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Coming Home After Traveling Abroad Long Term: What to Expect

Returning home from a long trip is always a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, it’s nice to see your friends and family, sleep in your own bed, and eat a home-cooked meal. On the other hand, you miss the absolute freedom of being on the road. While traveling, you’re doing something new every day. When you’re at home, It’s the same routine day after day. Readjusting to normal life can be a challenge. You may even experience some culture shock. The joy and excitement of returning home wears off quickly. When you realize that you’re no longer traveling, you may experience some sadness.

I recently returned home after spending 1.5 years abroad. I have also made several multi-month trips ranging from 2-6 months. At this point, I’ve been home for about 2 months. When I return home, I quickly feel bored. Sometimes, I feel depressed. In this guide, I’ll outline some challenges I have faced when returning home after a long-term trip abroad. I’ll also offer some potential solutions. 

Zac in Osaka, Japan
In Osaka on a recent trip
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1. Enjoy the First Few Days

The first few days after coming home after a long trip feel magical. Everybody will be happy to see you again. You’ll get lots of hugs. Old friends might reach out. People will ask you about your trip. You’ll feel special.

When you just return home, it’s also fun to go to your favorite places for the first time in a long time. This is one of my favorite parts of coming home. I love going to eat at my favorite restaurants. I also enjoy going for a walk on my favorite trails. It always brings back good memories. 

Another one of my favorite things is seeing how the city has changed. While I’m gone, new businesses pop up. Some close. There are always new houses and developments going up. When you live someplace, you don’t notice how much it changes over the course of just a few months. 

After a few days, this feeling of novelty will wear off. It will start to hit you that your trip is over and you’re back home. Everything is back to normal. You get back into your old routine. People get used to you being home. Your trip may start to feel like a dream. Enjoy the first few days while you can. 

2. Give Yourself Some Time to Recover

Travel can be hard on the body. While you’re traveling, you might not be getting enough sleep. You might not eat as well as you should. You may gain or lose weight while you’re on the road. Chances are, you’re not exercising regularly. You might drink too much. You’re also exposed to lots of germs. It’s easy to get sick. 

When you return home, give yourself some time to recover. Eat some good food, exercise, stop drinking, and make sure you get plenty of rest. It can take a couple of weeks to get back to normal. Your body may take some time to recover.

When I returned from my last trip, I was in bad shape. I caught a terrible cold in Thailand that I couldn’t get rid of. I also lost quite a bit of weight. For some reason, I always lose weight when I travel. I had probably been drinking a bit too much as well. When I returned home for the holidays it took me a couple of weeks to start feeling myself again. 

Zac in the Philippines.
I’m looking pretty skinny here. I lost quite a bit of weight this year while traveling.

3. Prepare for the Post-Travel Blues

Many long-term travelers experience some depression when they return home. When you’re traveling, you’re constantly doing new and exciting things. You’re eating at restaurants, riding trains, exploring beautiful sites, viewing spectacular sites, going out and meeting new people, etc. It’s fun and stimulating. Your mind is always working.

When you return home, your life instantly returns to normal. It suddenly hits you that the fun is over. You’re doing the same thing every day. You’re back in the same place you were. You have to go back to work or school. This can get depressing.  

Your living situation may be depressing as well. You might come home to live with your parents. You might not have a job. Your hometown itself may depress you. Your finances may not be in the best shape. Returning home from a big trip can be a difficult time in your life. 

The best thing you can do is prepare for this. It can help to have a plan for when you return home. Also, try to give yourself something to look forward to. Maybe you’re going to take a trip to the lake, buy yourself a new phone, or treat yourself to a meal at your favorite restaurant. 

I always experience some level of depression when returning from a trip. Usually, just the realization that it’s over is what gets me down. Not knowing if or when I’ll return to the places I visited is a sad thought as well.

4. Know That Nobody Wants to Hear About Your Trip

The truth is that nobody cares about your trip but you. When you return home, people may ask you how your trip was out of politeness. All they want to hear is a quick response. They don’t want to hear about every detail and they certainly don’t want to look at photos. 

Most people don’t care about travel unless they’re the ones traveling. It’s just not interesting. People who don’t travel won’t be able to relate. Some people might be envious of your trip so they don’t want to talk about it.

I have found that it’s best just to not talk about my trip unless someone asks. Then I’m happy to tell them all about it. 

Borobudur Temple, Indonesia
Nobody wants to see your travel photos. By the way, here’s a photo I took at Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

5. Know That Your Friends and Relationships Will Change

If you’ve been gone for a year or so, you will find that your relationships have changed. Your friends and family continue living their lives while you’re gone. Maybe some of them started a new relationship, got married, had children, graduated, moved away, or even died while you were away. Their lives may have changed completely. You might not be able to pick right up where you left off. Your relationships will change. 

You may have simply drifted away from some of your friends while you were gone. You may find that you have grown apart. Their lives may be completely different from yours now. Things can get awkward. 

If you didn’t stay in regular contact with them, you may find that they have moved on. Long term travel can cost you some friendships. Prepare for this.

You’ll have to put in some effort to maintain relationships while you’re gone. Make regular contact with your friends. If you don’t, you will lose them.

Of course, not all of your relationships will change. You’ll pick up right where you left off with your old friends. If you come from a good family, they will always be there for you.

It’s also really nice spending time with people who have known you for years. You can have much deeper and broader conversations. When you travel, you are constantly meeting new people. Most travel friendships are shallow. Constantly meeting new people while traveling also gets exhausting. 

6. Prepare for Some Reverse Culture Shock

If you were traveling for a long time, you may experience some reverse culture shock when you return home. It may take you some time to re-adapt to your home culture. Home may not feel like home anymore.

For example, you may find that your home has changed or the people you once knew have changed. You may also look at your own culture in a different way after spending time abroad. Maybe you notice some things that you don’t like about your own culture. 

All of this can cause you to feel reverse culture shock. You may feel like you don’t fit in like you used to. You may feel some depression. When you’re out and about, you may feel some self-doubt. Like you don’t know how to behave. It can simply feel exhausting re-integrating into your home culture. 

The best thing you can do is to expect to feel a little bit of reverse culture shock and prepare for it. Know that things will be different when you’re home. At least for the first few weeks. Give yourself some time to slowly re-integrate into your home culture. 

7. Prepare Your Finances

When you return home after an extended trip abroad, you may experience some financial issues. You might not have a job. You may have to rent an apartment. Things may also be more expensive in your home country than where you were traveling.

To avoid too much financial anxiety, prepare for your return. You should have a large emergency fund that you can use to re-establish yourself when you return home. Ideally, you should save up at least 3 months of living expenses. This can give you some time to settle in and look for work. 

Coming home without any money will be extremely stressful. You don’t want to struggle and be broke when you come home. 

8. Avoid Bragging or Being a Know-It-All

Some people become insufferable when they travel. Don’t be that person. For example, try not to brag about your trip. Not everyone has the time or money to travel. People will just think you’re showing off. 

You should also avoid sounding like a know-it-all. Don’t try to tell people that the Italian food you’re eating is inauthentic. Don’t correct their pronunciation of foreign words. You’ll just sound annoying.

Also, don’t talk about your travels too much. If you find yourself starting all of your sentences with “In ________ they do this”, you’re being annoying. 

One thing that bugs me is when other travelers act like travel is some kind of deep and life-changing experience. In most cases, it’s not. At the end of the day, it’s just a vacation and you’re a tourist. There is nothing wrong with that. Travel can be fun and educational. It doesn’t have to be life-changing.

Personally, I avoid talking about my travels when I’m home unless someone specifically asks me about it. I only talk about travel with other travelers.

Amman, Jordan
Amman, Jordan

9. Prepare for Some Awkward Questions

When you return home, your friends and family may have some questions for you. They may ask “How’s the job hunt going?” or “Where are you living now?” or “What’s next?” 

They’re just curious about your plans but these questions can be awkward if you don’t know the answer. For example, if your parents ask you what you’re going to do next and you don’t have an answer, they will worry about you. They may worry about your finances and your career.

10. Have Some Direction

When you return home after traveling long term, you may feel like you’re entering a new stage in your life. You may not be employed, in school, or in a relationship. 

Try to make a game plan for yourself so you have some direction. If you don’t have a plan, you may feel depressed and anxious. Sitting around all day reminiscing about your trip isn’t healthy or productive. You need to have something to work for and look forward to. Your life will continue after you return home

Are you going to look for a new job? Are you going to find a new place to live? Maybe you plan to go back to school?  Maybe you’re going to start dating and looking for a relationship. You could just come home to visit and then go out traveling again. 

Whatever the case, having a plan will make the transition back to normal life a little easier. It will give you something to think about. 

Zac on safari in Kenya
I was pretty lost after my trip to Africa a few years back. I needed some direction. That’s when I started this website.

11. Keep Your Memories Alive

When you return home, you will feel sad that your trip is over. You may miss the people you met along the way. You may miss the excitement of your trip. 

It can help to stay in contact with the people you met. Reminiscing about your trip can ease the transition back to normal life. 

This really helped me after returning from my first big trip abroad. I made friends with a girl from Chicago, a girl from the Netherlands, and a guy from Australia. We were all on our first solo trips. We kept in contact after returning home and chatted about our times together. This helped to keep the memories alive. 

12. Try Not to Compare Yourself to Other People

When you return home, you may notice that your friends are doing better than you. They may have things you want. Maybe they just bought a house. Maybe they have a good job. Some may be in serious relationships. Some may be getting married and having children. Maybe they’re just doing well financially. They didn’t spend thousands of dollars and months of time traveling.

You may feel some envy. You may start comparing yourself to them. Was it a mistake to travel? If you had stayed home, you may be earning more money. Maybe you would be buying a house. You could have all of the things they have. 

Try not to compare yourself to other people. It’s not productive. Also, remember that you have to make some sacrifices to travel long-term. If you want to travel, you may have to give some things up during that period of your life. If your priorities change, you can have what they have if you work for it.

13. Take Some Time to Appreciate Your Home Country

When you return home after spending an extended period abroad, you kind of get to experience your home as an outsider. You’ll notice the good things that you missed and you’ll see some flaws. 

Travel has helped me appreciate the U.S. more. Before my first solo trip, I thought Europe was the greatest place on earth. I wanted to live there. After traveling, I realized I was wrong. It’s not any better than the U.S. In most ways, it’s worse.

After visiting 66 countries on 6 continents, I can honestly say that there is no place I’d rather live than the U.S. It has its flaws, but I love my country. I think a lot of Americans don’t appreciate it. The people are friendly. The food is great. It’s also one of the most naturally beautiful countries on earth. I love going hiking when I’m home. 

One thing I don’t like is that the cost of living has increased substantially over the past few years. It is becoming unaffordable. That problem isn’t unique to the U.S. but it is a problem. Crime is also becoming an issue in places. 

Zac in Hawaii
I want to spend more time exploring the U.S. in the future.

14. Remember That You Will Travel Again

If you’re feeling sad that your trip is over, remember that you can travel again if you make it a priority. A big trip abroad doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.  After you return home, start saving up some money for your next trip. Research your destination and plan your route. Make it happen. 

When I return from a trip, I just start planning the next one. This really helped cheer me up after returning from my first big trip. A month or so after I got back I was really missing my time on the road. I knew I wanted to go to Asia next so I started researching and planning. Two years after I returned home from my first trip, I took a 6 month trip through India, Southeast Asia, and Australia. About a year after that, I went to South America for 3 months. I prioritized travel and made it happen. 

Zac in the Omo valley of Ethiopia
In the Omo Valley

My Experience

After my first big trip abroad, I came home and started college a couple of weeks later. I didn’t have time to sit around and be depressed. I had to look for an apartment and move to a different city. It was a lot of change all at once. Starting school took my mind off my trip. I had more important things to worry about. 

Coming home from my second trip was a bit harder. I didn’t really have anything going on when I came home. I had no direction. For several months, I just sat around and floundered. Eventually, I got a job but I just wasn’t happy. I didn’t prepare. 

A few years ago, I started living as a digital nomad. About 2 months ago, I came home after spending 1.5 years abroad. I was starting to feel burned out and I wanted to spend some time with my aging parents. 

Being home has been really nice this time around. I was getting tired of moving around so much. I needed some time to recover. It’s been really nice spending time with my parents as well. They won’t be around forever. I am getting ready to leave again within the next month or so. 

I have found that coming home helps me appreciate my travels more. If I were to just stay on the road indefinitely, I wouldn’t be very excited about it. After spending several months on the road, it’s not really special. It’s just another beach, another waterfall, another church, etc. After I’ve been home for a while and I go traveling again, it’s exciting again. 

How do you feel when you return from a long trip? Share Your Experience in the comments below to help other travelers overcome the post-travel blues!

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