It’s July 18, I have been back in America for exactly three weeks now. I’ve seen many family members, friends, ate at restaurants I missed terribly while I was away, and spent way too much time with my dogs. I’m back. After 6 months of living the Welsh life, I’m back. The thoughts rolling through this brain of mine that has been around the world are sometimes overwhelming.
I am one of countless people who have traveled the world and come back home, only to find their souls are now too big for the town that gave them the roots to leave in the first place.
I once made a bucket list when I was about 10 years old, and although I don’t recall everything that was on it, I’m quite positive I have accomplished a large majority of what was on that list- all before my 21st birthday.
I know how lucky I am. I know I have done more in my short 20 years than my most people will do in their entire lives. I am not seeking sympathy as I know I wouldn’t get it, however I do feel it necessary to explain the feelings known as “reverse culture shock” because it is all too real.
At our study abroad orientation, our advisers explained several emotional responses that people typically feel when experiencing a brand new place, as well as when they return home. They explained a “culture shock cycle” that must of us would go through. It basically said we would have our honeymoon phase where everything is new and exciting and wonderful, and then we would go downhill for a while until we hit our valley. We would start to miss home, become irrationally angry at how our new host country/people did things, and become somewhat depressed and isolated. But then the cycle would continue, and we would ride up our mountain to a state of excitement and joy for being in our new world. This cycle would continue until we felt content and no longer experience this shock.
I kept waiting for my waves of the cycle to come. To feel homesick, lost, scared, etc. But I can honestly say it never arrived. I enjoyed every second, every boring day, every long bus ride, every crabby bus driver, every crabby person that seemed to be crabby for no reason, everything. I was happy and content. The ability to travel to new places whenever I wanted was something I always longed for. I was living my dream every day.
Now, getting to the reverse of this emotional response. Coming home! Something that’s in the back of any traveler’s mind from the moment they leave, whether they like it or not. I could try as hard as I could to not think about it, but coming home is always inevitable.
The mixture of feelings returning travellers feel is confusing and scary and sad and happy and strange all at the same time. Small things have changed- relationships, friendships, the new dental office on the south end of town, the natural progression of life. But one of the most “shocking” things is that nothing has really changed all that much. Except you. You packed up all your things and did the most brave thing you’ve done in your life so far – you left. You lived a completely different life and were forced to eat new food and make new friends and try to understand people who speak differently than you. You travelled constantly, you spent more time on buses and trains and planes than you did in your own bed at times. You saw the world, or at least a part of it. And now you’re thrown back into a world that still thinks of you as the same person you were when you left. Little do they know you will never be the same. Your soul has grown and your horizons have widened and the travel bug has burrowed deeper into your skin, forever being a pushing force to make you want to leave again.
As depressing as that may all sound, I don’t want anyone to think I regret studying abroad, because it truly was the best decision I ever made. I would never take back all the memories and adventures even if I knew it would feel this way when it was all over. Not a chance. The truth is, life can’t possibly be exciting and wonderful and exhilarating 100% of the time. It just doesn’t work that way. Think of your favorite book. Was every single chapter wonderful and great and exciting and had you on the edge of your seat? Probably not. You remember the chapters that matter most when you look back at it. But the others, the fillers, have to be there as well for many reasons- growth of characters, stability, developing relationships, explanations, and just chill time. You have moments and stretches of time where you are living the dream-literally- with your head in the clouds. But eventually you have to come down and rejoin reality, for at least a little while. Your friends and family need you more than you probably know; and you need them too. Then you can go back to reliving the memories and continuing to dream of the never ending adventures you will pursue in your future.
Always take that leap of faith, always follow your dreams, put yourself first at times, but also be selfless!!! Thank you so much for coming with me on this journey, I’m signing off until my next adventure.
See you soon,