November 23rd, 2017
“How does it feel? Being back home?” - They’ve asked, all of them, everyone I’ve met when I got back. From my family, to my friends, to my acquaintances, hell, even the people I dislike and they dislike me back. It’s the default question to ask to those who come back after a long journey.
Then there are the follow up questions: “Which was your favorite place?” or “did you have fun?”, etc, etc. All questions that don’t even scratch the surface of what I (or in this case anyone who’s traveled for a while) have experienced. These are all superficial questions that despite showing interest can only express a weird sensation inside of me.
Of course I always answer politely, why not throwing that fake smile into the mix and saying: “Hey! Yeah it was awesome. Best time of my life!”. Not that I’m lying, it maybe was the best time of my life, certainly awesome, but there’s simply so much more that it feels bad just saying that and then being asked: “What was your favorite place?”
It gets worse. Maybe someone saw a picture of me in Bali and they go: “I’m so jealous! How’ was Bali?” And my inside just cringes. Honestly, Bali is great, but who gives a fuck. Ask me about my adventures. Try to actually sit down and pick my brain, my memories, my experiences until you feel like you’re there with me.
God knows I’ve got stories to tell, good and bad. It was awesome, it was the best time of my life, but it certainly can’t be summed up to only that phrase or telling you which was my favorite place or if I liked Bali.
My experience, my journey, implied so many things, that even the phrase “best time of my life” is an offense to it. My journey was a lifetime in itself, an experience mixing excitement, danger, happiness, sadness, love, disappointments, mind-blowing sceneries and experiences, deep holes and dark places, ups and downs and finally perfection in an imperfect adventure.
So How Is It Being Back Home?
It feels strange; it feels like I don’t fit anymore.
In theory, the place wasn’t supposed to change. “It always stays the same. You haven’t missed anything” - they’ve all said.
But, hasn’t it? Because I find everything and everyone so different. It starts with myself. I have changed, as I said above, my journey was a lifetime in itself and I’m so different that everything I once considered familiar, I now see it with a stranger’s eyes.
It’s funny, but creepy, thinking that I look a the places I grew up in, chat with the friends I’ve known forever, and I know them, I know it’s them, it’s the exact same street or neighborhood, but at the same time it’s different. It’s because I myself am so different, I changed to the point I became a stranger to that place and people. I look at everything with new eyes, the eyes of a foreigner
On top of that, things have changed too. Maybe there are no new buildings or striking news, but there are certainly new social dynamics you’re not a part of. Suddenly your best friend has a new girlfriend you’ve never met and you have to adapt to this. Others have new jobs that consume their whole time and you rarely get to see them.
It’s not easy to absorb all the information abruptly. Familiarizing with the environment becomes a challenge, you feel like an outsider, watching the social interactions take place but not being involved in them. It’s as if you were watching the scene of a movie, you understand it, but you know you can’t get inside the TV. There is your friend talking about what happened a month ago at a party, everyone laughs and there’s nothing you can say or do but smile awkwardly.
You’ve Missed Out
You start realizing you’ve actually missed out. And it’s fine, after a while you accept it and move on, but it was certainly something I wasn’t prepared for. When I was on my journey I didn’t think about what I left behind and how it would change, I only moved forward and made the new place or group of people my own.
I saw everyday as an adventure, as a new opportunity to explore and I exploited it living it fully. Even when a place, people or a day would suck, I felt it deeply, avoiding to get sucked into a black hole of familiarity, routine and indifference. In my journey I felt deeply.
Now I have to be indifferent, stop feelings in order to adapt.
Whilst traveling you feel that your life is in your hands and you can do whatever you want whenever you want, but when you go back home is not like that. In your home country or city there are social dynamics that you feel compelled to readapt to, and your life goes from being in your own hands, to be in everyone else’s hands or mouths.
So What Do You Do?
The million-dollar question isn’t it? I think there’s no answer, everyone tackles it differently. Some choose to adapt and they do it fairly quickly. I’ve heard of many going home, finding a partner and that has helped their re-adaptation process.
Others can’t stand it and after a few months they leave. Others are miserable for years.
There are many different ways, answers and choices. It is hard to think of advice. I myself have gone back and stayed for a long time, adapted and felt better, felt like I did find a home again. Then, I decided to leave once more as I was lacking motivation and had that urge to explore again, feel a massive challenge, or the excitement of the unknown.
What did I do when I went back and stayed there? I pretty much just go with the flow, I was accepting of the fact that I changed and so did everyone else. That it would take time and the worst would be to judge, feel judged, or get defensive. I opened my mind as much as I had when I was traveling, when I took everything and everyone as new and equal, with no predetermined concepts or thoughts. Once I managed to do that back home, distance myself from the old dynamics and look at everything from the outside, it was fine.
But most importantly, I stopped giving a fuck about feeling judged. I grabbed my life from everyone else’s hands and mouths, and put it back in mine.
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