Rewind time six months and I would’ve been telling you all about my plan to live abroad and explore Europe for at least a year. My goals were lofty: Learn how to ski on Bohemian slopes, backpack through the Balkans, brewery hop in Belgium.
Instead, it’s edging on Spring and I’ve been unexpectedly back home in New Jersey for three months, squatting temporarily with my mom and grandmother in a farmhouse tucked back off the road and surrounded by endless fields, woods, and deer. I only experienced a small fraction of my travel itinerary, in reality.
It’s safe to say I didn’t expect (or plan for) this move home. It’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole of “what could have been” — imagining a timeline of events that’s no longer in the immediate cards. I won’t be strapping on a backpack and traipsing through foreign lands any time soon, but being stateside has its share of perks too. Here’s some of what I’ve learned during the adjustment period of acclimating back to life on the East Coast.
1. Assimilating back into the traditional workforce often takes time.
It’s easy to feel “behind” when you get home and don’t have a job immediately lined up. Searching for the right job — especially in certain more competitive career paths — just simply takes time. There’s applications and phone screenings and interviews and networking…and a lot of being in the right place at the right time. Trust me, it gets exhausting fast.
You may get lucky, but more often than not (especially these days) you gotta get crafty in your hunt instead. Keep putting yourself out there and eventually the tide will shift.
2. The travel itch flares up.
I wouldn’t even really call it an “itch” or “bug.” It reminds me more of how I’ve felt after some relationship break ups — a deep gut-wrenching feeling of wanting “more.” Of wondering what I gave up overseas.
But, beyond maxing out a few credit cards and making other fiscally stupid decisions, it’s time to guard your wallet and watch your spending. If you love to travel, you’ll plan future escapades when money and time allows. I’ve found that ‘gramming travel #throwbacks is a comforting way to cope. After all, it’s unlikely that this is your travel finale.
3. Routine is an unlikely savior.
When it feels like life is in limbo, that’s the perfect time to reevaluate what matters most. I’ve personally restarted going to the gym on a weekly schedule (…after a like four year hiatus), have scheduled social hangouts when possible, and have monitored my sleeping schedule like a hawk. Or I guess more like a bat, because I’ve had to fight not to become nocturnal.
Forcing yourself to wake and get moving at a normal hour despite not having plans or work is one of the hardest things to do. But with a little motivation (aka, hopes to be gainfully employed again soon), it’s possible to stick to a new routine…and like it.
4. Affordable day trips become the name of the game.
So it may not be possible to fly over to Budapest to hang out at the baths or the Hungarian Parliament anymore. But that doesn’t mean all the fun has to end! When you’ve traveled, you begin to see your roots in a new light.
The other day, I was walking through Philly with a friend when I suddenly stopped and snapped a photo of a building that I likely wouldn’t have even noticed last summer. It’s one of my favorite recent photos.
Traveling will always bring new perspective to situations, and affordable trips in your new-old area will serve as the perfect way to satiate the travel feels in the interim.
5. Shopping at Target feels like a religious experience.
The other day I found myself pushing a cart through Target as I casually stocked up on toilet paper (woohoo, two 24-packs of double extra soft rolls!), pet food, human snacks, and leggings. Lots of leggings.
Would I have been able to do that all at once in Prague? It’s unlikely. When I was living in the Czech Republic, I’d bring my own shopping bags with me and only purchase what I could carry. This equated to shorter, more frequent, more calculated tips to the grocery store.
Shops like Target feel like serious luxuries in comparison. Although I do miss my walks to the store, if I’m being totally honest here.
6. Experiences abroad only strengthen life at home.
In the time since I got home, I’ve read 25 books, completed several professional skills tests, gone on a handful of job interviews, and reconnected with my local friends. I have plans to volunteer, sky dive, and root myself back into my local community.
Life doesn’t pause when travel stops, and it’s possible to feel just as fulfilled in your hometown…even if it’s the last place you’d rather be and feels boring compared to your travels.
It just takes time to adjust. And there is no race. Your path is on the right timeline, no matter your location. Remember that.
* Published also on Elite Daily, March 5, 2017. http://elitedaily.com/travel/realizations-returning-home-after-living-abroad/1806382/