Coming Home


David Whitley looks at the worst part of any RTW trip – coming home and dealing with what has changed while you’ve been away 
I don’t cry often. I’m your typical emotionally repressed male on that front. But when I left Australia in 2006, I cried. I went out for a year, like many people do, and ended up getting a job over there. By the time I was ready for the plane home, I’d been living in Australia for just under five years. It had become my home, and I was abandoning it to start life afresh. And it turns out that a new chapter – a new life – did begin. But as I waited for the taxi to take me to Sydney airport, I burst into tears. It felt like I was going back to the life I’d left behind. A giant step backwards.

When you’ve been away for a long time, going home is hard. Not working down a mine and getting lungs full of asbestos hard, but dealing with the emotions hard. The realisation hits that it was effectively all just a dream.

I struggled in the first few weeks back. I hated it. It was the life I’d left behind. People had moved on, but not much. Everything felt the same as it was before I left. I’d changed, but nothing else had. It felt like walking into an old still photograph and wondering why nothing was moving.

There’s an awful lot of guff written about finding yourself while travelling, and I don’t want to stray into that territory. But most people will find that travel changes them in some way; increased confidence, thirst to know more, realisation that the way you were brought up to do things isn’t the only way – things like that. And it can be very difficult to slot back into the roles you ditched to go travelling.

After a few weeks, however (and noticeably, after moving back out of my parents’ house), I began to feel better about things. I was pining for Australia less. I was starting to enjoy the rhythms of being back.

The key thing was that they weren’t the same rhythms I left behind. Some were similar, but I was making new friends – many through people I’d met in Australia – doing things differently and starting to enjoy a much stronger sense of purpose. I was in the same place, but it wasn’t the same life.

I suspect I’m not alone in this. Tastes, attitudes and ambitions change while you’re away for a long time. Slotting straight back in to where you left off is neither possible nor desirable for most of us. And for the crestfallen approaching the journey’s end, about to board that plane, I’d offer one snippet of solace. Yes, it is the end of the world. But it’s also the start of a new one.

How did you feel when you returned from travelling? Did life change after you got back? Share your thought by leaving a comment below.