A Traveler’s Fear of Returning Home

I’ve had countless numbers of people ask me, “Aren’t you afraid to be away from home?”

Actually, it’s just the opposite. I’ve got a confession, world..

I’m afraid to go back home.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my home! I have a wonderful relationship with my family, who I adore and miss on a daily basis. I absolutely couldn’t live without my friends, who I’ve grown with into the adult I am today. And yes, I have extreme FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when I see pictures of them together on Facebook. It’s not that I’m running away from anything at home. It’s that two years ago, I left home to travel the world. Now, I’m petrified to return.

I am writing this now, because I’ll tell you guys…I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I’m at the edge of a cliff, and I don’t know what will happen when I take the next step.

cliff

I’ve been living abroad in Europe since 2014. I’ve had the most incredible experiences I couldn’t have dreamed of two years ago: I’ve learned a new language, immersed myself in a community as the only foreigner, made lifelong friends from completely different cultures, been “adopted” into families all over Europe, from Germany to Spain. Every day has been a new adventure. On the “mundane” commute to work, there has been something that culturally stunned me justtt about every day. Almost every morning on the metro, I’ve asked myself “where the flying fudge am I”?!  Imagine, on your “commute” to work, you arrive late because you’re held up by a traffic jam of sheep…

Really guys-

Lol, yup.

So, here I am. In Madrid, figuring out my next step. My Visa is about to expire, and I don’t want to continue my life as an English teacher, ’cause, well… I have this feeling that it’s time to “grow up”. It’s time to pursue my career path in communications, even if it means not having the “easy visa” that teaching English provides. This is where it gets complicated. The logical thing? Well, before I’m deported…Go home.

But I don’t want to. I can’t. And I’m scared…

I’m scared of returning to the mundane. I’m scared of familiarity. Of being too comfortable. Of being trapped in the “normal” life.

Here’s the thing about home: It’s always there. As travelers, most of us have had that experience of returning home for a short-term period. Whether it’s for the holidays, Aunt Sally’s 80th birthday, little Johnny’s Bat Mitzvah…

It’s like groundhog day. It’s all the same. While some things might change, like the new frozen yogurt shop that opens up right around the corner (and you ask why it wasn’t there three years earlier…), the bottom line is; mom is still asking you to take the dog out, your neighbors still forget to take down their christmas lights until Spring, and your room is still covered with stuffed animals and pictures of you and your high school boyfriend at prom.

Yet, while it’s the same, it’ll never be the same. Your friends have all moved away, onto their own lives. You no longer recognize all the guys who work at the local pizza shop. And you’ve seen an entire world.

france

I’ve talked to many fellow expats about this. And we’ve all agreed; “Once you live abroad, goin’ home seems like fraud…

OK… well that was my poetic license. But really. Once a traveler, an expat, an adventure-seeker is introduced to the long-term life abroad, it’s almost a feeling of failure to go home before we are ready.

We’ve been introduced to the big, wide world out there. We’ve seen the different ways of life. How people enjoy day-to-day, without the daily “grind.”

How life is for living.

And returning to the home country seems like sinking sand. Once you take the first step in, it’s nearly impossible to get back out.

But the question is, if it’s not home, “where in the world is my next step?” They say, put one foot in front of the other. But what if you don’t know where the next foot goes?

Once you begin the wanderlust lifestyle, it’s a dangerous, slippery, rewarding, mysterious, life changing path. The question is, where in the world will your path take you…

road

Are you a traveler with the same feeling?

 

24 thoughts on “A Traveler’s Fear of Returning Home

  1. Girl, you got all of my feelings into one post!! I’ve been in spain as an Auxiliar for the past two years as well, and the English teaching phase has come and gone. As our visas are about to expire, I really have no idea what I’m doing with my life haha kindof terrifying!! I’m not sure if I’m ready to go home yet, either

  2. That’s great insight into your fears, Ms. Wandering Casiedilla. Fortunately for you, your “Home is the New York City area, a melting pot of cultures from more parts of this earth than you would ever have the chance to visit. I’m not si sure English is the spoken language here.

    The Grande USA, larger in size that all of the European Countries combined and being that we remain the “land of opportunity” any state, city, town you may find yourself in, has a story of people coming to America to follow their dreams. Now, those are incredible “local” stories to discover. I bet they hold onto Mamma’s favorite recipe from the homeland and will happily take you in for a cooking and culture lesson.

    Don’t let the likes of “Donald Trump” paint the picture of who Americans truly are, we are adventurers, dreamers, people who wanted more for themselves and their families and took the action necessary to make this happen. Had they let “fear” stand in their way, our populations would essentially be made of Native Americans, which by the way, have a culture worthy of explorations.

    I am hearing fear, from preventing you to take the next step. If the visa is an issue, turn lemons into lemonade! After all Ms. Wandering Casiedilla, it is you who brings the joy of life and discovery wherever you go and that will remain in with you in whatever the next phase in your life may take you!!!!

  3. I hear you loud and clear, AWC. I’ve haved that feeling you describe coming back home after just two weeks in Europe. I always felt letdown & disappointed after landing at JFK or NWK. It’s the “sameness” of the New York area lifestyle. I always know what is just around the corner. No surprises. When I do eventually get back to Europe (read: Spain), I will apply for full time residency. I am basically a European trapped in an American body. I have driven through the lower 48 states several times and enjoyed every single day but now I want to experience the world. Spain will be a good base for me. After you get home and hug your mom and walk the dog, why don’t you plan on exploring the good ol’ USA? Some day, I’m sure, you will find your way back to Espana. You may bump into me at the local tapas joint. Thanks, Casie, for all your blogs, and great pics. I enjoyed it all.

    1. Thanks for sharing John! But let’s slow it down a second…in not leaving Spain quite yet! I’ve got until the end of the summer. And if I can figure out a way to stay here in Europe, I will :) however, I will definitely be exploring more of the big old USA, whenever I do return!

  4. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, AWC. Thank you for sharing them so eloquently. I write to offer my experience. I am 46 and felt similar feelings when I did my first times abroad. I was 19 when I spent the year in Granada studying. It has been over 25 years, since then I have built a life that I love in the U.S. with a great husband, 2 beautiful daughters, and a career I love (most days!). However, I have not had to give up spending big chunks of time abroad. I have lived in Chile, spent the summer in Costa Rica (which my job paid for) two summers in Spain taking courses (job paid for all except flights) and now I’m just finishing an auxiliar position with my daughters in tow ages 13 and 6. I’m still that traveler, that explorer, that lover of cafe con leche and tortilla, that observer of cultural differences, that guiri that makes life long connections with the folks I meet. Now I get to share all that richness with the people I love most: my daughters and my husband (who came to visit several times this year and has also fallen in love with Spain and travel, I caught him looking up info on retiring to Spain!). As I gear up to leave in mid-June, there is some trepidation similar to what you describe. Your comments really resonated with me. However, I look forward to re-entering my hard earned life in the states, reconnecting with friends and family, job etc. I I have also found that there is something sweet about the “mundane” maybe because roots feel good too. In any case, I suspect I’ll be back for another round someday. Maybe when my bank account has recovered and my youngest is in 7th or 8th grade. “Pack your suitcase, sweetie, we’re off to explore the world together!”

    1. That’s such wonderful insight, Patricia! Thank you for sharing. It’s always great to hear it from somebody who has lead a similar life path driven by the common passion for travel. I hope you keep following my adventures, wherever my path takes me, and all the best to your future travel-ventures! Saludos!

  5. I think everyone deals with reentry after an extended period abroad (especially if you enjoyed your experience!). Late last year, I co-authored a free workbook to help those transition from the end of one global experience, to the next one (which could be at home or abroad). Early this year, we launch live coaching calls based on each chapter of the workbook. The next one is in a few weeks!

    You can learn more about it here: https://longingtotravel.com/global-living-travel-professional-development-abroad-resources/choosing-your-next-global-adventure-group-coaching-calls/

  6. Home is where you make it. I spent two years abroad teaching English and then returned home for the exact same reason, “I need to get on with my life and with a real career.” I don’t regret returning home, but I discovered that there wasn’t a “real career” waiting here for me. Most things are jobs, just like teaching. They may be in your field, the may cause your family members to breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve settled down, but they are all mostly jobs. Unless you know exactly what that real career is and how going home is going to assist you in getting it, and, most importantly, that it’s really what you want to do, going home may not actually be the magic answer for your logical next step.

    On the other hand, just because going home isn’t magical doesn’t mean that it can’t be a wonderful next phase of you life. In any case, it’s a good idea to choose what you want to do, not what you think is the proper next step to an “adult” life. Living abroad and teaching is an “adult” life, some times it’s just a more exciting one.

    1. Well said. I think I’m beginning to realize that my “real career” might not be what I had in mind. It’s more of a choice of the lifestyle I want to live, more than the “career” I want to follow. It’s wonderful to hear your insight. Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. The way back is harder than the depearture..that is sure..i Was away for 5 years…in 3 different countries, around the World..4 differents chapters…been home for 2,5 months now..its not easy.because We are used to the extrême feeling coming to us and when you come back you need to make it happen to you because its Your home,you cant have a culture shock…i think going home is scary i Was shaking on the way in the plane,crying,smilîg ,i think my body turn out in All the colours possible…
    you just need to take Your time and let what you ve become,be :) i think…its All in the mind :) everything Will turn out Like you choose it to turn out :)
    Travelling make us wiser,stronger,so you ll be fine :) or you ll leave again..
    All the best

  8. You say that its time to grow up and get a real job, but why? You make the rules, not society, so if you wanna teach English for 4 more years then DO IT! You are CURRENTLY growing up! Moving back home and getting a normal job is not being grown up. Just my two cents… I am in your position as well and this is the conclusion I have come to myself. Do what you WANT, not what you think you HAVE to do! Good luck to you!

    1. Preach, preach, PREACH! I’m starting to realize the same thing. We’ve got to take advantage of this wonderful life we’ve got, and do it in the way that’ll make us most happy! Your two cents is very valuable 😉 Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you too!

  9. no but I wish that were my current dilemma!
    I dream of living in a foreign country before I die and at 66 the days go faster,with terrorism looming the world gets smaller.
    I know the right path will emerge for you and or you will take the fork in the road just when you need and want to!

  10. Yow Wandering Casiedilla! I am not sure if I have this fear of returning home, but I have this feeling that I can relate to you because every time I have travels with my friend or family, I hate the part of going home because I hate the idea of living a normal life! I want to have an adventure all my life! That is why I kind of don’t like traveling anymore because every time I travel, I know I am going home. For sure I want to travel someday, but I kind of have this idea where I will never going back home. I don’t know, but maybe I will settle in a place that I really like where there are adventurers like me. Well, What do you think?

    1. I think that life IS an adventure! You mustn’t not travel just for the fear of going home, because the experiences you have abroad enrich your every day life! The initial shock of arriving home isn’t fun, but once you get passed that, the memories of your travel adventures will stay with you forever. I think you must GO GO GO, and when it’s time to come home…well, start planning the next adventure!

  11. it is the feeling that goes through an apple once it falls from the branch of its tree, the feeling of a new connecting carrying with it all the thoughts and emotions that were not there before.
    that is the experience of living abroad.

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