8.4 Returning

The world is suddenly a smaller place for you. You may have a feeling of despair, alienation, or reverse culture shock when you return to your home, job, and friends, especially if you spent much time immersed in other cultures and environments.

"Plan on at least a one-week vacation in your hometown before you have to do anything like return to work or look for a job." <Davy Davis>

"Have a great big Welcome Home Party planned. I know I was writing home weeks ahead of time fantasizing of the perfect homemade meal (backyard BBQ with corn on the cob, Doritos and Salsa dip - for those of you interested). Expect a slight depression to set in after the initial excitement wears off your friends and family and they return to their normal lives. My cure was to take a small trip (Minnesota to Texas) to visit other friends. The hardest adjustment was going back to work. Sitting behind a desk, KNOWING that the world goes on outside those walls, sure can be depressing. But, then again, so is not drawing a paycheck." <Alan Nelson>

"A comment I have heard from numerous travellers after they have returned home is 'Nothing has changed!'. It's amazing how little everyone at home will have done, when compared to the experiences you have packed into your trip. After the first few days of excitement of seeing everyone again (which you have looked forward to for a long time), it can be a shock trying to adjust back to a 'normal' lifestyle. Some suggestions:

"Feeling of reluctance to rejoin normal society, but eventual compliance. Much greater awareness of the pettiness of some day-to-day decisions in the context of the whole world. Greater awareness of different cultures and ways of living. Greater acceptance of others' differences." <Chris Finlayson>

"It can be quite an experience and continue 'travelling' on your return home. Suddenly you see things in your home town that you never have seen before. My own way of celebrating a return home is to make a great ritual out of opening all the mail which has piled up. But, to make sure there is a pile there to open, that is another art." <Johan Schimanski>

"So little had changed at my home after 13 months of neglect! There wasn't even much dust, just a few cobwebs here and there. The surrounding neighborhood and downtown were also much the same as before. Some people looked noticeably older (me, too, I suppose). But I was surprisingly so untired by the trip (perhaps a little tired by travelling but certainly not tired of it), that I honestly had to convince myself it all wasn't a dream or maybe I had not left yet. The only concrete evidence of having been gone was the 12 sacks of junk mail waiting for me at home. It had proved amazingly easy to get used to living out of a suitcase for so long. At least you knew where everything was! Now, junk is scattered all over the house and I have to stop and think to know where to look for things. A long RTW really shows you how very few material things you actually need to enjoy life." <Larry Cotter>

"I was surprised to find that most people do not want to hear travel stories. I think it hurts them, like hearing about something wonderful they can never have. They don't understand yet how terribly 'easy' it is to just drop everything and hit the road." <Scott LaMorte>

"I've been back a year and I still have powerful flashbacks. I see a map of an area where I spent time and I get butterflies in my stomach. One friend seemed to adjust pretty well to returning (except for the comments from people, 'You haven't changed a bit'). However, she experienced a serious depression about four months after she got back. When I got back I experienced depression very quickly. I didn't look forward to conversations like, 'How was it?' I'd say, 'It was great! I ended up…" They listen to you for thirty seconds and then say, 'That sounds nice,' and never speak about your trip again. I've gone through an experience after which I can *NEVER* be the same and all they say, 'That's nice'!? One person didn't ask me 'How was it?', but said, 'How have you changed?' They later said, 'I bet if you came back unchanged, you would have been disappointed.' I said to him, 'You understand, don't you?' I would highly recommend seeking out people who will talk with you for more than five minutes, before they go back to worrying whether they have enough gas to mow their lawn. Keep in touch with your friends from traveling, they will understand!" <Mr. Moose>

"We feel like we're in some sort of holding pattern. We're 'here', but we're itching to be back 'there'. All of our thoughts are centered upon leaving again. Being back in the States seems to be nothing more than just a pitstop so we can make money in order to get back on the road again. Everything feels very hollow and shallow, like there's no point to it. Superficial. A quote by Jack Kerouac seems to sum it all up for me these days, 'I don't know. I don't care. And it doesn't make any difference.'" <Anonymous>

Be sure to have a decent nest egg to return to after you get back. Not a lot, but enough to pay rent for a couple of months and buy another car (if necessary).

"If you are returning to a neglected house, you may need one or two new appliances because the old ones died while you were gone, even though shut off. There may even be roots in the sewer." <Larry Cotter>

Common questions about employment by those preparing for a trip: Does anybody have experience with the kind of reaction you get from prospective employers? Do they see it as valuable international experience, or evidence that you are adventurous or frivolous?

"A couple years of professional experience will be enough to get them to overlook this. Mostly, everyone is interested and impressed. Many interviewers will say something like, 'I wish I could have done something like that? You have to do that while you're young.' They usually think of it as a positive thing that adds to your character. They are not usually worried about you leaving after a year to do it again, because they see it as a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The amount of planning you did, and all the obstacles you had to overcome during the trip, says something too." <Russell Gilbert>

"My resume has 'Sabbatical - World Travel' to fill in that hole, and no one bats an eye. In fact, it's a good icebreaker at interviews these days. I received three job offers, and in each interview, more time was spent with them asking me questions about my travels than the job at hand! I made sure to emphasize the character building aspects such as self sufficiency, negotiating skills, the planning involved, motivation, etc." <Anonymous>

You may also get responses like: Are you a hippy or a drug dealer? Some employers may not believe you, and assume that you are trying to cover up a period of unemployment.

"In general, the experience is not seen as particularly useful, other than the demonstration of a certain amount of independence and autonomy. The ability to manage crises and the planning considerations are good points. The major disadvantage is that you may be perceived as 'fidgety', unable to hold a job down etc.. When will you next want to up and leave? It is up to you to interview with the right attitude, and be honest about your future. Have you 'got it out of your system' or is this the beginning of a lifetime of travelling?" <Chris Finlayson>

"Most people think it is kind of neat, but only for a VERY brief moment. Remember that something like the trip you just went through raises either:

"Whatever difficulties you might have finding employment that can be considered to be a direct result of your travels, they're difficulties that will be worth the price. What you have done, what you plan to do, what you will do, is worth _every_thing. You will NEVER regret a moment you've spent on the road! You are doing the right thing at the right time in the right way." <Iconoclast>

One last consideration: You may not want to drag your heels in looking for work when you return, regardless of the length of time you have been gone since employers do look at the number of years since you were last employed. After the first of the year has passed, the dates on your resume will make it look like you have been gone a whole extra year. For more tips, read How to Make Travel Look Good on a Resume.

More Tales on Returning
Nigel & Julie Snow
Mike Pugh

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