Updated: Mar 27
By Hannah Stephenson
As a traveler, returning home can test you just as much --if not more-- than leaving. You return home a different person in so many ways, having lived a life that’s a world away from the day-to-day dealings in your hometown. You may suddenly feel like a stranger. Or perhaps not. You might --if you’re lucky-- have a complete newfound appreciation for the place you left behind. Most likely, you’ll experience a little bit of both.
I taught English in Vietnam for two years and traveled a great deal within that time. Returning home has been undeniably bittersweet --although for me, I feel, it’s been decidedly on the sweeter end of the scale than bitter. An unpopular opinion compared to some other travel bloggers you may come across.
Of course, I miss the feeling of absolute freedom I had in Asia. Somehow, the UK, with all of its rules and safety standards just doesn’t feel quite as liberating as the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City. And goodness me, I certainly miss the low prices. Most of all, I miss the friends I made. They became my family, and will forever be a very important part of my life. They say that travel leaves you a little bit broken, because the people you love will never all be in the same place. I think there’s definitely some truth to that sentiment.
YELLOW BRICK ROAD
On the whole, however, being home has been nothing short of wonderful. I appreciate my country in a way I never could before. Perhaps you have to drown in a sea of honking mopeds to appreciate orderly traffic or curse the suffocating humidity to see the beauty in the bleak midwinter. Maybe you have to miss your family terribly to realize just how important they are. I used to think that people who didn’t travel were missing out, but now I understand that perhaps they just don’t want to leave their loved ones behind. Travelling changed my priorities, values, and definition of success-- but it also confirmed that my family is the most important part of my life. I also appreciate how privileged I am to hail from a developed country with so many opportunities available to me.
LIONS, AND TIGERS, AND BEARS
One thing you might discover about coming home is the reality that some of your relationships may have shifted slightly. Some friendships don’t quite fit the same anymore which isn’t anyone’s fault; they just may not understand the life you’ve experienced being away, and you may not understand theirs either. Your values and priorities were once tightly aligned, but now they’re as different as night and day. It’s also difficult to remember that sometimes people just don’t care about your tales of beach parties, hostel drama, and cultural quirks. As interesting as all of those things are to me, some of my friends are more interested in their careers, their boyfriends, or buying a house. That’s totally okay, but it doesn’t leave you with much to converse about sometimes. No-one’s in the wrong, but you have much less in common than you remember.
You might feel frustrated that your friends expect you to be the same person you were before traveling. You’ve experienced some profound life changes and you want that to be recognized, acknowledged, and perhaps even praised. Instead, you’re expected to slot back in nicely when sometimes it’s like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Perhaps you might feel disconcerted by the fact that some of your friends have changed too-- they’re not all exactly the same people you left behind. Maybe the dynamics have shifted in certain circles, and some bonds have tightened in your absence, leaving you feeling a bit left out, even though it’s not on purpose.
Other friendships might be stronger than ever, absence having made your hearts grow stronger. This has definitely been true for me. My childhood best friend and I are inseparable once more, despite having drifted apart in our late teens as our lives went in different directions. Now, although we’re mindful of our many, many differences, being apart has taught us just how much we enjoy sharing in each other’s lives.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Perhaps you’ll stay home for a few weeks and start itching to get back on the road. That’s how I expected to feel, only I ended up deciding to stick around a little longer because it just feels so good to be back home. It feels right for me. There’s a sense of belonging I always lacked in Asia that sometimes made me go a little crazy. It’s hard to give that up right now but in the long run, I know I need a few more years of adventure under my belt before I move back to England forever.
Basically, you’re allowed to feel however you want about coming home. It might fit perfectly, even better than before. It might feel regressive, like trying on your childhood clothes again as an adult. You might feel lost. You might feel found. In varying degrees, I’ve experienced every single one of these feelings. I know that I want to go away again but I’m more sure than ever that I will always return to England. Dear old Dorothy was right: “there’s no place like home.”
Writer Bio: Hannah caught the travel bug at an early age. At the age of 15 she took a school trip to Budapest and says she has yet to recover.
In 2017, she moved abroad for the first time to teach English in Vietnam and she says, it was a crazy experience that changed her life forever. She is currently working as a freelance Writer and Virtual Assistant, and aspires to lead a location independent lifestyle, sharing tales from her travels and making a never-ending list of new destinations to explore!
You can find out more about Hannah’s journey on her blog at: https://hannahoohnana.com.
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