Midnight Musings

The Truth About Returning From Long-Term Travel


Ahhh, home. Ain’t nothing like home sweet home. Right?

Wrong. At least for a long-term traveller anyway.

Having spent a lot of 2016 on the road, truth be told coming home… sucked. It’s not the reason you’re thinking.

No, it’s not because I’m not waking up in a rustic beach bungalow on a tranquil glistening bay, stuffing myself with Mediterranean delights down historic cobble-stoned lanes, running my fingers through wet, weighty leaves in hazy jungles or standing in-between a ruckus of colourful, cultural song and dance. Alright, maybe a little.

But for the most part, as much as every corner of the world presents its own unique culture shock, for me the true culture shock was returning to Sydney, Australia.

Sydney, I love you. I really, really do. It’s just… I can’t help but feel I’ve changed so much that perhaps we simply don’t align anymore. It’s not you, it’s me.

Indulging in home comforts and catching up with friends for the first week was wonderful – my stuff, constant WiFi – the world was at my fingertips, visiting my favourite local joints, Aussie beer in the summertime, no more twisting of TSA locks and guarding bags with my life.

However. For a good two months, observing “the real world” behaviours and my own in this big city was unsettling. I never departed on a quest of soul-searching but I came back feeling like I needed to re-evaluate my life.

When people asked “How were your travels? How does it feel to be home?!”, the reflex was “Ohhh, it was amazing! It’s great to be back!” accompanied with a wide-eyed smile. It wasn’t until an ex-vagabonder called out on my generic response: “You’re not really ‘home’, are you?”.

Ouch. Yup, it was definitely there. That subtle, yet burning displacement inside me.

So I pondered.

What’s happened since I returned from long-term travel?

Apparently, a whirlwind journey of emotions that led to big lifestyle shifts. Painful at first, but for the better.

Can we please take it slow?

The first thing I noticed was pace of living. I love keeping busy but hate feeling rushed. With an inevitable mixture of challenges over stretched out days during long-term travel, you learn and become accustomed to making smarter big decisions, do one thing at a time and in a higher state of awareness, even allowing yourself to finish one thought to get onto the next. You just really live life out.

While Sydney’s not ‘go, go, go!’ like London or New York, I still felt I needed a kick in the butt for a greater sense of urgency. Of course I need to get shit done but I just didn’t want life to race me by. It’s all to do with balance.

Now, any time I catch myself feeling anxiously hurried for even a second, I take a long, deep breath and say in my mind shanti shanti.

Please stop talking, ya hippie.

Watching society typically celebrate fast-paced living, some thoughts appeared:

  • We are working so hard that we’ve forgotten how to live.
  • We earn high wages but gosh do we spend a lot too.
  • Why does it feel like every year goes by faster and faster?
  • Why do we let the little things bother us?
  • Why are our lives on pause waiting for something? What are we chasing here?

I explained my enlightenment on a slow, simplified lifestyle to friends but was worried I came off sounding like a self-interested, overemotional hippie.

I wasn’t demanding a token of social status. I just wished people were open to seeing the bigger picture and have extra room to care about the more important things in life but sometimes the more I said, the harder it was for me to relate to people.

Hey world, it’s not you. It’s me.

Pondering these thoughts meant I was in a state of fiery desire. I didn’t like how the world was and wanted it to work differently.

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment that pulled me out of this stage but it seemed the exhaustion of feeling lost led to slowly finding light from within.

Whatever feelings I had towards my surroundings were simply a reflection of myself. When I knew it all had to do with how I was feeling, I cleared the fog and just accepted the world as it is, and so, there came this deep contentment within me and for my place.

I turned those desires into determination. After so much ‘telling’, I found the best way to express my new life perspectives and values was through ‘showing’: quietly enriching my life through simply being.

The grass is actually bright green everywhere.

What does returning to “the real world” even mean? Why is there an undertone of having it suck?

The real world is really the whole world where reality is up to me. Where on this planet do I physically want to be? If I want to move around often, how can I thrive as a digital nomad? How do I want to live my life? Because more than anything, having freedom matters most. And for my life, I will accept nothing less than wonderful.

I finally feel so awakened at home and love treating Sydney – this beautiful slice of Earth – like a travel adventure in itself: the joy of simple living and decluttering both home and the mind, walking different routes to pique undiscovered interest, paying more attention to surroundings (would you look at them trees?!), trying things for the first time, speaking to interesting people, learning the history of a place, engaging in activities that spark creativity, stressing less and savouring every second. It’s freakin’ tasty.

We all can’t drop everything and go but that’s fine because if travelling is really this certain attitude to have – one that your white-haired self will thank you for; one that’ll remain in my blood – then even if you’re at home waiting for the right time or saving up for your next escapade, be a traveller wherever you are and allow your spirit to grow now. Like, right now.

Light and love,

Do you also not want life to race you by? Where is “home” for you? I’d love to hear what your return from long-term travel was like too. Write me a comment below.

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Published by Tiffany Tran

Passionate Human (also Travel & Lifestyle Writer based in Sydney, Australia). Say hello: tiffany@talesofardour.com. The backstory →

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