Before I had left for Southeast Asia someone had told me that the worst part of traveling is coming home and having the travel bug. I didn’t truly understand the gravity of that statement until I had returned home after traveling and living in Southeast Asia for six months. You leave your home country to be a part of something different, to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, to find yourself. When you come home, everyone asks, “how was your trip?” as if you went on vacation to Florida for a few weeks – not fully understanding the crazy, beautiful, meaningful experience that was your “trip”.
How could they? How do you describe, in a way that people can comprehend the significance of it to you, watching the sunrise on the beach in Vietnam, as the fishermen come in with their catch and locals flood the beach to exercise before the heat of the day arrives. Maybe I’m just not that great of a writer, but I’ve never figured out a way to explain that moment in my life in a way that does my memory justice. I don’t think I ever will.
This goes for most of my experiences traveling. I have these collections of unforgettable moments that are lost in translation. So, when people ask how my trip was, I simply exclaim, “it was great! So much fun!” and leave it at that. It’s like being an infant that has no words to express himself and what he needs, so he just cries and hopes someone figures out what he’s trying to say.
Combine this with returning to your old stomping grounds and reuniting with your close friends and realizing that nothing has changed. Everyone and everything is exactly how you left it. Friends are still weekend warriors frequenting the same bars that we have for years, repeating the same experiences over and over again. If you drink enough, maybe it’s not repeating if you don’t remember it. The only trace of the night is your bank statement with a bar tab and a bill from Uber.
It’s hard to re-assimilate into a society that you no longer belong to or identify with. I felt alienated. I found myself getting mad or frustrated with people easily. People’s complaints gave “first world problems” a whole new meaning to me. If your day is ruined because the grocery store didn’t have the brand of almond milk you like, it may be time to reevaluate your life.
Coming home is hard. I can’t tell if I made it harder on myself by moving to a new city right away where I didn’t really know anyone, but I think either way it would have been hard. It took me at least a month to shake the post travel blues, but the restlessness never left me. I’m gearing up for my next trip – a month and a half road trip across the US – and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m ready to live out of a backpack again, to wake up in a place I’ve never been, to fill my days with the unknown.
But, even after that, I’m going to have to come home again. I’m hoping by that time I’ll be able to tell you a better way to deal with it. Maybe it’s easier the second time around or maybe I’ll come home, freak out, and buy a plane ticket to anywhere but here. If you’re dealing with post-travel blues or have in the past, you’re not alone. Honestly, maybe the best cure for it is knowing that there will always be a “next trip”. Coming home is hard. Because, once you have the travel bug, it becomes a part of you. It infects your blood for better or for worse. It’s a constant restlessness, knowing that there are so many places that you have yet to go and people you have yet to meet.
It’s easier to get through that remembering that on your journey, you met so many individuals that share the same insatiable thirst. You’re not alone in this vagabond life and you never will be. Whether the next time you travel is next month or in a few years, your tribe is waiting for you.
This is a scary year for me. I might be getting a fellowship that will keep me in one place for two years. That’s two years living in the US with only two weeks vacation a year. What scares me is not staying in one place for two years. Yeah, it will suck to not have the option to travel, but what scares me is that after two years of working a 9 to 5, I’ll get stuck. I’ll lose that thirst and become complacent with a scheduled life. I doubt that will happen, but it’s the possibility that terrifies me.