The Graceful Return: Don’t Let The End of A Trip Be the End of Your Learning

Coming home from a trip isn’t always the most exciting part of the journey. Depending on where you’ve been, for what, and for how long, a return home can be anywhere from disappointing to downright depressing. Worse yet, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for the returning traveler. And this is often the time when support is most needed.

As a veteran traveler, I’ve faced the letdown upon return many times. Returning from my last year-long trip to Europe, I again faced the complex emotional whirlpool that often accompanies the end of a long-anticipated journey. This time, I was determined to do things differently, and I used my art making, writing and coaching skills to identify some of the problems associated with a return and came up with solutions for them. Here are three challenges you might face when you come home and suggestions on how to deal with them.

No one seems to care about your great adventure

My journal filled with art and writing from my adventures

My journal filled with art and writing from my adventures

Whether you’ve been living abroad for years or just taken a couple of weeks’ vacation, the people at home may not seem to be interested in what you did. You’re lucky if they even ask “How was it?” Don’t blame them; they were at home and don’t have the new perspectives you’ve gained.

A lot of what you experienced isn’t visible and they won’t know about it unless you create an environment that allows you to share what you lived through. Try hosting a show or gathering with food, music, pictures and items from your journey that you can share with your friends and family.

Returning home can spark an uncomfortable wave of emotions

One minute you’re happy to be home, glad you went on your trip, the next you’re confused and scared about your next steps. You may be feeling the let down after the excitement of your journey. But to the world, you’ve done something remarkable, enviable even. From an outside perspective you have it made, and when you try to explain that you’re not feeling so great, others may brush it aside as mere counter-culture shock. But it’s more than that. You need space and time to trace the emotional journey so you can integrate what you’ve experienced. Use a journal to chronicle what you’re feeling. You may even want to work with a therapist or a coach to help piece together your post-trip feelings in a way that is useful for you.

How do you capture the inspiration and empowerment you’ve gained on your journey?

You’ve gone through something big, and perhaps you spent a lot of time and money on your journey. You don’t want to let the thrill of your adventure dissipate upon your return home. While a lot of what you have experienced has changed you in imperceptible ways, you may want to be more clear about what your journey has given you. Use lists to cull the gold from your adventure. List the highlights in order to pinpoint the values you expressed while away. Then list the lowlights of your journey to identify ways that you have grown and gained strength, new skills and qualities.

Don’t let the power of a journey disappear just because you’ve come home

Give yourself a sort of bridge between your trip and home with the gift of time and space to integrate all you’ve gained. You’ll be glad you did, and your journey will be more valuable for the time you’ve spent.

Creative Nomad Cynthia Morris has used these methods to help herself and her clients make the most of any journey. Find these and other tips for making the most of your trip in her 50-page e-book The Graceful Return: Relish Your Journey After You’ve Come Home.

Filed under: 170