Dido expressed it best in her song “sand in my shoes,” when she sang:
Two weeks away it feels like the whole world should’ve changed
But I’m home now
And things still look the same
I think I’ll leave it till tomorrow to unpack
Try to forget for one more night
That I’m back in my flat on the road
Where the cars never stop going through the night
To a life where I can watch sunset
I don’t have time
Tomorrow’s back to work and down to sanity
should run a bath and then clear up the mess I made before I left here
Try to remind myself that I was happy here
Before I knew that I could get on the plane and fly away
From the road where the cars never stop going through the night
To a life where I can watch sunset
And take my time
Take all our time
To many of us travel junkies it’s a challenge to remind ourselves that we were once happy at home, happy with the lives we led. In one life altering moment each one of us stepped on a plane for the first time and took off to see the world. From that point on, home is never the same.
I recently came back home— to Alaska — from a stint in Brazil. It was the worst time to come home. Anchorage was in that awkward period where it’s not really winter yet, but fall is over. The treeless, lifeless barren landscape is too cold and dark to out and enjoy hiking, biking or snowboarding. If anything — having grown up in Alaska — I am happier in the winter, but there was something about coming home from Brazil that made this my first official winter, depressed in Alaska. As I tried to unbury myself form the piles of homework neglected during my time in Brazil I decided to put it off even more and came up with these tips.
1) Write/talk about your adventures— frequently, and to an audience that empathizes with you.
- I’ve read post travel tips that tell you to go out and share your stories and photos with friends and family. If this helps you, go for it. I find it difficult to connect with my friends and family that have never been outside the U.S. While telling a story I’ll often come to a moment that, to me, was so profound and life changing, yet when I look up I can see in their eyes they don’t get it. Unless they’ve had a similar experience it’s hard for them to get inside your skin and feel how you’ve changed, no matter how many adjectives you pack into your story. So, meet with people you traveled with to reminisce about your adventures. Skype with those you met while traveling. Connect with travel groups like Matador. Write. If you document your work publicly or privately then even in the darkest of Alaskan winters you read what you wrote and call that special feeling or memory and you can relish in the moment.
2) Focus on yourself.
- Again many advise pieces tell you to surround yourself with friends and family upon return. We already went over how I feel about that, so I find it comforting to focus on myself. I enjoy being alone and contemplating my experiences. I don’t recommend hiding in bed, I recommend hiding while making yourself feel better. If you lost weight traveling, Go to the gym and keep up the fitness. Maybe the piles of work and homework facing you are stressing you out. Sign up for yoga. Yoga has helped me stay calm in the midst of anxiety.
- Often times finances are in the red or rather short when you get home. Don’t go out and spend money drinking every night. Stay in; Write; Clean your house; Go for a run. Find ways to manage money and time that don’t throw you into debt, but foster recovery and means for your next trip.
- Organize your home, room and life. Coming home from a cramped hostel to a real bed is comforting for some. For me it’s a reminder of how dull my life is. So, re-arrange your room to look different. If you just got back form Central America, hang some hammocks in the corner of your room. If you just got back from Japan, add some oriental fin shue. Paint your house; Move your furniture; Do anything that makes it look different from when you left and bring a piece of your travel home.
3) Enjoy international culture in your hometown.
- Before you left, if you were eating at the same American restaurant day in, day out you might find it boring after the flavors of the world. If you found you loved red wine in Italy, discovered a taste for curry in Thailand then go find places around you that please your new pallet. Maybe you can even luck out and find a place owned by a couple from Thailand and you can discover the hidden menu after sharing travel stories.
- If you think I am too anti social and depressing when I get home then try and throw a party. I had plans to throw myself a capirana samba birthday party with some Brazilian rum I brought home. This way you can share the culture with your friends and have the best of both worlds.
- Put yourself up as a couch surfing host. What better way to meet people from all over the world than have them in your own home? You make great worldwide connections for when you want to travel next and get a taste of their culture.
4) Take mini vacations.
- Firs thing I did when I got home was take off on a 2 hour solo trek to a town called Seward. I hiked up Mt. Marathon and explored the small quaint simplicity of my state. I try and take weekends off to Seattle or California, but seeing your state on a budget is a great escape from reality. There are positive things about every state, city, and country. Often times they’re overlooked in wanderlust. I constantly have to go outside and travel my state to remember the state I love, might as well be a damn painting it’s so beautiful Yes, I love Alaska, I do. Affirmations never hurt either.
- This might be the most difficult thing for me. My backpack sits in my room stuffed with smells, sand and memories. I leave it there untouched, which causes me to feel like I am still in a transient state, when I am not. For now I am home. I don’t know when my next adventure will be so I need to unpack, put things away and hang the backpack up and face reality.
6) Regain what you gave up.
- If you’re one of those people that quit your job or sold everything to take off traveling and upon your return home you have nothing, get it back. Don’t go back to a job you hate, but maybe your town has a hostel you can work at for a few months. Maybe you moved out of your flat, so go find that awesome place downtown you always wanted. Make sure you always have something concrete to keep you connected to home. Never feel like a stranger. Don’t sell everything and if you do, don’t be scared to buy it all back to sell again.
7) Plan your next trip.
- Finally, get that trip jar back out. It might be empty, but put your next paycheck or half your tips to start. There, it’s not so empty. Your next trip isn’t so far away.