Defining Change – Coming Home from a RTW Trip

When I left my life in Brooklyn, New York for my yearlong Round the World honeymoon I was full of trepidation and worry. I’m no different from anyone else who quits their job to travel though – feeling hesitation in the face of an unknown path is par for the course. We worry that our friends will forget us and our families won’t understand. Our careers will become completely derailed and that the great apartment we live in will never be topped. I felt it all. I worried about it all. But despite this concern, I knew long term travel had surprises in store.

We’d planned our RTW itinerary to include a mix of relaxing honeymoon destinations but also difficult travel situations. We were hitting the road not only to see the sights and enjoy honeymoon relaxation, but to have experiences we hoped would teach us important lessons. Personally, I trusted that long-term travel would in some way move me to live a more inspired life. And maybe I could learn to chill out a bit – I’m a serial planner who thinks I am not a serial planner. The worst kind.

Personally, I trusted that long-term travel would in some way move me to live a more inspired life. And maybe I could learn to chill out a bit – I’m a serial planner who thinks I am not a serial planner. The worst kind.

Our honeymoon trip started in Argentina and took us through South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii, with a brief visit home in the middle for the holidays. We took as many opportunities as possible to push ourselves, whether it meant hiking to Everest Base Camp, snowboarding through unmarked snow in Argentina, or visiting intimidating off-the-path destinations like Bandipur, Nepal. Through these challenges, I expected to feel an internal shift. I wanted proof that the inspiration travel was creating was actually happening.

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It wasn’t until month seven that I finally felt the shift. Halfway through our six-week New Zealand road trip, I sensed the desire to put down the guidebook and melt into the chaos. My normal need to plan and prepare was fading in favor of the moment. If our trip was structured like a song, I had hit the bridge – the prelude to the conclusion to the trip.

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The traveling we did after the shift was some of my favorite I’ve ever experienced. I’m sure this is a big part of the reason I say that Indonesia is my favorite country – we spent most of that time in Bali, Java, and Lombok. I finally let go of my expectations and allowed Indonesia to enchant me. Visiting a country with this much intrigue and disorder is a life changing experience, especially when you are truly open to it.

 I ended my nomadic year feeling sad to have finished this momentous journey, but feeling lifted by my accomplishment and motivation. I had high hopes for the new life we would make for ourselves after experiencing so much.

The end of the trip approached rapidly and returning home was bittersweet, as expected. I ended my nomadic year feeling sad to have finished this momentous journey, but feeling lifted by my accomplishment and motivation. I had high hopes for the new life we would make for ourselves after experiencing so much.

Adjusting to life at home

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Though I’d fully prepared to tackle my many fears before and during the trip, I was completely unprepared to deal with myself post-trip. I figured that my new mindset would translate seamlessly into life at home. How could it not – a travel high is one of the best feelings in the world.

In the face of logistics and responsibility, the energy I felt so intensely upon my return was slowly dulled. Daily life was getting more and more complicated and big plans were put on hold in favor of necessities like job and apartment hunting. I stopped reading books – something I had done daily on the trip. Instead of exploring the city and spending time outdoors, I sat for hours in front of the television out of frustration with New York. Before the trip, I wrote and played music, and cooking dinner from scratch was a nightly event. Now, I couldn’t bring myself to do any of it. I was listless.

Though there had been no plans to move to another city or country, our return to the same city and to a similar day to day life was haunting me.

This disappointment started to follow me around like a puppy. Though there had been no plans to move to another city or country, our return to the same city and to a similar day to day life was haunting me. For comfort, I poured over our trip photos and surrounded myself in travel keepsakes. I think I actually wore one specific scarf I bought in Nepal every single day for three months. I fretted nonstop about my choices.

Where was all of that change I had promised myself?

Shouldn’t my travel experiences have shown me the way?

Had I squandered an opportunity to pursue what really makes me happy? 

On a chilled December Saturday when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, I could think of nothing else to do but open up my laptop and type “wordpress.com” into my browser. Maybe, I thought, I’ll start a private blog where I can work through my struggle. So I wrote. And kept writing. And one day a few months later, I set the blog to public and wrote even more.

Funny thing – when change happens to you, sometimes you don’t realize it until you really need to.

Funny thing – when change happens to you, sometimes you don’t realize it until you really need to. Through writing about my experiences, editing thousands of photos, and confronting the disappointment and sadness head on, I was making change happen. The more I wrote, the more I realized that the newness I was so hungry for was right there.

Change is not about things and places – it’s about awareness and positivity.

Change is not about things and places – it’s about awareness and positivity. If you can steer yourself on a path that is made up of the things you care about most, it doesn’t only matter where it goes – it matters that you are happy with each step you took in getting there.
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What Changed?

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Writing has become my new best friend. I’d never fancied myself a writer before, as I spent most of my school days cooped up in a chemistry lab trying to make computer chips. As it turns out, this science major enjoys writing so much that it is now an everyday affair. Blogging and freelance writing have ignited my travel inspiration brighter than what it was when I returned home. Photography classes and a new fancy camera have also added to my new passion for storytelling.

Sustainability and “greenness” have moved up on the priority list. It only took a few days in Nepal observing the normalcy of burning piles of discarded plastic and trash before the importance of sustainable living actually hit me. Buying less packaged goods, using recycled paper products (and less of them), and carrying reusable grocery bags have all become paramount. In addition, we try to eat as many fresh and whole foods as possible and we no longer use harsh chemicals in the house. It is a work in progress and by no means are we 100% green, but we’ve decided it’s worth every effort to try. This year, in our new Brooklyn backyard, we will even attempt to grow our own edible garden.

We named our cattle dog/bloodhound mix Cambodia as a reminder of the country we visited on our trip where we truly learned the value of hope and second chances.

One of my favorite changes, however, is the new addition to our family. Bodie, full name Cambodia, is our one year old rescue dog we adopted through the fantastic organization Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue (Their goal is to give a second chance to dogs that were placed on death row at high-kill shelters in the Southern United States). We’ve seen countless abandoned, malnourished, and terrified dogs in various places around the world, so finding a way to help at least one of them feels great. We named our cattle dog/bloodhound mix Cambodia as a reminder of the country we visited on our trip where we truly learned the value of hope and second chances.

I feel like a better version of myself, though it was through struggles to make sense of my travels that it happened.

Although travel taught me countless lessons, my post-travel experiences may have taught me even more. As hoped, I feel like a better version of myself, though it was through struggles to make sense of my travels that it happened. I feel more aware of inequalities around me, appreciative of the people and opportunities I’ve been given, as well as having an open minded to possibilities I can’t plan for. Ok fine, so I’m still a serial planner, but I’m far more open to spontaneity than I was before.  Especially when it comes to the little things.

Check out author Annie Shustrin’s traveler profile and fill one out yourself!

To read more about re-entry after a big trip, check out the following:

manifesto - defining your values

Photo credits: All pictures courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.





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