Returning home from an extended trip around the world is a major shock to your system. Dealing with re-entry into the real world and having reverse culture shock makes coming home difficult.
While coming home is definitely hard, there’s also the exciting side to it. You are excited to see everyone – your family, friends, co-workers (maybe) – and you are excited to eat and drink everything that you have missed in your time away. But all that – the honeymoon period of being home, the reverse culture shock, and re-entry – all fade away with time. For some it might only last a few months, but for others it can last a year or two. But after a while, most long-term travelers do get over their post-trip blues and excitement, and many settle into a largely normal life again.
The one thing that never seems to fade, though, is wanderlust. Wanderlust is what made you take a trip of this magnitude in the first place, and despite popular belief, a long-term, RTW trip does not cure wanderlust. In fact, I think every RTW traveler I’ve met has said that their trip only fueled the travel fire. For every destination ticked off the travel list, five more were no doubt added. Not to mention all the places that you want to return to.
Some RTW travelers won’t let their trip end, deciding to find a way to stay on the road. Whether it’s teaching, getting any other number of odd jobs to continue your travels, or taking the leap into becoming a digital nomad, there are plenty of ways to stay on the road. But what if you don’t want to become a permanent vagabond? What if you like having a place to call home?
One aspect of coming home from RTW travel is figuring out the balancing act. Most RTW travelers come home and can’t bear the thought of only taking a week or two a year for travel. But that’s the reality for many people. Once people go back to work, the possibility of taking months off at a time become extremely difficult for most.
So what do you do? How do you cure this wanderlust? How do you deal with the non-travel blues? Like planning for a RTW trip, it’s not easy, and it can take some hard work, uncertainty and sacrifice. But it travel is your top priority, you can make the best of your situation and make sure it is a part of your daily life.
Explore Your Own Backyard
Chances are you haven’t explored many of the sites in and around your own city, even if you’ve lived there your entire life. I have lived in St. Louis since I was born, which is a decent sized city, but it’s no New York or Chicago. Even though I’ve been here for over 30 years, there are so many areas that I have yet to see or experience. Chances are you are in the same boat.
Become a tourist in your own city. Stay on top of festivals, markets, and events going on where you live. Research day trips from your city. You’ll be amazed at how many amazing places are probably within an hour or two drive of where you live. For me, the anticipation of a trip is sometimes just as exciting as the trip itself, so if you start planning little getaways a few times a month, even if it’s only an hour away, it’s something to look forward to. It’s something to get excited about. Realizing you can still travel when you’re at home will certainly help your wanderlust, at least temporarily.
Move To a New City
Sometimes wanderlust can be cured by a change of scenery. That’s part of why so many of us love to travel. We love the uniqueness of a new place. We love how things are different and don’t quite work the same way as at home, even if it’s just moving to a new city in your own country. When you travel, everything is new and exciting, and moving can provide that same feeling.
Getting the chance to explore a completely new place can provide some relief from your wanderlust. Coming home is great because you get to see everyone and everything you missed, but most people quickly realize that something is different upon returning. RTW travelers change immensely over the course of a trip, and chances are that not much has changed at home. It’s a very disconcerting feeling, and it can wear on you after a while. It’s a constant reminder that not only are you not traveling anymore, but sometimes it can give you that feeling that you don’t quite fit in.
Move To a New Country
If you want to take it to an even bigger extreme, then consider becoming an expat somewhere. I’m sure you probably fell in love with many places during your trip, and you most likely uttered the following phrase, “You know what, I think I could live here.” Then do it! RTW travel instills a certain amount of confidence in people, and the whole process – deciding, planning, informing loved ones, leaving, traveling, and coming home – makes you realize that you really can do anything if it’s of the utmost importance to you. While moving to a new country provides a different type of challenge, it’s still something that you can handle. You’ve already handled a major life-changing moment in going on a RTW trip, so this shouldn’t be much more of a stretch.
Moving to a new country will certainly help with the wanderlust. It gives you the opportunity to really immerse yourself in a new culture and live in a way you’ve never lived before. You can explore new areas in and around your new home, and every day feels like a new adventure.
Always Be Planning
Even it’s a long weekend away, it’s always good to have a trip on the horizon. It gives you something to look forward to, to get excited about. As stated earlier, planning a trip is all part of the fun, and the anticipation of where you’re going next, no matter how far away it is or long you will be gone, is all exciting. We have gotten into the habit of discussing our next trip while we’re still on a trip. Once a trip is winding down, we find ourselves asking each other, “So where to next?” If you have a getaway planned or are at least thinking about that next trip, it makes the workdays easier to get through and gives you an outlet for that wanderlust. You can spend your evenings (and slow parts of your workday) reading about that next destination, researching sites and hotels and restaurants and bars, and it all adds to the excitement.
Start Saving For Another Big Trip
Most people who go on a RTW trip come home with the assumption that they will do it again. Some start saving right away and get right back into the routine of planning the next big adventure. Some want to settle down and wait a while. Still others know that it may be 5, 10, even 20 years until that next adventure. If you can’t stand the thought of being home and need to get back out on the road again, then start saving and planning for the next big getaway.
You’ve already done it once, and while your family and friends may think you’re crazy for doing it all over again, you know what it takes, and it should be much easier the second time around. Remember the excitement when you first decided to take that plunge and travel RTW? I would imagine it’s not going to be much different that second time around. The best way to cure wanderlust after returning home from a big trip is to simply start planning your next big trip.
Get a Travel Friendly Job
This is much easier said than done, especially in this still down economy, but if traveling is your top priority, it just makes sense to take a job that is travel friendly. My wife is an attorney, one of the least travel-friendly jobs around. Sure, she got paid a lot, but she never had the time to spend that money on travel. After we returned from our RTW trip, she found a job as a litigator. It was long hours. It was difficult. She had very little time off. Then about a year later, a job came up in the legal department of a company. One that had her working normal hours and starting with four weeks of vacation (that they actually encourage you to take – unheard of in the US). It was less prestigious, it meant moving from a big office with windows into a cubicle, and it meant a big pay cut. But to her, and us, it was well worth it. She jumped on it and couldn’t be happier. They even allowed her to take over 2 weeks off at once less than 6 months into her time there so we could go on a vacation to Europe.
While it may not be easy, it’s always important to keep your eyes open. One thing that most people learn during the course of a RTW trip is that money, prestige, and career are not the most important things in life. We come to really appreciate time, as that is the most precious life commodity. Having all the money and toys in the world doesn’t amount to much when you have no time to enjoy it. While you may have to make do for a while, particularly in this economy, it pays to always be on the lookout for something different.
Become a Permanent Nomad
Then there are those RTW travelers who simply can’t give up the permanent travel. It gets into their blood, and they decide that this is the life they want to lead. There are plenty of people who decide to say “Screw it!” and just stay on the road. It’s usually not easy, but it can certainly be done. There are tons of ways to make money on the road, with teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) being among the most popular. It puts money in your pocket while still giving the flexibility to travel and explore the area you call home for a while.
Teaching isn’t the only way to combine work and travel. Read Get Paid to See the World: 12 of the Best Jobs that Combine Work and Travel.
Others find ways to work digitally. Some have grand plans of becoming the next great travel writer. Others start blogs and hope to monetize them. Both are possible but require a lot of hard work, and the odds are certainly stacked against you. But if you have any other skills, like consulting or web design, you can make it as a digital nomad. All you need is a computer and an internet connection, and you can start making some money on the road while you travel.
Dealing with wanderlust once you’ve returned from your trip is one of the hardest things about coming home. But there are ways to combat the post-trip blues. You just have to get creative and take the bull by the horns, making travel and exploration your top priority.Next: Staying Active in the Community »