Appreciating Home By Traveling

For people who love to travel, the thought of home is often secondary, if not downright loathsome or terrifying.  While we wile away at our 9-5’s or type up that next term paper, our minds so often wander abroad.

It’s to be expected of course.  Travel perpetually offers excitement, new experiences, and the freshness of being in an unfamiliar place: that oh-so-pleasant over-stimulation.  It’s the wonderful distraction from our normally mundane daily living.

Travel offers more than escape from our lives, however.  In fact, travel can make us appreciate our homes in ways we might never have thought.  While we’re at home daydreaming of adventures overseas, thinking of all the things we can’t wait to get away from, we’re often forgetting to look right under our noses at the conveniences and beauties of our own home.  Funny enough, never can this become more clear than when we’re away, looking at home from the other side.

Here are eight things you might discover about home the next time you take off on that big trip:

1. That special “local’s knowledge” you never knew you had

Local Knowledge

 

What we take for granted at home may astound us when we travel.  Upon landing we’re suddenly thrust into completely unfamiliar surroundings.  The formerly simple now confounds, the known now unknown.  How do I pay for a ticket on the bus?  Is this neighborhood safe at night?  Where’s the local spot for cheap beer?

When we’re traveling, we remember how much we know about our home and how sweet it is to be a local.

At home, we navigate the bus system without a thought, and we know which nights of the week churn out the live music.  Knowledge of the best burger in town is an innate part of our being.

Why is it always best to ask the locals for advice?  Because where we live runs in our veins.  When we’re traveling, we remember how much we know about our home and how sweet it is to be a local.

2. Your own backyard

Rocky Mountains

 

There are French art museums and Egyptian pyramids.  You go to Peru to go hiking, hit those Thai beaches to soak up the sun, and go on safari in Africa.  The world offers us so much it’s impossible to ignore. How come we often ignore all those treasures that our own cities and countries bestow us?

When you’re traveling, it may dawn on you how much you’ve missed right where you live.

If you’ve never “traveled” your own country before, traveling in others may open your eyes to the possibilities.  There you are, an American hiking in Nepal, yet you’ve never seen the Rockies?  You may find yourself alone, Irish, marveling at colonial architecture in Mexico when you suddenly realize that you pass by older, equally beautiful buildings on the way to work every day.

When you’re traveling, it may dawn on you how much you’ve missed right where you live, and you may find yourself making plans to discover the attractions listed in our own town’s tourist brochure.

3. The ladies and the fellas, Mommy and Daddy

Family

 

Sick and tired of the same ol’ drinkin’ buddies?  Mom and Dad’s daily calls and constant complaining got ya down?  Well soak it up now because you’ll be missing them all before you know it.

Sure, meeting new friends is one of the best parts of traveling.  You might even have a hot love affair or two (more if you’re lucky).  But when you’re having a bad day and need a confidante, nothing quite beats the closeness of the friends who have known you since who knows when.

It’s never the same as your best buds who know your ins and outs, and the constant friend-cycling can get old quick.

You’ll miss them even more when you’re forced to “settle” for friends.  We’ve all had to do it: we’re traveling solo, we’re a bit lonely, and we end up spending three days with someone who we might have passed on at home.  It’s never the same as your best buds who know your ins and outs, and the constant friend-cycling can get old quick.

And let’s face it.  Mom and Pop may drive you crazy sometimes, but after weeks or months on the road, your Mom’s mashed potatoes will taste as good as ever, and your Dad’s dumb jokes are suddenly kind of funny.

>> Read how to make friends on the road without hosteling

4. Your own language

Language

 

The language barrier when traveling is a mixed bag. It can be entertaining and oft-hilarious.  It can be eye-opening, and it can motivate you to learn a new language and about new cultures and ways of thinking.  At the same time, it can be frustrating and limiting.

When you travel in a place where you struggle to communicate, you learn how great it is be able to do so fully.

Learning a new language is a major attraction to travel for many of us.  Communicating with locals from a different culture in their own language teaches us about our own ways of thinking and doing.  But no matter how much you learn and experience, unless you have years of immersion and true fluency, there’s something to be said about your native tongue.

When you travel in a place where you struggle to communicate, you learn how great it is be able to do so fully; to talk politics or sports, to philosophize and argue, to profess complex emotions and experiences, to understand the fine details.  The next time you’re out there struggling to express clearly your intention to buy that cute local girl a drink, you may realize how good your own words and phrases work for you.

5. All that stuff you don’t need

Too much stuff

 

Travel almost inherently opposes materialism.  While so many of us come from cultures that value how much stuff we have, and while you may run into the occasional backpacker with 90-Liter packs strapped to both sides of his body, there’s definitely something to be said about carrying only your essentials in a small bag everywhere you go.

You’d be a fool not to admit that there might be days on the road where you have a strong hankering for all that material crap you sought to get away from.

But sometimes the sudden realization hits you: that crap I don’t really need… it’s kind of nice. My own bed is so comfy!  My own pots and pans are so clean and functional!  My own computer runs at light speed!

It’s not just your material things either.  It’s your personal space, too.  We share so much while traveling: kitchens and bathrooms, bedrooms and living rooms, bus seats and backyards.  You’d be a fool not to admit that there might be days on the road where you have a strong hankering for all that material crap you sought to get away from.

>> Learn how to travel very lightly

6. Your hobbies

Cooking

 

Getting out there and trying new things might be first on your list of reasons you love to travel. Take that weaving course from indigenous women in Guatemala, learn to play the didgeridoo in Australia, get into Indian cricket matches, or learn to cook tempura shrimp in Japan.  That next big trip might have you picking up all sorts of new hobbies, and hey, that’s fantastic!

 In more ways than one, our time on the road can certainly reinvigorate those interests you take for granted while at home.

Unfortunately though, some of those hobbies you really do love at home can’t come with you. The piano you love to play doesn’t quite fit into your pack, they don’t play a lot of ice hockey in Southeast Asia, and your favorite TV show has been dubbed into the local language and therefore rendered unintelligible.  These are often the harsh realities we face when abroad, and despite our new-found love affairs with other things, our old hobbies are waiting to be rediscovered upon our return.

At the same time, you may rediscover hobbies you love at home because you’re traveling. Suddenly, you find yourself with hours of free time to read.  You feel inspired by your new surroundings to draw or write.  Your passion for soccer is reignited by the strong play of your current country’s World Cup run!  In more ways than one, our time on the road can certainly reinvigorate those interests you take for granted while at home.

>> Read about taking a cooking class on your travels

7. The day-to-day cycle you love to hate

Just another day at the office

 

Wake up.  Eat breakfast.  Go to work.  Workout at the gym.  Eat dinner. Read and/or watch some TV.  Go to bed. Repeat ad-nauseum.

We all have our routines at home and we love to hate them.  How exciting can it be to go through that day time and time again?   Certainly, busting out of that boring old cycle is one of the best things about traveling.

If you travel long enough, you may wake up one morning and be a little sick of it.

While out on the road we love the excitement of constant change.  We sleep and eat in different places, we see new cities and towns, and we meet new people.  Sure, we make small little routines that might last for a couple of days at a time – like drinks at our favorite hostel bar or where we put our bags for the week.  Every day is different than the last and it’s invigorating… for a while.

If you travel long enough, you may wake up one morning and be a little sick of it.  Not knowing where you’ll sleep that night, what you’ll eat that day, how you’ll get where your going can push you to frustration from time to time, and you’ll find yourself missing that routine at home and the comfort of knowing what’s coming.

In fact, you might even realize how important that routine is to your wanderlust… how exciting would travel be anyway if we didn’t have that normalcy at home by which to compare it?

>> Get inspiration to take a career break or learn how to travel more without quitting your job

8. The little conveniences in our lives

Convenience

 

While not true everywhere you’ll travel, you might find yourself marveling at simple things about home.  All those little conveniences we take for granted suddenly become noticeable while traveling.

At home, most of us can turn on the tap and drink the water. Or grab some ice from the freezer (ice – so simple, and something I personally missed a lot during my year abroad).  Starbuck’s coffee?  Check. Public bathrooms can be remarkably clean.  Good beer?  It’s available.  Roads are paved and transportation is reliable.  A coup isn’t necessarily a weekly occurrence.

The conveniences our own homes often provide us become amplified while out on the road, and the next time you get back from that trip, you may feel a new appreciation for all those little things we take for granted.

Further reading:

Photos by:  nickfyson, Steven Bratman, foreverdigital, Roche Photo, Dr John 2005, Y, psd, others by the author and may not be used without permission

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Older comments on Appreciating Home By Traveling

jenny matty
30 May 2011

Rich,
This article hit home for me (no pun intended)! I wholeheartedly agree with all 8. I just spent 4 months sailing around the world with my husband and 2 kids. Never did I anticipate what a renewed sense of appreciation I’d have for home sweet home. We’ve been back for about a month and even though I’m (always) dreaming of the next adventure, it still feels good to be home. Thanks for writing.