Hill Tribe Villager

Yes I'm Interested, Honest, Sort Of

Everyone asks about the trip of course, but often in a short time their eyes glaze over, and I can see that they're really not interested. I come back thinking my life is changed forever, and this happens with almost every trip, but how do I communicate this? I often get asked what was my favorite place? What did I like to do the most? Didn't I miss home? I don't really know how to answer these questions, as they seem like such over simplifications. And my photographs. Same thing. Everyone looks for 15 minutes, maybe a 1/2 hour, as I try and explain them, and then once again, I can see that they are bored.

The Author in Mandalay with Relatives of his Burmese English Students

The Author in Mandalay with Relatives of his Burmese English Students

The Idea of Travel

At first, I thought that this was just my own experience, perhaps partly due to my age, 61. Most of my friends are not exactly kids anymore, but when I talk to other travelers I find that this is not the case. Many of them, much younger than I, have the same experience. Then it hit me. Many people like the IDEA of travel, but if they really wanted to do it, they would. I'm not talking here about going on a tour for a week or two. This is more about longer term, independent travel. And so in the end, even some of my good friends can't really relate to my experience. The people who can relate are other like minded travelers, probably some of the people who are reading this right now. This is one of the great things about travel. You meet lots of people to talk with about what you are going through, where you have been, how it affected you, etc. Of course, as a psychologist I probably analyze things more than most, but other road warriors can understand, young and old, and they WANT to hear about it.


As I say to many of my patients when they go home for a family visit, KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS LOW. I know this is easier said than done. I have to remind myself to do it whenever I return, and even then it is a struggle. In some ways the experience of reentry helps to propel me back out. Unfortunately travel is like a drug. The more you get, the more you want. Okay, calm down I tell myself. I just returned and I'd better get used to the idea, at least for a little while.




In my case that means start teaching English with the Burmese refugee community, getting back into the woods, hiking and skiing.




Above all, HAVE PATIENCE. Gradually you will find ways to reconnect with people even if they don't really understand your experience. You might lose some friends, but gain others.

Thank you, Jonshapiro, Vagabonding at 60

All photos courtesy of Jon Shapiro

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Posted by jonshapiro 12:10

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AMEN on the interest....friends do not understand why, at my age, I would want to strap a backpack on my body and just go find food and shelter somewhere else. I just tell them its my own version of Survivor, we get stuck inside our bubble of habit and this is a sure way to break it. Dropping yourself off in another world , given the right attitude, is a growth experience like no other. And the friends still dont understand it.

by Robyn

Thanks for your comments Robyn. You might want to check out my blog, Vagabonding at 60 right here at Travellerspoint. jonshapiro

by jonshapiro

It's so reassuring to hear that it's not just me and those other few travellers I keep in touch with that experience these difficulties upon returning "home". Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

by KoalaGirl

Keep in mind that there's probably no bore like a well-traveled bore. If you get the same charge out of something at age 60 that you did at 20, it could be viewed as not so cool but rather a case of arrested development. Perhaps your friends are more patient & understanding than you appreciate.

by Jack

Thank you for the reminder of LOW EXPECTATIONS.

My husband and I just returned from 18 months adventuring in Latin America. I am so experiencing all of the emotions and reactions that you express. Each time we return from extended travel and 're-enter' I need to remind myself that the majority of people just can't relate.

I do love it when I come across a fellow traveler on the home front and we connect on the amazing wonderful life of travel.

I've been blogging my re-entry experience.

by Renee

And all this time I have been thinking there is something "wrong with me" that I seem more content in a third world country---or, as my husband says, "I do not like America"> That is so NOT TRUE, but to all your comments, I add, "Ditto, ditto, and ditto." I am 71, a couple years back, I was teaching English in China and loving it! Then India. Next, I plan on Vietnam and Laos, so maybe I will get some more insight from you. What a great blog site!!!!!

by Ramona Rung

Very well put! Having just returned from a huge experience of 6 months in central america I just could not believe the apathy from friends and loved ones. They were happy to see me, sure, but no one cares or can relate. But I guess that is understandable. It is hard to when nothing is overtly exotic and strange anymore. But to meet likeminded people (or people from the country you've been to) makes up for it completely

by Ben

Totally enjoyed your descriptions of life...over and then back. At 77 I am swamped just trying to clear my desk of stuff but each summer for the past five or more years, I have taught a class..eLearning International Issues, for the University of Texas at Brownsville, hosted by the Texas Telecourse Network. The difference in how the class is taught is simply that I do it on-location, in Taiwan and/or China!
My colleagues throw me their quizzical glances, part curiosity, part wistful envy, then fade into the time fabric for another year when they learn I'm back again wandering around Asia.
As long as my health holds out I will continue teaching this class in Asia, given I use both Taiwan and China as case studies first, then we look at other nations' use of eLearning methods. I remain convince the majority of students (and faculty) have no clue about these areas. Then I remind them to look deeply into who holds the mortage on their house...Citibank, Chase, perhaps?
Increasingly it is Bank of China, HSBC, Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, etc. and that gets' their attention! :-)
Keep doing what you do, hang with those who appreciate your work and ethic, and keep blogging!

Dick Cornell, UCF-Orlando, a.k.a. Ruicha

by Richard Cornell

Thank you all, for your comments to the recent Travellerspoint newsletter. It is great to hear from like-minded travelers, and to know that there are some older folks as well. If what I have is a case of arrested development, to reply to one comment in particular, than I feel lucky to be so arrested. To me, it is a real blessing to have the opportunity to see and experience so many different places and people. As I expressed in my own blog, Vagabonding At 60, I am humbled and extremely grateful for what I have seen and done. Jonshapiro

by jonshapiro

"I cannot cure myself of that most woeful of youth's follies--thinking that those who care about us will care also for the things that mean much to us." -D H Lawrence.

by Jack

Jack.. I just 'love' your quote Mon 19 July - D H Lawrence :)Thankyou..it's soo true!! My darling gals have just gone on their O/E and already are having a fantastic time :)I certainly care for things that mean so much to them coz they are both my life too and I love them dearly :)By Di

by Di Ford

I agree with the comments about the glazed looks!!My wife and I discovered Asia in 1991,and have travelled there every year since,
We were born in New Zealand,and travelled over much of South and Central Africa,after 5 years of marriage,and it was very bonding,with 2 children.
We have lived in Australia for the past 40 years,and we hope to travell to Turkey,Egypt,and Jordan,in a few months for 5 weeks.I will be 70 in Feb;and my wife 67 in March,so we intend to keep travelling,and learnung,while we can.Brian

by Brian Vendt

So true!

It's almost like the world gets stuck in a time warp. When you get back everything is just the same as when you left.

You may return a completely different person. Though some will notice, few will care, and even fewer will understand.

Maybe it's better kept between us than trying to explain :)

by skateaddic

Right on!!! Enjoyed your commentary and I can totally relate. I think in today's economy with so many people struggling I believe there's a certain element of envy when someone can travel the world carefree for several months and return so much richer in knowledge and spirit. Skateaddic said it best.....better kept between us than trying to explain!

by Joe Richardson

Your travel pictures & blog are great & keeping me sane! But I can see where the re-entry once back home could be rough. Friends lives have stayed the same & usually revolve around routines while you two are almost in survival & adventure mode. Travel cannot help but change a person!

by Rhinda North

I just came across your blog. Nice post. I've had similar experience. Currently I'm residing in Saudi Arabia, and I'm in the States about 2 - 3 times a year for anywhere from 4 - 8 weeks. In between that time I'm also traveling. And, when I'm back home, my friends are cool, but it's like they really don't wanna hear about it. They're interested on a superficial level. They want to hear whether or not it was fabulous, but they do not want too many details. It's like they've been living their everyday lives, and for my friends that means, getting up, going to work, grocery shopping, etc., the same things they were doing before I left. And, then here I show up with your wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) travel stories and experiences...lol. I think it makes people feel bad, or like I'm bragging. So, now I don't talk about it. I post my trips on my blog, I post that on FB, if they're interested they can check it out and if they want to know more they can ask.

When I come home, I don't feel like an outsider, I just feel like I've missed out of "what's happening."


Over ten years ago, I had the same feelings after returning from a fantastic trip, so I started an international travel club in our hometown and now have 30 delightful travelers who love to hear my stories and see my photos!

by John Scheleur

Sad to say, I did have the same kind of treatment from my friends. If they show any interest, it is nothing more like being polite. I have learned not to show any photographs of my journey and will maintain a 'haughty attitude' that I don't have to share my experience with you.

Tue;Aug 17 by Linus

by Linus Low

Oh boy, thank you Jon for this well written piece. I too was the victim of "oh, yawn how interesting ....." actually could not believe some people's blatent lack of interest. Felt we had been to the moon and back and I had changed forever. We went on family roadtrip last year, LA to NY and was HUGE thing for us...So like Linus above I do not talk about the experience, or show photos. I feel stifled about all this, even though the blog is out there, I still feel miffed at others!One close family member even told me if was as if I had been dead and had come back to life (meaning in their life!!)

by bwoods

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