Returning From Extended Travel

Fishing Village - Phu Quoc, Vietnam

So you are back – what now!

You don’t feel like you fit into the ‘world’ you’ve returned to. Where you once were reasonably or even madly happy and content, you now look around you and nothing seems as it once was.  Many of your friends and family no longer understand you and you feel as if you’re in a dream – an extremely surreal one! Welcome to the world of returning from an extended period of travel.  It’s easy for people who haven’t experienced your journey to wonder who this person (you) is – what have the aliens done with my, son/daughter, friend, sister/brother and who IS this person. 

With the whirlwind of experiencing long term travel, where little remains the same for very long and your fears, views and perceptions are constantly challenged and put to the test, it’s easy to see how you grow into, sometimes, a different person.  The only problem is, whilst you may have lost a pound or two in weight, your hair may have grown a few inches and you’ve probably got a good tan, these are the only changes that people at home can physically see. You are not the same person on the inside and I think it leads to a lot of confusion for all involved as the people around you can’t ‘see’ the change and you just know that everything is different.

I remember the journey back from the airport as if it was yesterday, my well meaning parents meeting us and driving along the M25, trying to focus on what they were saying, trying to focus on anything at all actually, other than the fact that I didn’t want to be here and what the heck was I going to do now.  Their voices echoed in and out of my head as I tried to concentrate and listen to what they were saying. Those few hours were probably a few of the most surreal hours in my life, quickly followed by unlocking and entering into what I once called home.  The subsequent few hours were a blur as I just sat there looking out of the window, blinking away tears, until finally I just sat and cried like I haven’t in years. It’s tough coming back, make no mistake about it, it can’t be underestimated and I really had no idea just how tough till I experienced it.

So many people will say ‘you’ll be alright once you settle back in’, but settling back in is the very last thing you want to do, you want to keep your experience alive, keep the change you feel inside of you, do things differently, squeeze every last drop you can from the vision you’ve been given. You’ve been given a whole new perspective on life, you may have seen people laying dead on the streets of India, seen people living on a bowl of rice a day, seen kids as young as 3 out on the streets at night time trying to sell things to make a living for their parents or worse still ‘gang members’, seen people who have had limbs blown off or be completely disfigured in other ways by land mines - to know it happens and to see it are two very different things - and suddenly someone wants you to give a damn because their boiler packed up for a few hours or their train was 20 minutes late or the lady in the sandwich shop got the order wrong AGAIN! 

You need to put some thought and planning into your return before you leave for an extended trip. Particularly for those first few weeks as an adjustment period is inevitable, not an adjustment period to return to life prior to your trip, but to adjust to who you have now become and how you can best accommodate your environment.

It’s often difficult to change a person’s perception of you, particularly if they have known you for a long time and the people around you may find it hard to adjust to the ‘new’ you and some may not even want to. All you can really do is appreciate and treasure the ones who do want to come along for the ride and are interested to see how this fresh chapter in your life pans out.

To anyone who can resonate with this, and following various discussions I’ve had over recent months I know there will be many, my advice is to just keep ploughing ahead and be the person you’ve now become. It can be difficult at times, but the rewards when you finally see things taking shape are immeasurable.

Break free from the mould people have created of you!

 

Comments

Travelbird's picture

Oh my god! I know how this feels.

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Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today. If you do it today and like it, you can do it again tomorrow.

Paula Guy's picture

Hi Travelbird, have you recently returned from a trip?
Travelbird's picture

No, been back a while but this is exactly what happened to me when I got back!

..........

Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today. If you do it today and like it, you can do it again tomorrow.

I don't know how it feels Pol cos I haven't been on an extended trip.Despite that I have an inkling because it's a path I've always tried to tread...to be myself and not take notice of what others think.And I do understand totally where you are coming from.I know how you have had to forge a new way for yourself and how you won't be taking everyone with you.I know as your sister , that it has taken ME some re-adjustment to the 'new you'.But always know whatever you decide to do, wherever you are in the world physically and emotionally I am always there with you by your side. "caminante, no hay camino,se hace camino al andar" XX
Paula Guy's picture

Hay, that means so much to me, thank you. I also know that you are teaching Adam the same values and that is fantastic xx
Derrick241's picture

This is so true, it has happened several times in my life, each time things have been so different, people (including the wife and kids) just don’t understand it, they expect you to just drop back into 'normal' life, but their 'normal life' isn’t your 'normal life' My time in the forces was an incredible adrenalin rush every day, there would be contacts each day, there would be 'hearts and minds' to be won each day, there would be weapon training, driver training, there would be bush craft, parachute training, fitness training in Wales, when I left I just didn’t fit into normal life, I had a really bad time trying to understand how things ever got done in civilian life, I had 32 jobs in my first year after leaving, As I have gone through life I have found my 'circle of friends has changed dramatically, when I was at school I had lots of friends, they changed when I left for secondary school, my circle of friends got larger, when I left school and joined the forces, they changed again, but it was different now, these friends would be guarding my back, they had my life in their hands, the same as I did with theirs, we shared the same hole in the cold and wet, we shared the same wet sleeping bag we shared the same hardships, we shared the same rations, we saw each other shot at, wounded, we cried together, we laughed together, we fought each other, we got drunk together, we remembered fallen mates, before I was married, I very rarely came home on leave, my school friends didn’t understand me, I didn’t understand them, we had different worlds, we had grown apart, their views had changed, mine had changed, I didn’t understand how they could do the same thing day in day out, they couldn’t understand why I put my life on the line every day (it weren’t every day)they couldn’t understand why I went to these dangerous places they had never even heard of, let alone visited, my circle of friends had shrunk I got married, my wife was pregnant, I went away for 17 months, when I came back, I had a son, I had missed his first birthday, my daughter didn’t even know me, this was a turning point in my life, I had to consider what I was going to do now I had others dependant on me, it was time to put the big boys toys away and face up to my responsibilities, I left the forces, it was hard, very hard, I could live anywhere, I could drive anything, I could eat food a dog would refuse, I could kill with any weapon, I could face any hardship the weather, man or the world could throw at me, but I was only fit to be a security guard When I left the forces, my circle of friends changed, I would never see these blokes again I went back to school, I learnt how to be a plumber, and that was hard being in a class room with kids of 18-19, they had no idea of life, I was an old man compared to them, there was no point in telling them about myself, they had their own lives, my life was so different from mine, they were like the friends I had at school, after I left them we had nothing in common, the same thing was here I just done the same as I did while I was in the forces, my best, I became a plumber, I became a great plumber, I was top of my class I then went out to find a job, I had no friends I could call on, I hadn’t heard from anyone I was at school with, my friends in the forces couldn’t help, it was just myself to rely on, but I had a family relying on me, it was a sobering thought, I got a job, but didn’t stay long, they had a different view than me, I didn’t like ripping people off, over charging, charging for work I hadn’t done, taking pension books from old people, I don’t know where these principles came from, but I left there, I went to the dole office, I was spoken down to by a kid, I was told 'Just because you were a soldier, you get treated the same as everyone else, you are in a line and at the back of it,' I never did join the back of the line, I went home and told my wife I would NEVER sign on the dole, I told her she was going back home to Liverpool, I was going to earn enough to get a deposit for a house, doing what I knew and did best I joined the 'circuit' I went out to Africa as a mercenary, it would be for a year (or as long as the contract lasted) I came back with money in my pocket, my wife and kids joined me, we bought an ex council flat, it weren’t much, but we were a family again It was time to join the wage slaves again, I went to job centres, I went to agencies, I found a job at LHR, it weren’t much but it would pay the bills, I was in a small section, but the blokes were all ex forces, the whole of LHR was ex forces, Army, Navy, Merchant seamen, Air Force, it was just like home, my circle of friends had changed again, but they would never be like my friends in the Army or at school I stayed there for 26 years, my time was good there, I moved from section to section, I met directors, managers, super stars, I even met the queen (I had met her at buck house when I got my medals, but I don’t think she remembered me) I met Saudi kings, princes, princesses, I had a good time there, I taught apprentices, I went on courses, I went on the 'live' airfield, I did live runway crossings, I went down sewage pits, I even thwarted a terrorist attack in T2, I got lots of commendations, I had many 'friends' I did work in their homes, I met their families, I covered their 'on call' at holidays and weekends, I had MY apprentices go on to become directors, managers, supervisors even very good tradesmen, But retirement called, I still wanted to see the world, I had a great time at LHR, during my time there I had started and ran a Judo club, I had taught lots of kids, they went on to win many regional, area medals, my son went on to win the nationals twice, and my daughter became world champion (in her weight group) I was paid a good wage there, I had travelled the world, I had seen lots of countries, it paid off my mortgage When I left, my circle of friends changed again, it got an awfully lot smaller, it seems that history was repeating its self, I didn’t have any My wife is still working I had nothing to do, there is a limit to the decorating, the grass you can cut, the plants you can plant, the weeds you can pull out, the windows you can wash, I was bored (I don’t regret retiring from LHR, it wasn’t the same now it was Spanish owned, managers were only bought in for 2 year contracts, they didn’t know our work or job, they were just managers who had no interest in the airport, they just wanted a tick on their CV) I went on a trip to Africa (that bought back a lot of memories) but it was a good trip, but it was only for a month I then found a longer trip, it would be for 8 months, it was a trip to Australia, overland, my wife didn’t mind, she was still working and enjoying her work and job at LHR, so my going wouldn’t be a problem, just like when I was in the forces and away on a tour somewhere, but with the advantage of the internet (unlike when it was just a 'bluey' every few days or weeks and the odd phone call) I set out on the 7th April 2012, it turned out to be a mixture of highs and lows, but I don’t regret doing it, I had many good comments on my blog, I met some incredible people on my trip in various countries, my circle of friends are now just on the internet now, I haven’t heard from old school friends, I haven’t heard from old Army mates, I haven’t heard from blokes I used to work with at LHR I am happy with my life, but I want to see me of the world, it would be nice to do it with my wife, but she has a few years to go yet, so it will be just me, and trying to get people to understand this ‘travel thing’ and how I just don’t fit in with anyone’s idea of a normal life, I haven’t had a ‘normal’ life as long as I can remembered, but I hope I was a normal kid (before this travelling lark kicked in) I never saw the sea until I was 17, I never had a family holiday when I was a kid, my Dad was too busy earning a living and bringing up 5 kids (my kids have grown up and have their own lives and families now) I just don’t ‘fit in with a normal life’ I don’t want to be ‘normal’ I want to see as much as I can When the man with the scythe come’s calling, I want to be out I want to see the world with my wife, all these places I have visited have just been a ‘ recce’ before she retires, then we can go back and do it all again, but in our own time, our own pace I am who I am, no regrets
Paula Guy's picture

Thankyou for taking the time to share that here Derrick, I can only imagine the sort of life you have had. Obviously I've never experienced a lot of the things you talk about and travel is just a small part of what has led you to your current path in life. I'm in total agreement with you though about how your circle of friends change and the feeling of no longer being on the same wave length or 'fitting in'. I love your comment about wanting to be out when the man with the scythe comes calling!! Me too :-)