The ‘returning-home blues’

returning home to new zealand after a trip

When travelling a lot, it becomes easy to get addicted to the lifestyle. Which is why, for some people, going back home (especially after a long trip) can be hard. Recently I have seen a lot of people describing what I like to call ‘returning home blues’: coming home from travelling and feeling absolutely disengaged and unhappy in their own home country. This is also sometimes known as ‘reverse culture shock’ (read more about this here).

I know that this is a real feeling for many people and it can be hard to accept returning to reality after having such amazing experiences abroad, but I for one can say I have never experienced this, and I don’t think you should either.

 Why don’t I feel this way?

“I think the most important thing is to be in a good mood and enjoy life, wherever you are.” — Diane von Furstenberg

I live in New Zealand. And New Zealand (in case you didn’t know) is a pretty amazing country. No matter where I go in the world I will always call New Zealand home and I will always be happy to come back to the familiarity of that place I call home. It does help that I still think New Zealand is the best country in the world (read my post on why I never want to leave New Zealand).

I remember when I came back from my Europe trip. I had been  away for six months, travelling non-stop for about four of those. I loved every minute of my experience, but when I got on the plane bound for Auckland, all I felt was happiness and excitement. I will be in my own country! With my own food, and culture, and language, and hearing my language be spoken with my own accent! And OMG, people would be driving on the left side of the road again!

It’s like, everything I’m used to is what’s right to me. So while it is fascinating and intriguing and mind-boggling to be inside different cultures, there is nothing more satisfying than being inside your own. And I believe travelling helps me to appreciate that even more.

 Why don’t I believe in this phenomenon?

In my opinion if this happens to you, you might have missed the point of travelling. We should not be living trip-to-trip, barely surviving through the time we have to spend in our home countries, counting the days until we can leave again.

Travelling, for me anyway, is about learning. It’s about connecting with other people, engaging with people that you never ever would have had the opportunity to speak to otherwise. It’a about noticing and appreciating differences, and opening your eyes to where your own culture and society thrive and where they are weaker.

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

If you are sad when you get home, you are probably missing a valuable benefit that you could get from travelling, which is appreciating your own home. Understanding a bit more about where you come from and what makes it unique. What makes it special. What makes tourists come and visit it.

In my case, there are many things that New Zealand lacks that most other countries have, but there are also many things that no other country has but New Zealand.

Travelling should be about refreshing your mind and learning about the world and understanding how other cultures and societies work, realising that your home town isn’t the only place where real people exist, and so so many other things. It should be about finding where you and your background fit into the world, how the world views you and how you view the world. It is a reciprocal relationship, you take your experiences and learnings from every place you visit, and, whether unknowingly, you give back your opinions, your culture, your ideas, and a part of you.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

If you love travelling but you hate home, ask yourself: why do you love travelling so much? Is it just to escape reality? Or is there a deeper reason behind it? Because if you really love travelling, it should be because you love the world, and the world includes where you are from just as much as it includes every other place.

 Tips for people who feel this way:

While I do not get this myself, I think it is a simple matter of a change of outlook.

Your home country probably has just as many beautiful places as wherever you have been travelling, so get out there and explore in your free time. Home doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) equal just work and no fun.

That unfamiliarity of foreign countries is something that should inspire you, maybe to ignite change in your own society or in your own life. Take what you have learned and see what you can do with that.

So go outside. Go for a walk. Look at the sky. Relax. Have fun. Talk to your family and your friends. Talk to foreigners. Show them around. Figure out what is amazing about your home. Embrace that.

Oh, and don’t be sad you’re home. Instead, be thankful you have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to travel. Reminisce, relive, remember, by all means. But please, please, don’t be bitter.

Tell me in the comments: has this happened to you? What did you do to combat it? Do you agree with my sentiment?~

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    1. Although I do get your perspective on this I would have to say you may have missed the point on why people often feel this way. I feel as a long term traveller and mental health nurse I may be able to shed some light on this phenomenon. The travel blues are a very real thing and not really related to what you’re saying above. Whether people recognise it or not the travel blues are often related to returning to the place you call home and realising whether it is conscious or not that you have changed and what was your world has not. This in itself can be a positive or a negative experience but we often find ourselves less able to connect as we used to in a world that although on the outside is familiar now feels a little strange and alien. You (and I) are very lucky coming from a country that understands long term travel and often we can surround ourselves with people who have shared our experiences but for a lot of my friends from other cultures they are faced with an isolation of returning home where people don’t want share the experiences or don’t accept the changes in their friend. This can actual lead to pretty serious depression and often that desire to reescape is a need to reconnect with those who share in the same values we do.

      1. Hi Rivka, thanks for your comment. I have definitely felt that feeling of things being a bit strange and different on my return, and had people isolate me because they didn’t know how to approach me anymore… but I believe that every feeling you have in life depends on your perspective and your attitude. Wherever you are in the world, no doubt there are travellers who visit your country and probably expats living there who must think in a similar way as you – why not surround yourself with these people and appreciate the beauty in your home country and its people? I do not accept that people have to feel depressed just because they are at home when they have traveled in the past. Does that mean they would be happier if they never left? This article is about showing people a different perspective and making them realise it doesn’t have to be this way. Also, when you say I’ve missed the point of this phenomenon, I have written this based on my personal experience of what I have heard many people say.

  1. I disagree with you. I am a long term expat, and “home” doesn’t have the same meaning for me. While I am sure there is some sub culture within my home country where I would have felt more of a sense of belonging, I would be in a scorned minority as a curious, thoughtful, intellectual person, and I never would have had the chance to take a long vacation again without quitting my job.
    Sometimes one’s home culture is not a fit. And for some people, routine and repetition are not suitable to their characters.
    If you judge other travelers so harshly, how is it possible for you to approach other cultures with respect?

    1. Hi there, thank you for your in depth response and for sharing your story. This post was more targeted at people who go travelling and then go back home after, rather than nomads or expats. While I understand that some people do not identify strongly with one culture or area, I do believe that we should all appreciate every place we go, whether it be familiar to us or not. So I’m not saying everyone should love routines, or feel like they ‘belong’ in a certain place. I’m just saying that even the most familiar place can be treated with amazement and wonder if we open our eyes!
      So I don’t want to be harsh or judgemental, but rather provide a different outlook on an issue that I know many people face.

      1. it can be a really rude awakening to go from the traveling subculture of generally open minded and helpful people to the “real world.” I don’t think people who feel sad when they come back from travel are broken, often they needed to get away from what was hurting them in their home environment to “find” themselves as cliche as it sounds because for whatever reason, they couldn’t be their true selves there, and when they come back, the yfeel the pain acutely whereas before they were not aware of an alternative.

  2. Lovely article, thanks for sharing. I like the reminders of how important and beneficial it is to find beauty in the little things, 100% agree. Once you start being grateful for these, where ever you are becomes more beautiful.
    I wrote about coming home after a long trip about 10 days ago if you’d like to read it. I think in my case it’s been a bit of ‘take what you’ve learned travelling and work with that’ – https://lulaaventura.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/home-is-where-i-feel-a-little-strange-2017/
    🙂

  3. I have to agree with the comment a few above! It’s nice that you didn’t feel sad when you came back from traveling but I don’t think it’s really productive to say that feeling doesn’t exist for other people, or that just because they feel off when they returned home that they missed the point of traveling… For me, living abroad for three years and traveling during that time, I definitely began to be more critical of my home country after seeing other ways of living. Also as the previous comment says, the concept of home itself becomes more complicated! So I’m glad you were happy to go home to NZ, but if you ever experience reverse culture shock in the future, you should know it’s completely normal and, in my opinion, doesn’t mean you traveled “wrong” 🙂

    1. I haven’t said that the feeling doesn’t exist for other people – I wrote this post purely because I know it DOES exist for other people! Feeling off when you’re home is different to feeling down and depressed. I just think that as travelers we should learn to find happiness wherever we are, which is the point of this post!

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