A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010

Returning Home

or Unraveling Travel

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.

SO WHAT TO DO?

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.

HERE ARE A FEW OTHER SUGGESTIONS;

GET INVOLVED WITH THE THINGS THAT GET YOUR JUICES FLOWING.

GET INVOLVED WITH THE THINGS THAT GET YOUR JUICES FLOWING.

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

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE.

WRITE YOUR BLOG.

CORRESPOND WITH OTHER TRAVELERS YOU MEET ON OTHER TRIPS VIA EMAIL.

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

If you have other tips and tricks for your fellow travellers, then join us in educating travellers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by jonshapiro 12:10 Comments (19)

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