Why traveling doesn’t change you, but coming home does…
How I decided to travel
When I was 24 I graduated from college and I quickly made the decision to travel. To be frank it wasn’t something that I always wanted to do. I never had an internship abroad, I studied in the closest city to where I grew up and I was never really interested in different cultures.
I felt good in my own little bubble and I saw a future that kinda looked like the television show ‘Friends’. So the reason I wanted to travel was more because I believed I should.
If it was ever the time to try something new it was then and there. Young, fresh out of college with no future plans. So after saving up a little bit of money (And a lot of encouragement from my family), I decided to go to Australia and live the backpacker life.
I planned to stay for 6 months but on my first day, I already decided that I wanted to stay there for 12! I never in a million years believed that I would love it so much and looking back, I can’t remember a single day that I didn’t like.
I’m not going into details here about my adventures or how to describe this “travel” feeling. Go on and read another blog post for that.
What I want to tell you that yes, traveling changes you in a million ways. But you don’t realize how much until your back home…
You see, when you’re traveling you are in a flow. You don’t really care about tomorrow and just live life day by day with a feeling that some sort of an adventure will happen.
It’s an infectious and an amazing feeling. It feels like you have the world at your feet!!
So when you get back to your own country you tend to think that you have seen the light and that you are a new person that sees every day as a new adventure and believes everybody feels the same!
And you should feel like that! Keep that positive attitude!
But there is one thing that people tend to overlook and you just can’t prepare for. Even if you have been warned about it. (Because believe me, I have been warned and I truly believed I was prepared)
So what changed?
It’s the fact that even though you feel changed. The place you grew up in, didn’t change. At least not in the way you may have hoped. And that is when you realize that traveling changed you in many ways.
You felt on top of the world while you were traveling, every day was a new lesson. And now you feel like your taking a step back because you are back in the house you grew up in.
around you are not as open-minded as you. And it’s frustrating. On the road, you felt part of a group. All travelers share the same mental state as you and suddenly you’re back in a place where a lot of people have different views of the world.
Suddenly the most beautiful girl in the city isn’t interesting to you anymore. The friends you used to look up to aren’t that special anymore. You stopped comparing yourself to others and you feel like you have outgrown everything.
You feel like you should go, you feel like hitting the road again to hang out with other travelers, people you feel connected with even though you don’t even know them yet! YOU CAN ESCAPE EVERYTHING!!
For 7 months that was on my mind all the time. The need to escape and go to Brazil as soon as I can! (I really want to see Brazil. I mean, have you ever met a Brazilian girl???)
But the longer I waited and the more money I was saving, the more I adjusted to life back home. I didn’t look for a good job, I was just doing work that I hated because I needed the money to go to Brazil.
But that is when I realized that if I would go to Brazil now, I would come back to this life again. And I’m not passionate about the life I’m living right now.
I can escape it, but it will just mean I have to feel depressed and out of place again when I get back. And then what, go back to saving money so I can go to Japan (I really want to see Japan. I mean, have you ever met a Japanese girl?? I have not, so I’m just asking..) have an amazing time there and then come back to the same place I escaped from?
That doesn’t sound that great to be honest.
So what to do?
I realized that escaping a feeling or an issue is, in the long run, a bad idea. You will always be confronted by it somewhere in your life in one way or another.
The same goes for adjusting to the ‘normal’ world. I will explain in a few points how I handled this adjusting period. This is how it worked for me and this is how it might work for you.
1. Talk to friends that experienced the same as you.
This is something that really helped me out. Some people say that if you experienced something ‘negative’, the best thing to do is focus on the positive.
Now even though I fully agree on that, I believe that it is very good if you share your feelings with somebody who experienced the same thing. Your friends that never traveled don’t know how to help you since they don’t know what you are feeling right now. Talk to people who understand.
2. Write down everything that you experienced.
No matter what people say, the grass is almost never greener on the other side. You have amazing memories about your travels, but was the experience the best? Or was it the country you where living in? You can go back to the country, but you can’t relive your experience. Write down exactly what you remember and it will give you a clear perspective of what happened.
3. Find a group of people you feel connected with.
The moment you come back you will realize that you feel disconnected from your old friends. This is not a negative thing on their part, you are the one that has a new worldview.
I will never say get rid of your old friends but I do recommend that you should look for other people to interact with. Look for people who understand you, who have been through the same process as you did. Find your tribe.
4. Take short trips.
I grew up in the Netherlands. A tiny (But awesome) country in Europe. Within a few hours, I can be in countries like Germany, Belgium, France England etc.
However, I never took it for granted before I made my big gap year. I always saw these countries as ‘holiday countries’ and that it takes a lot of time to prepare a trip to one of them!
It’s not. It’s easy. You don’t have to plan or think too much. Just go!!
I realize that my passport is in my favor of course and not everybody is so lucky. However, if traveling to another country is not an option for you, try to see a bit more of your own.
There are probably a lot of things that you can explore if you just take the time and go. Don’t overthink it too much, just simply go.
5. Be independent
Usually, I planned things around my friends. If I wanted to go out and hit the city, I would check with my friends if they were keen to go as well. If not, I would have to stay in.
Same goes if I wanted to go to a museum or event, I never went alone. But being on the road helped me realize that I don’t need anybody. If I want to go to a bar, I go to a bar.
If I want to go and see Ireland and nobody wants to go? I will go to Ireland by myself, fuck it.
This may sound sad or lonely to some people but trust me, if I know how to make friends and live on the other side of the world alone, I can do the same at the local bar.
Keep in mind that people, in general, are quite friendly and open to meet new people.
You have seen parts of the world now and you know that there is a lot more out there than just your own little town. So now you need to find your place.
I’m not saying you should make it work in the place you grew up in, hell you can make it work in every country in the world if you want to.
But adjust first. Think about everything that has changed you. Except for that life on the road is not the life most people live.
So don’t expect them to act like it. Find yourself again. Not every day is a day where you experience something new and not every day is going to be an adventure.
Traveling changed you and you are beginning to feel how much only after you returned. Now it is time to find your place in this world, to find your tribe of people you feel connected with.
If you feel like you can find it in Argentina. Then go there. Bangkok maybe? Then jump on that plane! But don’t look for it by ‘escaping’ your current lifestyle. Go there with a mission. A plan to find and create the life you want!
If you feel happy with your life right now and where your life is going, you don’t feel like you’re escaping something when you’re planning your next trip.
But you know, that’s just me. If you are willing to work just to save money and travel again than who am I to stop you? But for me, I actually want to live a life that I love. Not save money so I experience the life I love.