Coming home is the most difficult period of a long trip. After living intensely and freely for several months, you’ll be happy to see your friends and family again, but you’ll often then have a bout of the blues. The extent of this varies from one traveller to another. In this article, we’ll explain how to handle the different aspects of your return and how to prevent the blues from lasting too long.
We carried out a large survey between 19th and 21 December 2017, amongst 559 long-term travellers, in which we asked them lots of questions about their return. We’ll refer to this throughout this article. Learn more about our methodology
The percentage of respondents whose return went really or pretty well is slightly higher amongst men (71%) than amongst women (63%).
It’s also higher amongst those who travelled as a family (71%) than amongst those who travelled in a group (67%) or alone (62%).
Each traveller experiences their return very differently. Some pick up where they left off, as if they’d just gone on holiday for a few weeks, whilst others find it harder to settle back in. Many RTW travellers go through several phases on their return.
When you come home after a long trip, you’re happy to see your friends and family again, who you’ve been away from for such a long time, and to rediscover the comforts of Western culture. You feel a bit like a star and really enjoy telling everyone about your adventures.
After a few weeks or months, the everyday routine returns. Your life from before starts up again. Sometimes you feel like you’re back to square one. You feel less fulfilled than you did during your trip and you look back on it with nostalgia.
You have to give yourself time and take a step back, so that you can make sense of everything you’ve experienced. Allowing yourself to feel down is a pretty normal step. But, the intensity and duration of this down period varies a lot from one traveller to another.
After a while, your trip feels like it was quite some time ago. You start to put things into perspective and piece together everything you’ve experienced during your trip around the world. You create new projects and the buzz of everyday life gradually makes your sadness fade away.
What seemed strange to you in your country gradually becomes normal again and you feel more comfortable in your surroundings. You can start enjoying your country to the full again, as the reverse culture shock is usually over by this point.
Coming home is like a culture shock, but in your own country.
Coming home from a RTW trip is a good opportunity to throw a big party with your family and friends. Some RTW travellers even come home a little earlier than their “official” return date so that they can surprise their loved ones.
You’re happy to see them again after so much time away and it feels like you just left them yesterday.
When travelling, you meet loads of people, but these relationships rarely last that long. So it feels good to go back to your loved ones, knowing that these relationships have stood the test of time and distance.
However, many travellers are disappointed by the lack of interest that their close ones take in their adventures. Not everyone wants a detailed account. Many ask a few questions, often the same ones, like, “Which was your favourite country?”, or, “What is the must-see place?”, and then quickly move on to what’s happening in daily life.
Sometimes you’ll just be asked, “Was it good?”, as if you’d gone on holiday for two weeks. The subject of travel is quickly put aside even though you’d love to talk about it for hours on end. You may feel like you’re the only one who really understands what you’ve been through, without even being able to explain it.
When you were away, your friends and family learnt to make do without you, so it can be tricky to find your place again.
It feels good to be back with the ones you love
For them, nothing has changed. Whereas, for you, you feel like you’re a different person. Some ex-travellers find it difficult to reintegrate into society. They feel detached, out of step, sometimes misunderstood, a bit like foreigners in their own country. They feel like they’re stuck with narrow-minded people who seem to be opposed to external ideas. It’s not easy going back to hanging out with people who are like you. You miss meeting random, open-minded people on a regular basis.
When you come home, you’ll sometimes encounter a lack of understanding about your travel or life choices. Your post-travel blues may seem illegitimate in the eyes of your close ones, as for them, you’re coming back from a year-long “holiday”. Some will judge you or even lecture you: “What are you going to do now? Are you looking for a job?”.
When you return from your RTW trip, you’ll also have to deal with the more practical side of life. The first is knowing where to stay.
If you rented or sublet your accommodation during your trip, you just need to make sure that the end of your tenant’s lease agreement fits with your return date. You’ll then be able to move back into your apartment or house.
If you terminated your lease or sold your home before leaving, you’ll have to find a new one when you get back.
As you’ve neither worked nor paid rent in the UK for a long time, you’ve neither a pay slip nor a recent rent receipt. Without these documents, many landlords won’t trust you. Therefore, it’s difficult to find accommodation when you return, particularly in big cities. However, you can try writing a letter to accompany your file, explaining your situation, and ask your parents to be your guarantors to help reassure the landlords.
Most RTW travellers stay with their family or friends on their return. Coming back to your loved ones helps to cushion the blow before returning to the “real world”.
Staying with mum and dad or with mates is nice for a while, but you run the risk of not really feeling at home. You might feel like you’re getting in their way or that you, yourself, have a lack of privacy. Travellers who responded to our survey stayed with friends or family for an average of two months.
Moving back in with parents, ready to go back to the future?
After spending several months, even several years, going around the world, your bank account may be running a little low. With the cost of living being distinctly higher in the UK than in Asia, South America or Africa, you’re quickly going to need to top-up your account.
According to our survey, only 20% of travellers who’d left their job before setting off start looking for work before coming home. Generally speaking, RTW travellers give themselves a few weeks of transition before going back to their job or looking for a new one on their return. This period helps you readjust to your new environment and enjoy the company of your close ones before throwing yourself back into work. Those who’re looking for a job when they come home usually start their search one month after their return.
In general, you’ll have no trouble finding a job again. According to 75% of travellers, recruiters favourably consider the fact that they’ve travelled around the world. In fact, you can quite easily highlight the list of skills you’ve developed throughout your trip: resourcefulness, maturity, adaptability, mobility, foreign languages, curiosity, desire to learn, open-mindedness, get-up-and-go attitude, autonomy, flexibility… From the start of their search, RTW travellers take two months on average to find a job.
Travellers can experience their return in very different ways. Contrary to what you might think, there’s usually no difference between the way the return goes for those who’d left their job before leaving and for those who’d kept it.
Some resume a professional activity as if they’d just got back from holiday, except that it lasted much longer. They want to put their skills to good use, serve others and appreciate going back to an intellectual activity and interesting job. You don’t lose these skills when travelling and you quickly get back to your old ways. They’re also happy to see their colleagues again or to meet the new ones, to answer their questions and to tell them about their trip and adventures.
Many other long-term travellers do, on the other hand, struggle to find the motivation to go back to work. They’re not used to being stuck in an office and working in front of a computer all day long (even if this isn’t the case for all jobs). Going back to time constraints and a hierarchy weighs them down.
A number of ex-travellers need several weeks to adapt so that they can get back into the swing of things and regain the rhythm, concentration and efficiency they had before leaving. Even if they haven’t lost skills, certain habits and reflexes take some time to come back. They feel like they have to prove themselves again and aren’t all with it when it comes to the British way of doing things, which now seems superficial to them.
In the office, at the beginning, you’re sometimes in your own little world
They might ask themselves what they’re doing there. Their work environment seems fake, which is the complete opposite to the real encounters they may have had during their trip. Consequently, they struggle to find meaning in their job.
Those who’d taken a career break or unpaid leave sometimes feel like they’ve gone back to square one, or even further backwards. The organisation in which they worked may have evolved or been reorganised, and they have trouble finding their place. What’s more, if you go back to a job that you didn’t like before you left, it often only confirms a longing for change. On their return, one out of three RTW travellers changes their career path, returns to studies, creates their own business or emigrates.
You’ve been dreaming about it for months!
Even if you really enjoyed the exotic flavours from all the countries you explored, it’s still nice to go back to proper British grub. We’re talking about Marmite, Heinz Baked Beans and Ketchup, Cadbury’s chocolate and buttery crumpets washed down with a milky cuppa. You’ll rediscover the joy of doing your own food shop and preparing food in your own kitchen.
You also appreciate having some privacy, and sleeping in your own comfy and clean bed every night, in a warm home. Your first properly warm shower in a clean bathroom, without having to put your flip-flops on, is also really, really nice.
Some long-term travellers are also thrilled to have a wardrobe again, so they don’t have to dress the same way every day. Whilst others now feel overwhelmed by such an excessive accumulation of material goods.
When you get back, you’re initially happy that you no longer have to plan what you’re going to do every single day, nor think about, “What should I do? Where should I go? How do you get to the station? How do I book the next hostel?”. You enjoy not having to pack your bag and move from place to place all the time. You’re happy with curling up on the sofa and watching a good film, enjoying some peace and quiet and, quite simply, doing nothing.
But after a while, day-to-day duties become overwhelming and oppressive. You have to get up at a fixed time to take public transport, go to work, do the shopping, housework and paperwork… Remember the daily grind? You’re no longer wowed on a daily basis. Nor are you in that constant mode of discovery. You’re less physically active and you lack adrenaline. You feel like you’re lacking spontaneity and freedom as you return to a rather sedentary lifestyle.
Back in the UK, you might be at odds with the excessive consumer culture. Perhaps you won’t go to the extremes of raising sheep in Wales, but you won’t feel as much need to own material things.
People dressed in black and sulking on public transport may seem extremely sad to you, particularly in comparison to the smiles of strangers you encountered during your trip. You might tend to criticise your country and compare it to those you’ve visited.
You feel like people whinge and moan for absolutely nothing, and sometimes they even seem aggressive. You stress over petty things, like a tube you missed, whereas when you were travelling around the world, you could easily put this kind of mishap behind you.
You have to manage your time again, juggle time constraints and put all the dates in your diary – which’ll probably start to look pretty full. It’ll take some time for this constant sense of urgency to fade away.
Admit that you missed it!
The sun makes you feel happier, more sociable and more energetic. If you come back to the UK at the wrong time, you’ll face cold, gloomy and rainy weather. After spending months in tropical countries, basking in the sun, it can come as quite a shock. That’s why most RTW travellers choose to come home between the months of May and August.
We advise you to save some money for your return, as it’ll give you a little more freedom. You’ll be able to enjoy the simple things that make you happy, such as going for drinks with friends. According to our survey, the RTW travellers put an average of £1,500 aside for their return. Only 11% had money problems upon their return.
During your trip, you’re constantly on the move and in discovery mode. One of the best ways to keep your chin up when you come home is to stay active, especially if you’re not going back to work straight away. So, here are some ideas for projects and activities, suggested by the RTW travellers who responded to our survey, to avoid feeling inactive:
Most RTW travellers eventually find a balance after coming home. However, there are still many who struggle to beat the travel bug. The nostalgia of all the good times you had on the road make you want to set out again.
Nonetheless, a long trip makes you realise that you don’t know your own country quite as well as you thought. So, why not switch back into discovery mode at home, and explore what your backyard has to offer? You might just discover some hidden gems. Letting couchsurfers stay in your home will also allow you to keep up with any foreign languages you learnt on the road, chat with other travellers and discover your city from a new angle.
If you like hiking, go for a walk in the forest, in the mountains or by the sea. It might not be so obvious at first, but the UK offers equally incredible landscapes that are just waiting to be explored. This is a great way to stay in touch with nature.
You always have your holidays to go further away. By taking three or four consecutive weeks off, you’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy some of the countries that you didn’t get to explore on your RTW trip. Ex-long-term travellers usually carry on travelling at quite a slow pace, even during their holidays.
Some people sometimes pack up again for a new extended trip abroad. However, be sure to dissociate this urge to leave from any discomfort linked to your return. If you leave with unresolved issues, they’ll likely resurface the next time you return.
Can you cure the travel bug?
Others opt for a professional activity that allows them to work anywhere in the world via the internet. These digital nomads can also carry on travelling without having to set a return date.
Finally, you can also choose to emigrate. If you’re taken with a specific country during your trip, why not set your backpack down there for a while? Living in a country for an extended period of time allows you to fully immerse yourself in its culture.