Coming home – how to handle reverse culture shock

I want to start this article by saying how I’m, by no means, ungrateful for my experiences travelling nor the love and support I’ve received from loved ones and friends. However, coming back to life and reality isn’t something you’ll see plastered over curated Instagram accounts. It’s a harsh smack in the face.

I also don’t want to sound like an ungrateful kid. So, again, please let me start by saying I understand how lucky I was to go and see half the world, experience different cultures and meet the incredible people we did.

Change is hard, I’ve often worried at the thought of leaving somewhere I’ve settled (even after a few days) which I know sounds ridiculous, especially while backpacking. I have slight attachment issues and every time we had to say goodbye to a place, person or even a dog that’s had a positive impact on my life, it’s been so hard and nearly always resulted in at least a few tears. As with many of our generation the ‘wellbeing’ and ‘mental health’ buzzwords get thrown around a lot. If this isn’t something you perhaps understand or don’t want to read about then please feel free to read some of our awesome round the world posts (we have a few), or a Restless Read book review. I won’t be offended, promise.

the natural way of things

I get attached to items I’ve picked up along the way, even tickets or movie stubs, heaven forbid I should throw anything away. Sorting through all our memorabilia has sparked this post as coming home from the dream lifestyle has been a change bigger than I’ve ever experienced. The only way I can explain how I felt coming home was like going through a really sh*tty breakup. Avoiding songs and playlists, struggling with looking at photos of happy memories, all the scrapbook stuff has had to go in drawer (for now) and I’ve been avoiding our social media account like the plague.  

Losing my sense of freedom, going back to the 9-5 and facing adulthood hasn’t exactly been my idea of heaven. But, then again, is it anyone’s? At the grand of age of 26 (and a half) everyone has told me it’s time to start thinking of settling, being serious about life. Does anyone else feel like the walls are closing in? No, just me?

People and activities have been a serious lifeline the past two months – when you’re left to your own devices and you’re kind of in limbo this leaves lots of time to overthink and contemplate. What should I be doing with my life? Why can’t I get a job? All my friends at this age are at ‘XYZ’ stage, where should I be? What will people think of me moving back home? Damn I need more money. Should I just up and go again? So on and so forth.

I’ve felt very removed from my own home, like I couldn’t connect with it, and I think it’s very easy to let coming back fully overwhelm you. Luckily there are coping techniques and even writing this post is proving cathartic. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me since coming home…

Throw yourself into a project

This doesn’t have to be a long-term project it can simply be something you’ve maybe been putting off or something travel has inspired. We’ve been putting off, setting up the ‘lifestyle’ section of our blog so yay post number one! Also, looking at the ways I can minimise my environmental impact and trying to go as waste free as possible has been really interesting to research. Enjoy learning something new and delving into your area of choice in depth. There are so many books, online resources, apps etc. that allow us to learn for free. Instead of scrolling for 15 minutes, download Duo Lingo or Memrise and learn a new phrase in Spanish.

Do something crafty

Similar to a new project, it’s a fab way to focus on a smaller end goal. It gives you something to work towards – which you might not have if you’re still out of work or not in your own living space. Studies have shown that getting into arts and crafts boost your mental health; it also allows you to exercise your problem solving skills and gives you a sense of achievement when finished. I’m currently working on knitting a patchwork blanket (knitting has even been referred to as the ‘new yoga’) and we built a frog pond in the back garden. Sure, it’s not exactly brunching in Singapore but I’ll take it.

The internet is a wonderful thing – you can learn how to crochet or knit or sew off YouTube. If you’re into art, see if there’s a local free class or set up on a nice day to practice painting or sketching your local surroundings. Finding beautiful in the everyday will definitely help appreciate your home again.

frog pond

Get back to nature

The rolling fields of sunny Cambridgeshire aren’t quite as exciting as the rice paddies of Vietnam or the food markets of Malaysia or even the dusty outback of Straya but it’s what we have. It’s on our doorstep with heaps of free walking trails and public footpaths and coming back in summer has definitely been an added bonus. Are the shops an hour walk away? Do you have a free day? Grab your trusty backpack and walk (bonus for the environment as well). If you live in a city there will usually be community gardens or vegetable patches, see if you can volunteer or visit.

We’ve been blackberry picking heaps recently, filling up old jam jars and then making crumble with what we pick. Fruit picking and baking with your produce helps to appreciate nature and momma earth, plus I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t like crumble…

river cam

Find a companion

Maybe you have a close friend that has experienced the same, or maybe you hop on Borrow my Doggy or Tailster and go and walk a pupper pal instead. Either way make sure you keep yourself active and keep talking through your feelings. If you feel like you’ve exhausted your family, hop online and talk to the travel tribe community and heck, I’m always up for a chat – drop me a line. It’s easy to feel lonely, especially if your travelling partner has landed their job quicker than you have or your family aren’t home much or your friends are all in the 9-5.

Volunteering will also always be a free and great way of meeting people in your community. Usually your local council will have a page set up or there might be community pages on Facebook. If you’re perhaps more of an introvert – head down to your local beach and do a litter pick or head to an animal shelter or garden.

Don’t forget if you’re really struggling to talk to your GP, they can arrange counselling and support. 

Doggos

Write it down

If you’re not up for sharing these feelings with another person or animal yet then grab a notebook or your laptop and write them down. Getting these thoughts down on paper can help organise and make sense of things that might be going through your mind at a million miles an hour.

Make a list of everything that’s running through your head, then you can go back through and try and put them in some kind of order. When you can visualise what going on inside it helps to see where you need to start.

Journaling can be a great experience if you get into a good habit because you can read back and see how much you’ve grown or moved towards your end goal. Try and pair this up with your project plans to recognise and appreciate your achievements.

Taking time for yourself

I’m sure there will be more pressure on you after coming back, especially compared to travelling when the world was your oyster, coming and going as you pleased. Whether it’s getting back on the job search, looking for somewhere to live or saving back the money you’ve spent (or all of the above!) it can be a lot of pressure quite quickly.

It took us a while to adjust to home life, as everyone back home was used to moving at a million miles an hour. Personally, I just had to make sure I took time to reflect and check in with myself.

Downloading apps like Headspace and Calm can give you these reminders – try ten minutes of guided meditation or focus on your breathing. If it’s making you feel negative or overwhelmed try and take a step back until you’re ready (and I wish I’d said this to myself) you don’t have to get back into your old life immediately. You need that adjustment period. Don’t try and see everyone in the first few days – take the time to unpack and get used to the idea of being home. It will make the transition a bit easier and calmer. My favourite app is Relax Melodies – you can mix your own meditative sounds and add guided meditation over the top. Really helpful at 3am when you’ve realised that you have seven job interviews and zero pounds in cash.

gardens

No one should feel like they’re lost, it’s a transition period but it can make you feel very isolated in your own home environment.  Sometimes people won’t understand how you feel and that’s fine, it’s not that you’re being self-indulgent or selfish, it might just take a bit of time. If you’re going from living a life you love, seeing new places and enjoying new cultures, to going back to the desk job of course it’s going to be a different way of life. After 15 months of being away, I can honestly say my outlook on life has changed. Decide what will make you happy and go for it.

Even if one other person relates to this and takes something away from it, it will be worthwhile. Would be really keen to hear your thoughts and if anyone else felt the same way. Drop us a comment below.

2 Comments

  1. September 22, 2019 / 9:36 pm

    Welcome back, if that’s the right thing to say!. Now is not the time to rush all this introspection stuff but at some point you’re going have to come up with the big picture vision – what do you want your life to be about? Get in touch when you feel like meeting up for coffee, tea, or whatever.

    • restlesspair
      Author
      September 24, 2019 / 8:25 pm

      Thanks John! Coffee sounds good 🙂 will get Dan to give you a text. Thanks so much again

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