Fitzgerald once said: “It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” Oh how right he was! Going home is always to hardest part about living abroad for me because you expect it to be so easy, but it’s actually just like moving away except everyone thinks they know you while they don’t anymore, and you are expected to go back to how it was before you left without having time to adjust to this old/new reality and fall back on your feet. It seems to be becoming easier every time I do it. I suppose I’ve got some practice now! But if it’s your first time going home after living abroad or an extended trip, here’s my how to survive going home guide.
it's okay to feel down
Just like moving away is hard, coming home after learning to love your new home away form home is also difficult. So to all of you travelers having a hard time being back home right now: I understand, you are not alone and what you are feeling is normal! For me, it’s always the same: the first few days/week are not so bad as I get to see my friends after so long and talk to my family and everyone is super excited that I am home, but once all the excitement settles down, I have more time to think and to miss everyone and that routine I had worked so hard to build. The first time I came home after living in Florida, I tried to be strong and forget that I was missing my life back in Orlando and all of my friends, and when I realized that I couldn’t forget, it was way harder than if I had just lived through this hard time in the beginning and actually admitted I was having a hard time. So don’t be afraid of feeling lost. It might be a couple of weeks before you stop turning around to tell your friend an inside joke to find out they are thousands of kilometers away and waking up excited for something that was normal, but you can’t do anymore. But just like you got used to being away in the first place, you will get used to being home in time.
stay in touch with your friends and family from another country
Remember when you missed your family and friends from back home? This will be the exact same now that you’re home. After finding this whole new family abroad and becoming so close to your new friends, saying goodbye to them is so hard. I think the worst part is that when you decided to go live abroad, you knew you were going to have to leave your family and friends behind for a while, but you also knew it would be temporary and you would get to see them again while this time, you don’t have a choice to go home and you don’t know when or if you will be back or when or if you will see these amazing people again. So cry it out if want, but don’t forget that you managed to stay in touch with you friends and family from home while you were away and if staying in touch with your new friends and family is really what you want you’ll manage it. The exact same tips apply when trying to stay in touch with your friends from another country. And they can always come for a visit!
take some time off
The first time I came home from living abroad, I went straight back to work… literally the next day! I was a mess! If you could see me back then you would laugh so hard at how naïve I was. So the next time I went home, and all the times after that, I took the mature decision to take at least a few days off and relax before going back to work. It makes sense because traveling is physically exhausting and being home is emotionally exhausting so of course going straight to work while being physically and emotionally drained would be a bad idea. Glad I know now! It is also better to have time to get settled at home, remember where everything is and unpack before going back to a full schedule. I guess what I want to say is: take care of yourself and don’t rush into going back to work before being sure you can actually juggle all these changes. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!
Limit your loved ones' expectations and be honest with them
It’s normal for your family and friends to expect you to be the same as before and have no problem going back to how everything was before you left. After all, even if you told them, they can’t really understand all you’ve been through and how your life was the last few months/weeks since they haven’t seen you all that time. So even before you go home, it might be a good idea to warn them if you might need some time before you start going to Sunday dinner every week or before you start going back to the gym with your friends twice a week. Just make sure they don’t rush you into anything you’re not ready to go back to. Are you ready for a family reunion to celebrate your return? Do you want to go out with your friends the night your plane lands? If you do then good for you! I know there were some traditions I was excited to start doing again, but for everything that you don’t feel like doing straight away, explain it to your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to be honest and tell them if you are tired or don’t feel up to certain things. Just don’t forget to tell them that it’s not because you don’t love them anymore, but because you need some time to adjust, just like you needed some time to adjust to your new home back when you first moved away. It will be easier for everyone if you tell them that you are just not ready yet, instead of saying yes to everything and your friends and family feeling bad when they see that everything they planned isn’t exactly making you happy.
plan a new adventure
It might seem cliché, but it’s true! There is no easier way to get over an amazing adventure than to plan a new one. So even if you don’t know when your next time off will be or if you’re not ready to leave so soon, just checking out other destinations, imagining yourself trying new activities and talking about it with your friends can really make you feel better. You can also plan a trip with your friends from abroad and make a reunion out of it!
I hope this guide will help ease this transition for you. Keep in mind that time helps and that there are always people who understand what you’re going through that can help. Talk about it, take your time and it will all get better!
Other articles that might interest you