The Culture Shock of Coming Home

Coming home travelI’ve been back in America for a week and a half now and it’s been a weird transition. Though this is my second time coming back home from overseas, it is no less strange. When I first came home after 18 months away, I found America to be a very strange place. It was a foreign land all over again. I had forgotten so much about America but, more than that, I found the concept of “being back home” far stranger.

To me, the biggest shock of coming home wasn’t cultural – it was simply the shock of being home. After my first trip, I found it hard to adjust to driving everywhere, the cost of things, the quick pace of life, and not having people to interact with 24/7. This time around those things as well as ordering a small soda the size of my hand, meals big enough to feed a family of four, huge cars, lack of intelligent news networks, and “big box” Wal-Mart stores are still an adjustment.

Yet all that “adjusting” has paled in comparison to the simple shock of just “being home.” That is the hardest thing to deal with. And when travelers talk about adjusting to coming home, we almost always are talking about this – the transition from traveler and life on the road back into your old life. It’s a lot harder than transitioning into travel. When I came home last year, I didn’t really want to see anyone. I was finding it difficult to adjust from such an “on the move” lifestyle to such a sedentary one. Yes, I wanted to see my friends and family but I had just gotten used to the travel lifestyle, and even though it wasn’t always perfect, it was amazing and then all of sudden with one plane ride, it suddenly stopped. The brakes were slammed and it wasn’t easy to deal with. How do you go from new people and places everyday to the complete opposite and not have a hard time?

To quote Benjamin Button about coming home: “It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.” While in D.C., I went and visited the James family from The Wide Wide World and we got on the subject of this. In the movie “A Map for Saturday,” they discuss this in detail. And when other long-term travelers talk to each other, they talk about this. And everyone’s conclusion is eerily the same: Home is wonderful but it feels very different and, in some ways, no longer home. You’ve changed. You are different but life back home isn’t. Often times it feels like it was frozen while you were away only to defrost right when you return. When you try to express that to your friends, they simply can’t relate and don’t understand.

When you tell your friends about your trip, they’re interested at first but the more details you give, the more their eyes glaze over. They just want an easy answer. Because the more you go on, the more you just make them a) a bit jealous, b) think they haven’t done as much and c) bored. Any long-term traveler who has come home and talked about his/her trip can testify to eyes glazing over after five minutes. And so when you have this angst about being home, it’s hard for anyone but other travelers to understand. Because it’s a feeling without any words. “Weird” or “surreal” or “unstimulating” are usually the best that we can use to describe it but never fully conveys our thoughts. When you talk to another traveler though, you don’t need words. They just understand. They’ve been through it too.

To your friends, it can come off as you don’t like being home and you think it’s boring. But it’s not that. You’ve just changed in a way that’s hard to describe. It would be like a women describing being pregnant. You know what they are talking about but unless you’ve ever been pregnant, you’re never going to fully understand or relate.

The real shock of coming home is just simply being able to cope with being home. Adjusting back to your culture doesn’t take long. Within a short time, you’ll get back into your groove and remembering the little things you loved. But dealing with leaving the constant movement of the travel lifestyle can take much, much longer and be much, much harder of a shock to deal with.

  1. Dawn


    Though I have never traveled abroad for longer than a few weeks at a time, I have had similar experiences living on a different coast from all of my family and friends. It’s such a difficult thing to put into words…being “home” and seeing all the same faces and the same buildings that you’ve known your entire life and somehow, it’s just not the same. I realized after a few trips home where things were trucking along much the same whereas I had been living a crazy, travel-filled life, that I was changing. My view of my old life was through older, not necessarily wiser, but changed eyes.

    I cannot tell you how much I love this post. My fiance and I are preparing to move into a more nomadic lifestyle soon and something about your words struck me to the core.

    Thank you for this awesome post. I am passing it around to my friends and family…hopefully, it will give them a little insight in our lives once we begin traveling.

    Keep up the fantastic updates and good luck being home.

  2. I’ve heard it called “afterparty downers” as well sometimes. I can’t bear that feeling, returning home after some journeys, where it is almost as if the volume of the world has been turned down – that there is somehow less colour and noise in your surroundings. So true that unless you are talking to another traveller, it’s near-impossible to hold your friends’ attention long enough to really try and convey the magic.

    • NomadicMatt

      It’s hard to convey the magic but with all these great travel blogs out, you can live your trip over and over again!

  3. Emily

    This is so incredibly true. The positive side of this is no matter how long it has been since you traveled, if you have felt this feeling before, you will forever sympathize and understand others who feel this. However, sometimes being the traveler, even if there is someone truly interested and willing to listen, often the memories you hold so dear are those “you had to be there” kind of moments. I believe that is why travel writing, to me, is therapeutic. Both reading it and writing it helps alleviate that “lonely” feeling.

  4. Wow, Matt. Really well said! You totally just put into words what’s been on my mind since I came back from living in Japan a month and a half ago. It’s my fourth time coming back from extended periods abroad, and I just wanted to bring up the point that the reverse culture shock gets a little less each time. This last time, I barely noticed it. I think that if you spend enough time away from your home culture (for me, the turning point was two years) then you just completely stop identifying with it. Returning to the states felt famliar, but it certainly wasn’t ‘home’ anymore, but I wasn’t bothered by it because I try to think of it in terms the bigger picture – the whole world is my home.

    Anyways, I think “unstimulating” is a really good way to describe it.

  5. Yes, the reverse culture shock is always very strange (and I loved your examples of things in the states; that’s how us non-Americans feel when we get there for the first time! :) )
    But I still think it’s important not to get too ahead of yourself that travelling is so much better than staying put. I constantly travel (7 years straight so far), but I also go home for medium length stays (about 1-2 months) twice a year. I feel I get the best of both worlds like this, in a way.
    I’m sorry but I think your only two options (EITHER they are jealous OR they realize they haven’t done as much) is quite arrogant and that is precisely why they may be rolling their eyes at you. I found myself constantly rattling on about my adventures and looking for opportunities to tell an anecdote, but never listening to their stories. In talking just about myself and how much I’ve done, I didn’t realize that maybe they had heard enough and would like to vent how their work day went or whatever.
    Just because they haven’t hitchhiked through jungles and so on doesn’t mean they don’t have their own lives to live that are fully worthwhile and there are so many things that we miss out on in constantly moving location (long-term relationships, appreciating day-to-day lives with family etc.)
    Keep in mind that I’m saying this as a fellow long-term traveller – the reason I like going home so often is to keep a sense of belonging and family and not just become a machine for travel anecdotes. Things change slowly back home, but that’s how life is normally. Our travels should educate us to be more aware of our world, not more arrogant about how our experiences make others jealous of us…
    Feel free to let me know what you think, perhaps I misread your post, but I just think you should have included an option c) for why they roll their eyes 😉
    All the best from Prague – enjoy your time home!!

    • NomadicMatt

      I’m not in any way lessening the experiences my friends have while at home. My point here is just to stay that most people back home can’t understand why you get into this slump or why home is so weird to you after traveling. They can’t relate to you just like you now can’t relate to 9-5 work.

      I went to this wedding this weekend and when talking about my adventures (because i was asked…i normally don’t like to) everyone said “wow. my life is not that exciting.” their lives are more exciting in a different.

      the point of this post was that the biggest culture shock coming is is the act of being home….not to diss the people back home as leading boring lives. i’m gonna edit to make it more clear.

      • Sounds fair enough! Thanks for the edit and clarification 😉
        I do agree with you that it is very hard to find someone to relate to you and your stories (and you are doing better than me!! When I was in my first 2/3 years travelling, I would simply not shut up about my experiences). This is why I go home so often now; I like to be able to relate to my family and their 9-5 work and daily lives and stupid TV shows etc. I definitely felt disconnected my first times going home, but trust me, when you do it a lot (as I said, I’ve been travelling for 7 years) you finally find a balance and there is no frustration when you go home, only joy :)

  6. Very interesting reflection and observations of the reaction you get when you are telling about your adventures. I have not been away as long in time as you, but have been traveling quite a lot but can’t remember the same reactions. Can it have something to do with that American’s normally don’t travel that much, not for that long and not that much out of the country? Like you say; Kind of and envy reaction.

    I hope you won’t stop traveling and maybe visit me in Norway to experience midsummer with 19 hours daylight in June :-) It’s just past 11:30PM now and still light.

  7. Emily

    I lived in China and visited home just once in the 3.5 years. I move there right out of college. Coming back was really difficult. It gets easier — in most ways. I can relate.

    However, I still feel like years of my life vanished. I returned home and my friends are married, settled in careers and buying houses. I’m just starting out again (with the poor timing of the recession) and feel like I just graduated college. I missed out on 3.5 years of pop culture and US news. And I’m still saying: “Oh. I never heard that. It must have happened when I was gone.”

    People are interested in my time away — but only in sound bites. It’s hard for them to relate. They like to hear about the food or the spitting or the bicycles or those other quirky vignettes that you get in the newspaper.

    After time, you get a job and a life here. You stop talking about overseas. And it’s almost like it never happened. It’s strange.

    • Jen

      This post makes me feel so much better!It’s amazing how realsing that you’re not alone in feeling this away post travelling, will actually add a slight bit of comfort!

      I was travelling for 2 years..and, have barely spoken about my experiences.In fact, I’ve really only ever mentioned them to people I’ve met who have travelled too, and are keen to compare stories.

      I speak about it so little but reflect on it almost every day in my mind!It’s bizarre…it almost feels as if it never happened..

  8. too true – and you KNOW i’ve studied this, in depth (as well as experienced it). reverse culture shock eventually lessens, but i think that is just you becoming used to it. 😉 that said, i do think it makes you want to go back abroad a bit sooner.

    the more you travel and adapt to different cultures, the more you adapt into a cultural marginal – that is, someone who can find a home anywhere.

  9. How very true Matt. Even just talking to friends and family via Skype and email, I struggle to explain to them how my life is abroad. How do you express to someone who’s never spent a long time out of their home country what it’s like to live abroad or travel long term? It’s nearly impossible to relate. And yes, they always want the quick and easy answer. Unfortunately it’s not easy.

    Really, how do you summarize a life living abroad or traveling the world? How do you condense it into just a few short sentences? Is it even possible?

  10. Travel isn’t for all (and occurs in differing styles) and most of my friends on my return of my longest overseas jaunt had also achieved many important and impressive things (whether that be having/raising children, obtaining a degree, buying a house, learning to kayak, volunteering for something they are passionate about or any number of life goals for them). Their stories and times were entertaining and important for them as much as any tales that I may have had. Time can make people grow somewhat apart as they pursue their directions and desires in life. You and I and many of your readers enjoy travel but I think we need to be careful to negatively contrast others’ life plans with seeing stupendous waterfalls, wild animals, historic castles, dazzling city skylines, eating strange foods, walking cobbled laneways or whatever.

    Not sure if you disagree.

    • NomadicMatt

      My friend’s have their own adventures but many of them end up in the typical american box and with some of them, i can see they want to escape but, like they say in the matix, not everyone is ready to be unplugged.

      As I told benny, my point here is to say being home is a shock and talk about how people can’t relate to that shock.

  11. I find the biggest culture shock of coming home are Pedestrian Crossings – cars actually stop! For most destinations that I venture to, zebra crossings are there for decoration only. Stopping is optional.

  12. Franny

    I’ve been on both ends of this. I think the bottom line is that if you barrage someone with stories about your life for the past year for longer than 5 minutes, not matter WHAT you’ve been doing, they’re gonna get bored. Matt your eyes probably glaze over too when they start telling them what they’ve been up to. Maybe they’re jealous, maybe not, but ultimately I think people just prefer talking to listening. :-)

  13. Franny

    OH and PS – my reverse culture shock is always awful and I get depressed for like 2 months. After my longest trip away I read Bill Bryson “I am a Stranger Here Myself” (a whole collected of essays he wrote after living in England for 20 years and then coming back to the US and experiencing reverse culture shock) – it made me at least feel less alone in what I was going through.

  14. We went through some of the same reactions when we visited our family and friends in the States over the holidays. Meals are huge, you can’t walk anywhere, everyone is screaming on TV and everyone asks superlative questions (what was your best xxx? what was your worst xxx?), but then gets bored if you go on for more than 2 minutes.

    I thought you were just visiting home for a short while, but if you’ve returned (i.e., you don’t expect to return to Asia or somewhere else soon) then that’s a double whammy. It’s not just reverse culture shock, it’s lifestyle change.

    • NomadicMatt

      I’m just home for a short visit, so it isn’t so bad. It’s not a lifestyle change just yet! I head to Europe to live out of my backpack again August 23rd!

      • Oh good I was concerned that you had given it all up and become “normal”! Yeah a short trip “home” is OK but…. What I find now after years of doing this is that for no one place is home – my partner’s nearest relatives all still live in NZ but mine don’t and just because we own property,car and a storage unit of junk there it doesn’t make it home as far as I am concerned.

  15. Oh yes, I so know that glazed eyes look…. but I’ll never ever understand it!!!!! I have to accept it though, so this have sometimes made me shut my mouth about our trips. They don’t want to hear it anyway. Such a pity.

  16. One funny thing that I forgot to mention earlier. Australia drives/walks etc on the left. If travelling to North America or mainkland Europe, you quickly get into the habit of looking the other way when crossing the road and even walking on the other side of the pavement. It is a shock to get back home to be walking into people or nearly being decked by cars when checking the road the wrong way.

  17. Hi Matt! I’ve never made long journeys, but I used to be always in a journey… So, the feeling of coming home was a bit weird… What was home? Now, I’m stuck, and that is truly shocking!!

    Blogtrotter is showing some sights of the most northern capital city in the world. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

  18. First off, welcome home, Matt! I’ve never traveled long enough to feel that sort of “re-entry” feeling that you seem to have, but it totally makes sense to me. What you describe as reaction from family and friends to talking about your travels is common to everyone who has any kind of passion in life that isn’t shared by those around them. If you can get someone to listen to you gush about your passion for longer than 2 minutes, it’s a victory. But I do the same thing when people start going on and on about reality shows. I don’t watch them and I don’t care about them, so I glaze over. Thank God for the Internet, where we can connect with people who share our passions and obsess about them as much we do. :-)

  19. I finally booked my flight home for July 17, so it looks like I’m about to relate to this post first hand in a few weeks. I fully expect it to be surreal, and am already plotting my strategy to be able to take off again.

    The topic of long term travel reminds me of the Newton’s law “an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest.”

  20. I totally agree Matt. I actually slept on the floor, next to my bed, in my childhood room after a trip because it just felt too…odd to be back.

  21. NomadicMatt

    Good point. I do enjoy coming home to see my friends but then again, being home reminds me how much I like being away.

  22. “When you talk to another traveler though, you don’t need words. They just understand” Absolutely. So when and where are you plotting your escape next?

  23. Mary

    So true Matt. I popped home for a wedding for the 1st time in almost two years not long ago. I found it a bit of a weird paradox. On the one hand, it really felt like time had stood still in my absence and nothing had changed, people were still doing the same thing etc.
    However, at the same time, people had moved on, found new friends, partners etc and so had new parts of their lives of which I had no involvement – which made me fee quite detached at times.

  24. Amen. Well stated. I returned from 4 months in Rome to live in the fast paced, heart wrenching world of NYC and the difference between those two worlds was indeed shocking and I felt very alone in my feelings!!!
    Now I know what to expect :) as I tend to return to Italy again soon.

    Amen to your blog.
    Cheers mate!

  25. Racky

    I just came back almost a month ago from a 6-month trip and it’s surreal as what you have mentioned in your blog. I’m glad to know, that a lot of people feels the same way. When I came home, I can’t understand what I’m feeling. I don’t want to talk to my friends and family, well I tried to but it seems that something has changed but I don’t know what. Maybe it’s me…

    The stories that I shared with them is incomparable to the actual magic that I felt during my travels…. feelings just can’t be verbalized…

    Anyway, keep on writing man…

  26. This is exactly how I felt when I came back from studying abroad in Australia in 2003, and then again how I felt after coming back from teaching English in Prague earlier this year. The hardest thing to deal with is that most people, after asking briefly how your experience was, don’t really care to hear much more. You feel so different, and yet the only people who really understand the difference are those that were there with you.

    Great blog – keep it up :)

  27. I am going back home (to Chicago) this Sunday after working in Saudi Arabia for 5 years. I am scared and confused.I thought I would be happy of returning back home,but now I feel sad ,scared and cry a lot.Is this how I suppose to feel?

  28. rob balcer

    I like your travel blog Matt, and ths article caught my eye as it reminded me of how I frequently felt after returning home (Ottawa, Canada) from living overseas. However, after being away for the past 26 years (I’ve been in various parts of Asia since 1984), I found myself a bit jealous of the people who had never left the ‘home turf’ as they enjoy the familiarity of their long term friends, family and general environment. Expat life forces one to accept things (constantly saying goodbye to friends, frequently shifting living / working environments, etc) that the “hometown” folks never have to think about, as they take their simple but profound pleasures for granted.
    As for the “eyes glazing over’ syndrome, I gave up talking about my travels / experiences with “hometown’ folks decades ago, but recently it hit me that I was wrong to take that approach as it forces one to “devalue” ones true life experiences….
    Ultimately, you can NEVER go home, for it can never match up to what you want it to be in the end.

  29. Frances

    About two months ago I returned to the US after a year spent in Thailand. I cannot believe that I am still going through the culture shock of being home, and it only seems to get worse. The things – music, movies, socializing that used to make me happy, don’t and I am trying to find my old groove or at least a new one I can use for awhile. The feelings suck. It is easier to talk to other travelers, but unfortunately they aren’t as easy to come by as they are abroad. It was good to read your article, there are many things that I agree with and it is comforting.

    • Jonny

      I have been back 6 months from a RTW trip (15 months in total) and I’m still struggling to integrate back into life. I agree with the travel stories bit. People get bored very quickly because they think you are bragging even when they ask you! I have so many stories to tell but feel like I have no one to tell them too. My home town does feel like it was frozen apart from my friends who are now all married and have children. Its tough, when does it get better matt?

  30. So glad I found your post, Matt, and all the thoughtful comments that followed. I just returned from a three month odyssey that included long, incredibly rich interludes in Morocco, Spain, followed by some amazing experiences in Italy, Corfu, and Albania. I just returned last Tuesday night and for these past five days have felt like something of a zombie. It’s just perfectly awful, all the angst and disorientation I’m feeling, and the reflections here have put this “reverse culture shock” syndrome into its right perspective.
    Tonight I may still feel lower than pond scum but perhaps not as low as the looooong day following my return last week. At least I know what the prognosis is and can do something about it.
    Thanks so much for letting me discover this wealth of insight here.

  31. I think everyone’s eyes glaze over, travelers and sedentary people equally. As clumsy as it sounds, “people generally don’t care”. By that I mean, people are living their own lives in the way that drives them. Its not the stories that interest people necessarily, its how connected they feel as a result of them.

    There is something to be said about great art though. We don’t watch Autobiographical movies and go “look at Johnny Cash, what a pompous show off”, we consume it differently somehow. There is an art in telling story so it relates to people. Frankly, I’m worried about alienating people when I return home.

    Thinking a fellow traveler “just knows and understands”, Isn’t that something we project onto them? How would we ever truly know? Thinking a homebound person “doesn’t know and understand”, is that smug on my part? I wonder sometimes…

  32. rose.j

    hi, i just loved what you said, i have traveled around the world in 2011. my husband took 1 year off of work and we took off to the U.K, europe etc for 6 months, came home for 6 weeks and then went off to the U.S. for 2 months. since we have been back we have bought a house and have been in it for 3 weeks. we are finding it hard to adjust to the “stop” feeling…. no excitement of adventure everyday exploring new sights and things! its hard to explain how we feel to our freinds and family, they just dont get it and i understand that but its frustrating. i would dearly love to get up and go again…. but now we have the house… there is house repayments! i cherish the time we had away and miss it so much. cheers from a fellow traveller, rose :-)

  33. Abby

    Hey- brilliant post. Honestly needed to read this tonight- I actually sat down and googled “depression after travelling” (didnt know what else to put) and this blog popped up. I spent over a year travelling and working in Asia, and coming back seemed easy enough at first. Its a few months later and I still get that “lost” feeling. Trying to explain it seems impossible to anyone here, but you really hit the nail on the head. It’s just good to know I’m not the only one.

  34. Joanne

    I’ve only been back (California) 1.5 months after a year in Switzerland, and I’ve never felt so ungrounded in my life. Friends seem distant and judgemental; people here are so unfriendly in comparison to where I’ve been.
    Prior to Switzerland, I was working full time. My boyfriend was offered an incredible work opportunity for 1-2 years in Europe, and he said he wouldnt go unless I quit my job and went with him. It was scary to give up everything, but I did it. I gave my car to my daughter, quit a great job, and packed up my entire house of belonging to ship overseas.Traveling has always been my dream, and Even though we had a house in Switzerland, I traveled alot with my boyfriend on business trips; Amazing adventures. Being back in California is akward. I’ve come home to nothing – no house, job, or car. I have family and friends, but like I said before, they seem distant and judgmental – ‘You need to get a job, car, house right now, and you were always so indenpendant before”. This just depresses me further.
    My boyfriend is handling this better than I am, but he is use to traveling like this, not to mention he has job/house/car. He is restless though not traveling 3 days a week.
    It helps me to read the post here. Thank you

  35. Kerry

    Thank you for writting this. I have been back in the States for just over a year now, and I’m still struggling with some things. I’m emotionally tied to the people and community that I worked with in Guatemala, but for health reasons I needed to come back. It was the hardest decision that I have ever made and I feel guilty for it almost everyday.
    I still have a hard time trying to relate to my good friends. I have tried to tell stories about my time in Guate, but I find it hard to believe that they can relate to anything that I’m talking about, so I just don’t talk about it. I know that this has been more harmful than helpful. My therapist is having a field day with this concept.

    • NomadicMatt

      That’s why it’s good to have travel friends because they can relate. Otherwise, I find I get a little sad that I can’t relate to my friends and travel friends provide a good outlet. At least you can talk to someone!

  36. This was a cool read as I haven’t actually made the trip home yet. It wouldn’t seem that it would be that hard for me right now at only 6 months, but maybe I will think otherwise when I go back 9 months from now. I can tell you that I already know that it will be a short stay.

  37. James

    Could not agree more. I spent 5 years essentially living on the road in the States. I just recently accepted an international job and have been traveling through several countries for a little over six months. Heading back to the states tomorrow.

  38. Hey… Your article was really amazing! I’ve been staying in the USA for just under a year and a half now and in another 9 months I head home to South Africa. But I am terrified! America has become this really great place with amazing friends and awesome places to travel and see. It’s scary to think of going home and losing all that, and not being able to relate to the people I left back home… I really miss home a lot and want to see everyone again, but the travelling lifestyle is a hard one to leave behind… Stay safe on your travels!

  39. Hi Matt!

    Reverse culture shock can hit hard. I did not want to adapt back home and I struggled for a while. I have this video blog with tips to help people ease themselves back home. I hope it helps!

  40. Gabriel

    Last year I went back home after living abroad for 10 years. It was really shocking, I couldn’t wait until I could get out and come back “home”, the food was amazing, there were days were I ate like 6 full meals during the day, the people were weird. On my way home I also met one of my old classmates from elementary school whom I hadn’t seen in 10 years. Those 10 days went by fast….now that I’m “home” I want to go home.

  41. Dave

    Hey Matt. Going through it right now actually, after a year of travelling in India/Se Asia… Finding it really tough, but the fact im in a new apartment, have a new car to use, and will have a new job will ease the pain. I was very homesick when in India, and couldn’t wait to get home. In my mind I pictured myself staying for a while and settling down a bit. Now that I’m back my mind has done a complete 180 and I just want to save up and travel again. This is the 3rd time now i’ve been through this. Will it ever end? Will I settle down and resume a normal life? Or will I continue this circle of travel and saving, travel and saving? Not that its a bad thing I guess. Appreciate the article, Cheers mate =D

  42. Matt,

    I wanted to thank you for this post. My husband and I recently took a short 4-month RTW trip and have been home for one month. I just put together my own blog post about what it’s like and how it’s strange to be home. I found your article just before posting my own (I actually linked yours in my own in case someone would like to read more on the subject), and I just wanted to say thanks. I avoided searching for information on coping once you got home because I wanted to figure out my own emotions for myself first. I’m glad I did that. But, after reading this, I’m very glad to know our emotions aren’t unique. I never actually experienced a culture shock while on our trip (of course, we moved very quickly), but I definitely did when we got home. Everything was just… weird. And it still kind of is. So, I appreciate you sharing your experiences on the subject. Thank you.

  43. I am so glad to stumble upon this post! I lived abroad in Florence for two months for grad school and coming back to my old life in NYC is definitely challenging to adjust to. But its weird because I’ve lived in NYC for two years now and it isn’t a place I’d call home since I’m from California. Its hard transitioning from a pleasure seeking experience in Italy to a go go fast-paced life in New York City. The places I’ve been in Europe this summer, the things I’ve seen has changed me. It’s true what you are saying, everything feels the same but you have changed. Your experiences have changed you. Life is best experienced through images and feelings… sometimes there are no words to describe them. I’m grateful to read about other people’s experiences and its wonderful that you’ve opened up this space for sharing. Thank-you.

  44. Gloria

    I am experiencing the shock of coming home now. After almost ten years in North America, I came back to my Asian home. It takes time to adjust to a culture that has always been like a home in my heart, yet the “home” is different. The home culture also changed while I have been away, and I was not part of this evolution. And emotionally it’s harder for me to find myself actually a stranger to my own “home“ culture. Thanks for your sharing.

  45. I came home last October after we met at TBEX and your article really resonates. I can’t count how many times i’ve gotten the same questions, yet if I go into detail, they space out :)

  46. Alex

    Thanks Matt, I can really relate to a lot of what you have said. I have done quite a bit of traverling in my time, with long periods away from home. I have just returned to the UK after 2 years living in Thailand. Im finding it very hard to adjust back to my old life and fear I never will. I hate the feeling of not being able to relate to people who haven’t traveld or friends not being able to relate to me. I feel wants you have traveld you can’t ever really go back to how you thought before. It’s like you have seald a deal, that in order to have these awesome experiences and see the world your also going to have to except that you are not ever going to feel the same again and will always be feeling. ”where can I go next” it’s very much like the matrix when he chooses the Red pill that shows the real situation. Im actually sometimes weirdly envious of friends that have not travelled but seem to be more content with living a life more rooted. Im interested in hearing from people who have made the transition from long time traveling, or living abroad to coming home back to there native contry and being happy and content. Thanks matt for thie intresting blog, thanks for reading.

  47. Bill

    Hello there! I’ve been living for a year abroad and will be going back home in 6 months for a wedding. I’m buying a RT flight soon and would like to solidify the time I will visit. Does anyone have a suggestion on the ideal stretch of days? I’m reluctant to make it a month and so am aiming for something like 10-14 days. I realize now that those days will be filled with too much visiting/hob nobing and not enough productive activity. There’re no kids, wife or house for me. And there won’t be much opportunity for work unless it’s through a temp agency (not a bad idea). However, I will definitely be exercising and on the internet working and planning for the near future. For anyone else managing the time back home I’d suggest exercise and health as your top priority… Your time and any advice is very much appreciated.

  48. Thanks I’m glad to know I’m not alone :-) with all the comments and your post I can see I’m not the first person to consider returning home.

    Home is hard to define for myself as I left England at 23. Ten years in France then 13 in Florida and another 4 in Thailand leaves me really wondering what is home.

    Since leaving America I have been back to the UK twice, seeing family is nice but weird the food is beyond “yep English food is good” pork pies and sausage rolls are only found and good in the UK this I miss.

    The right to work is another interesting factor for 27 + years now I have not been able to legally apply for a job sure I got by and still do. The whole EU thing is interesting and makes England a whole lot bigger.

    Thanks you may just have given me reason to spend more time back home.

  49. Living in the U.S. for 25 years I went “home” too Scotland. It’s a strange feeling being a foreigner in your own country. Although in the U.S. I am a Scotsman and have a “funny accent” when in Scotland I became almost like an American tourist. It’s unexplainable to anyone who has not experienced leaving there native land and returning after expended time.. Also I missed my American weather and the overly happy, courteous people that I thought were strange when first moved to US. So in the end I now believe no one is “Scottish” or “American” we are all mirrors of society. We can all ,if given enough time, adapt to any environment but you can’t unlearn the cultures you have lived. You learn a language or accent or how a people live and adapt your self to it but you can’t unlearn it.
    That’s why most travelled in the first place, to learn new things.

  50. sandra

    I have so enjoyed reading all the comments on here. I was born in Scotland and have lived `abroad` for most of my life.Canada,China and Australia to name a few. I have recently returned to home to U.K.after 14 years in Australia. The heat and humidity in Summer started to become too much for me as I was in Brisbane.
    I think as with many things it is such an individual experience as to how people cope coming back home. Also the number of years and age of a person too.
    The U.K. does seem strange to me at the moment. I know it will take time to adjust back, but if I make the effort then I will. Yes, people who have not travelled are more secure and have stronger roots. However, I have a priceless experience of life and other cultures that I would not want to trade. I see the World through a much broader perspective. If you have never travelled or experienced anything outside your own small `patch ‘life is pleasant, I suppose, but in a very limited way.
    Most people come to see this in later years. Many say to me; ‘If I won the Lottery I`d travel!` so the longing is there. I,on the other hand, have been in so many countries and lived in others, that I don`t have that desire. I know what`s out there.
    So I suppose at the end of the day life is swings and roundabouts.Yes,I have given up some things, but gained immeasurably in others. The changed perspective when you come home is really sign of the growth a person has experienced. Life is always about constant change in all things, that’s the way it is, nothing ever stays the same. It is our adjustment to this truth hat is the important thing.

  51. Amber Lisa

    I can relate to this, but in a different way. I’ve not traveled anywhere, in any traditional sense, but I look to America and think WTF…and why…and I feel so bored and trapped and uninspired and it’s not a trip that changed me, but a near death experience (which is actually a different kind of trip). The experience has left me all feeling similar to what you describe. “A small soda the size of my hand, meals big enough to feed a family of four, huge cars, lack of intelligent news networks, and “big box” Wal-Mart stores ” all feel incredibly stupid and shallow to me, now. I used to want all of the typical American things, a nice house, a nice car, blah, blah, blah…now I want none of them. Because I’ve never really been anywhere else, I sadly don’t know anything else, and so I don’t know what I want, or if what I want even exists. And yet, I have this deep, deep longing for something else. I have this deep, deep feeling that there should be something else. Unlike you, I really don’t have a name for, and can’t describe this feeling, because it’s not culture shock or travel shock. Then again, maybe it is. Maybe, when I almost died a part of me went somewhere else way better than this human experience on planet earth. Sadly, I think that may be the case. Unlike you, it’s not simply America that I am having trouble adjusting to…for me, it’s life.

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