After the holiday, everyday life often catches up with us faster than we would like. But what is it like when you have been on the road for months or even years? Uta C. Nabert on the difficulties of getting back home
When Sofia Thalbach arrives at the airport in Germany after a year, she is happy: she will see her family again, her friends. She has not seen “her people” for twelve months. Sofia was on a trip around the world, saw distant countries, experienced cultures, observed how people live in other parts of the world. She is filled with experiences that she wants to share, that she wants to talk about.
But disillusionment quickly sets in: Nobody is really interested in what she saw. Sure, her friends are happy to have her back, but they’d rather talk about the latest movie they saw than Sofia’s adventures. And yet they had been lived cinema! A walk-in film! Exciting, almost unbelievable: every day is different, no space for everyday life and small thoughts. All great cinema!
But now the twenty-something has to watch as her life shrinks from the biggest adventure of her life back to normal. The blockbuster that her life had become becomes a dignified evening series again. waste of time. Imperceptibly, Sofia slides back into a life where every day is predictable. She starts studying, and soon she’s back to everyday life. Often she cries. The wanderlust is too great. It would be years before she got back home mentally, too.
Many world travelers feel the same way after returning home: Certain problems run like a red thread through the life of a returnee for many, until they become a tangle of problems, a tangible postal travel blues, a “reverse culture shock”. For many world travelers, returning home is a major challenge, perhaps even the hardest part of the adventure: they are all back on home soil, and their hearts and minds are far from home.
Preserve the vastness of the world
David Pattison also experienced the blues: he went to South America for a few months and fell in love there. Because he got a thrombosis, he had to fly home early. He was lying on his mother’s sofa, dreading going back to his old job.
tips to return
Be patient: It can take up to two years for you to mentally feel at home again.
Stay in the here and now: Either you have decided to stay. Then it is a waste of energy to constantly wander into the distance in thought. Or one plans to leave again. Then it’s time to consistently prepare for the next trip or emigration.
Setting goals: This can be the next trip around the world, but it can also be many short trips, a degree, a blog or writing a book.
Be courageous: Just because you were a baker or biologist before the trip around the world doesn’t mean that you have to practice your old profession forever. You often get new impulses on the trip and get to know each other better. Back at home, it’s important to remain true to yourself and to pursue plans that you made abroad – even if parents and friends shake their heads. Usually they get used to it.
Lowering expectations: After a long stay abroad, partners and friendships sometimes fall apart. This cannot always be avoided. Travel changed. That’s the price
Don’t be afraid of gaps in your CV! Gone are the days when spending time abroad hurt your career. In an increasingly global world, knowledge of languages and sophistication are a plus when applying.
Uta-Caecilia Nabert is a journalist and has traveled the world twice since completing her traineeship: the first time she traveled by bus and train from Germany to New Zealand – via Russia, China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. After a period in Germany, she went to Canada by container ship. Her book “Back there and yet not here” is aimed at world travelers who suffer a “reverse culture shock” after returning home.
Readings: Uta-Caecilia Nabert will be reading on Thursday, October 6th at 7.30 p.m. in the town hall at Darmstädter Straße 7 in Bickenbach in southern Hesse. Admission is free. On October 28th at 7 p.m. the author will read in the Bensheim City Library. Information at www.stadtkultur-bensheim.de
What David and Sofia experienced is not only reported by backpackers and globetrotters. Sabine Wackenroder, for example, worked for the United Nations in Africa and at a German school in the 1980s. When she came back, she found it difficult to find a partner – she no longer liked German men. She didn’t warm to her former friends either. What problems they had! So trivial compared to the existential worries of the people of Cameroon, who sometimes only owned the rags they wore.
It took both David, Sabine and Sofia years to build a life that suited them after the trip. Sabine went to Africa again. Only after her second return and after moving to a completely different region in Germany did she settle down, get married and raise two children. Today she lives with her husband on an old farm. David went to Thailand as soon as he was healthy. Today he teaches English and in his spare time he sunbathes on his new girlfriend’s roof terrace.
On average, it takes two years to get back home. But this painful, sometimes conflict-ridden time holds the chance to recognize that you can still grow at home – not only when travelling, a time when you often surpass yourself. It’s a paradox: this world into which the travelers set out is so big and wide that it should actually scare you, it should be too much for you. But the wide world in particular gives travelers space to develop, lets them feel what is possible and what is in them.
The challenge after returning home is to keep claiming that space. That doesn’t always seem possible: when you start studying, you have to follow the university’s timetable. Anyone who goes back to work must comply with the regulations of the workplace. Or? No! Many no longer allow confinement, they have left the life they have outgrown: To do this, they had to resolve conflicts, take risks, break up with partners, end friendships, quit jobs, rewrite resumes.
But: Many make it. They stay true to themselves and live the life they want to live. George Moore once said: “Man travels the world in search of what is lacking. And he returns home to find it.” What if the traveler doesn’t find it? Then there is only one option: emigrate. Or to create the world you like at home. Therein lies the chance of return. And then it’s also a homecoming.