You come back to your roots, but you find your roots have now expanded. You’ve outgrown your home.
It’s hard to think that the place you’ve known as home could ever feel foreign. When you first move to a foreign country, the feeling is reversed. Everything is new. Things can feel really hard, confusing, and stressful. You have to reteach yourself how to do daily tasks. You learn that you have an electric shower that could shock you if you touch it wrong, or that you can’t flush toilet paper. You learn to live without certain amenities from home. You learn new bus routes, new street names, where your new favorite coffee shop will be. You’re forced to communicate in a language you may not be familiar with. At times, you may yearn for the comforts of home, the people from home.
But after a while, you find 'home' and make 'home' in a foreign place. And after you’ve lived abroad for long enough, your definition of 'home' becomes much looser. I’ve found 'home' hiking through the snowy Ausangate Mountain. I’ve found 'home' looking over the Valle Sagrado. I’ve found 'home' hiking through Incan ruins. I’ve found 'home' in the relationships with my friends and companions. I’ve found 'home' in my classroom helping students learn a language that can change the trajectory of their lives.
Many of the people who decide to pick up and leave to live in a foreign country have a thirst for adventure. They decide to leave because they want to have new experiences as often as possible, they want the challenge of living in a culture so different than what they’re used to. They want to try new cuisine, meet new people, to spend their weekend taking trips to random, unfamiliar places with new friends; many of the reasons people choose to travel.
With that, when you come home, it can feel a bit dull. Monotonous. You find how easy it is to slip back into the same routine, maybe have the same job, see the same people, go to the same places. And you find that although your travels have changed you, your hometown and everything that’s there has remained the same. With that, it can make you feel foreign in a familiar place. It can make you feel like a caged bird-like your curiosity and adventurousness are hindered.
Some people may leave their homes because of their unhappiness or discontent with life at home. They may feel that running away is a way to forget about it and have the time to truly focus on themselves and their goals. With that, coming home can be incredibly challenging. They realize that leaving home didn’t make the problems at home go away. They’re still there waiting for you, right where you left them.
The greatest thing one can do in their transition back home is to continue living as if you’re still exploring a new, foreign place. Being at home can continue to feel like an adventure if you let it. It’s easy to take our hometowns, or home countries, for granted when you feel you know all of its ins and outs and all of the fun things to do. But, take advantage of the fact that you’re seeing your hometown with a fresh perspective.
Take this opportunity to play tourist. Explore it how you would if it were a foreign city. I’ve found myself so much happier at home when I continue to spend my free time exploring new things about my city. Take a new weekend trip, or find new restaurants and places to go you’ve never been before.
When I find myself really missing the experiences I had while travelling, I listen to music from that country and I find it takes me right back to that mindset I had there. I’ll read a book in the language I was speaking abroad, or cook food native to that country. Sharing all of these things with your tribe at home can help you relive these experiences as well.
Most importantly, enjoy this time and be fully present with your family and friends as you have the time with them. You tend to always miss what you had in the past, like the beautiful country and the people in it that you've just left. But with presence, you appreciate what you have right in front of you rather than griping over where you aren’t right now.
Take the lessons you’ve learned, and the new things you’ve learned about the world and yourself and apply them to your home. And of course, start planning that next trip abroad.
Christina taught English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Peru! She's now home, and settled back into life and routine.
To see the TEFL Heaven program Christina chose to start her adventure, see the Teach English in Peru Program
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