Living The Dream: How Traveling Truly Becomes Your Most Treasured Experience

by Alexandra E. Petri

There is no way to be prepared for it, really. When you first get home from backpacking or living overseas, things do feel somewhat new again. The excitement blossoms when you first see your family and your friends.

The relief flows through you when you finally get your hands on that sandwich you’ve been craving, or when you finally get that bagel you’ve been dreaming of that’s actually more cream cheese than bagel.

For the first few days, you’re distracted by the novelty of it all, by the sheer appreciation for the good food that brings back memories of your childhood with every bite, and by the feeling of clean sheets when you climb into bed.

You revel in the beauty of a strong shower that feels like the world’s best massage; you’re giddy over the fact there is no math required in trying to figure out the time differences when going to call your family or your friends.

One day begins to blend into the next. Then suddenly, you wake up one morning and realize that this -- this chapter right now -- is temporarily permanent in the most suffocating of ways. You begin to realize that the life you once lived is gone. It feels like a dream that never really happened, like a life that wasn’t really yours.

You look around you now and there are hardly any traces of that experience left. Perhaps your skin is still sun-kissed, or maybe you have some hemp bracelets hugging your wrists that are soaked with memories from swimming in oceans around the world.

Maybe an old ATM card from an overseas bank is still in your wallet, or maybe you have a couple of random coins from different countries that mistakenly manage to fall into the cashier’s hand when you’re paying for something. "Whoops," you say as you stuff them back away, "Sorry ... don’t know how those got in there."

You have clothes in drawers now; you have clothes, period. You're back on the same number you had before you first left home. Proper shoes feel like wooden clogs after living your life in sandals. You’re no longer lost in a sea of accents, being whisked away to another country simply by saying hello to someone.

Suddenly the time becomes very important to the structure of your days. You rise and fall with the sun, but the days lose their luster; they just feel plain.

You yearn for things you can never go back to: moments that now only exist in memory, moments that were created by a specific group of people whose paths crossed at a specific point in time. Those moments feel like they are light years away from where you are and who you are right now.

It’s a difficult battle, finding your place after you come home from a big trip or traveling abroad. The transition is one that happens almost blindly and eerily naturally, as if your eyes were sealed shut and everything was on mute. "How did I get here?" you may find myself wondering sometimes. "Was that really... me? Was that really my life?"

Everyone says the hardest part about coming home is that you’ve changed so much whilst everything stays the same. You start to feel awkward; you start to feel uncomfortable, and you start to finally feel the time and distance of how long you’ve been away. You want to be alone.

You hole yourself up in the dark and pretend that you're just winding down from a long and hectic journey, that you just need a few days to get adjusted.

You seamlessly blend into a crowd like you never even left. No one knows what you’ve done, where you’ve gone or where you’ve been. No one knows how much you’ve challenged yourself, or that you’ve seen and experienced far off places around the world.

Instead, you become just another tired set of eyes on the train, another person rushing to work in the morning, another person waiting to order a cup of coffee.

There is a range of emotions and feelings that storm through you when you first move back home, but personally, I think one of the most difficult parts is comprehending all that you’ve done in the time you’ve been away.

It's difficult to make sense of the whirlwind of experiences you’ve had, and every so often, it's like you need to take a minute to realize that these fascinating, amazing adventures were, in fact, yours.

Everyone in life has a story, but there is something about your story that’s written in a very different way; yours is a story where the words call you to another place entirely. Your story is one that is lived on the road.

It’s difficult to go about your days knowing that there is more to be had, and it’s even more difficult feeling so ridiculously and undeniably drawn to that something that you feel sick over it.

You feel anxious, and FOMO rears its ugly head at the mention of any place you’ve not yet been to (or all those places you're dying to return to). There is nothing wrong with going home, but it's difficult to return back to the daily grind when you know there is more out there.

That’s when you start planning, and you start plotting. That’s when you start looking up photos of places you have no immediate plans to travel to. You look at a map of the world and you see a playground. It centers you and it calms you, but at the same time, your heart races because there is just so much that you have yet to discover.

"You’re so small and this place is so big, but don’t worry; you’ll see the world," you tell yourself. You find faith again in what you once thought was lost. You can’t relive the past -- that’s for certain -- but if you are lucky enough, you can make moves that will help map out your future.

It’s never easy coming home from traveling, and it’s difficult to feel like the life you lived and loved never existed in reality. Maybe travel really is just a dream; I mean, that’s what people always tell us, right? You’re living the dream.

It seems that for some of us out there, travel is a dream we will never stop having.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It