Daniel Luff spent 14 months travelling the world. His thoughts on returning “home” and adjusting to life there again are very insightful and powerful. As a world traveller I relate a lot to this and could never find a way to express it. Here’s his story:
Just when I thought the journey was over, there was still one final step left that is often neglected in the narrative: Home. At the start of my trip, I sat on a beach wondering what the future held. I eventually arrived at the thought of home and a number of questions shortly ensued. What would I have missed with friends and family? How much would my city change? And how much, if at all, would I have changed? The possibilities were endless.
I spent 14 months on the road, travelled 25 countries, and managed to touch down on all 7 continents. An unintended feat but a journey that gradually took form the further I went. Everyday was a new thrilling experience made possible by the destinations and the people I had met along the way.
I still freshly recall the unsettling feeling on my last flight home. I was kept awake by the knowledge that my journey was ending and home was about to become my reality. How was I supposed to settle down again?
I lived and worked on an isolated island in Australia disconnected from the world and surrounded by nature. I stood in the vastness of endless temples in Myanmar without another soul in sight. I ascended to Everest Base Camp and stood amongst the wind and silence. I journeyed around the Pyramids of Egypt and sailed along The Nile. I experienced the quaintness and unbelievable hospitality of Eastern European countries. I walked tirelessly up the daunting stairs of Machu Picchu just to witness its entirety before it was packed with tourists. I voyaged between the monstrous tabular icebergs and sat amongst the infinite number of penguins in Antarctica. And somehow, after all of this, I was supposed to convince myself to stay still.
To make matters worse, I quickly found the underwhelming answer about home: everything was exactly the same. The city still looked the same. The atmosphere still carried the same mundane energy that I grew up in. Friends and family glowed with this new warmth as they welcomed me home, but once the reunions and formalities subsided, so did too that vibrant energy; it was back to routine shortly after. In the meantime I was still filled with this insatiable desire to explore, experience new things, and meet new people. Home on the other hand was void of any of that.
My energy was limitless and I did my best to channel it in different directions. As I tried to engage in familiar social settings, I struggled with relating to people. The conversations amounted to where I had left them – marriages, mortgages, families – and all I wanted to express was what life was like outside of that norm. Many times my words would fall on deaf ears. Friends listened but they never truly understood the passionate energy and enthusiasm that had overcome me. One thing that was definitely clear, after hearing about your travels the first time, many friends do not care to hear about your experiences a second or third time. Some would retort, “Do you hate us and home that much?”
I soon resented home and everything that came with it. I found myself sitting in my room, working in the same old routine, amidst the same old setting. All the new sights and sounds that I had grown accustomed to while traveling were now replaced with the predictable and all too familiar. I slowly retreated away from everything and everyone. Consulting with the few travel friends at home who had gone through this process managed to alleviate some of the tension; also speaking with friends I made abroad provided some temporary relief to the discomfort and uneasiness. But nothing could truly calm my restless spirit.
For a time I felt disconnected from everyone and slipped into a mild depression. I thought to myself “Is this it? Did I go on this year long journey just to end up in the same place as when I left?” I grew more and more frustrated. Everything was the same, and nothing was the same.
So often I would contemplate leaving again because the urge to keep moving was intoxicating. The post-travel depression was a real issue that nothing could have prepared me for. It was a long and arduous process that tested my resilience in a new way. The only resolution seemed to be to take this one day at a time.
The silver lining to this was that stress and anxiety eventually fell away. At the end of the day, I still considered this place my home. More importantly, I still loved and cared for my family and friends. The problem certainly didn’t lie with them.
The simple truth was that I had changed. I had outgrown the place that I called home, and it was up to me to accept that. Even though this was home, it was in actuality a foreign place. And like any new place in the world, you embrace a new environment and learn to adapt.
After all, that is the essence of traveling.
Daniel’s experience of moving back home is something many travellers go through. What does “home” mean to you? Have you found it difficult to adjust to life again after travelling for a long period of time?