Dear fellow travelers,
The moment the plane landed, you felt your life changing. Sound familiar? Once you recovered and somewhat got your act together after traveling across the world, the reality of returning home hit you with disastrous force.
What side of the road are we driving on? What language do I speak? How do I impress guys (or girls) now that my accent is no longer a novelty?
The struggle to adjust to this new lifestyle is real. It seems like just last week (because it WAS just last week), you were living it up abroad without fear, shame or very much responsibility -- or as I like to call it, “real-life awareness.”
As that looming fear of becoming normal settles in, here are some tools for coping with living life after your abroad experience is over. Go ahead, read on… I promise it won’t hurt.
Problem 1: No More Sleep
Find yourself wide awake between the hours of 3 and 5 am? Does your computer STILL say it’s 11:38 pm when it’s actually after 5 because you refuse to change it back 6 hours? Welcome to the struggle at the forefront of coming home: the time difference.
Though the jet lag will wear off soon, you can take advantage of this annoying insomnia by engaging in some Internet productivity.
You know you missed using up all of the data on your iPhone in a single day! WhatsApp a few inside jokes to your abroad friends (who will probably be awake anyway), Instagram some #travelthrowbacks or look up new travel blogs while your body figures its sh*t out.
Nap during the day, but carefully strategize the location and timing of said nap to avoid being told to empty the dishwasher. Your internal clock will slowly forget about wanting to function at what is now an ungodly early hour in your life.
Problem 2: Talk Party To Me
Okay, so I may have lied -- this is a pretty major component of coming home.
It’s obvious that newly frowned-upon activities such as après skiing, the REAL Sunday Funday and a shared social desire to drink sangria all day and dance on tables may conflict with your lifestyle at home.
Drinking any time, anywhere, is not acceptable. People might even ask to see your ID. And what is with everyone thinking cigarettes are bad for you?
Rejuvenate your life with a little European [or insert continent or culture here] socialization. Shake up the normal (read: boring) routine for your friends at home and plan Margarita Mondays, Trivia Tuesdays or Whatever-The-Hell Wednesdays. These outings will allow everyone in your friend group to catch up on gossip and are also convenient excuses to consume alcohol on weeknights.
Trust me, even if they’re reluctant to embrace the proverbial wrenches thrown onto their schedules, your clique will thank you for the breath of fresh air -- even if they don’t appreciate your endless stories.
Plus, you know you have to get your hands on those mouthwatering American chicken wings you craved nonstop while living abroad; am I right?
Problem 3: Dealing With Everyday Encounters
To all my people trying to function as if they’re still abroad, I can empathize. It’s that sinking feeling you get when you realize that texting your American friends has become such a struggle because your keyboard still says “espacio” instead of “space.”
Or maybe the simple act of texting your friends from home feels weird and overwhelming because you haven’t been accessible for an extended period of time.
Plus, you’re broke; how can you possibly get through the day when your world has been turned upside-down, and not necessarily for the better?
Take slow steps. It’s painful, I know, to let go of the way you lived abroad. Make time for yourself amidst reuniting with your friends.
Find an outlet for your energy until you go back one day, which you WILL. Personally, I write about my treasured awkward memories and hope that some other people think they’re as funny as I do.
You can talk to future study abroad kids about what they have to look forward to and also what mistakes they can avoid making.
Do something creative with all of your photos, boarding passes and concert tickets. You’ll never completely forget what it was like when you were traveling, your wallet was empty and you were never more fulfilled in your life.
Love Your Life
Of course, there is only so much that can be done to soothe the ache that us travelers are all too familiar with. This feeling belongs to the lucky ones, my friends.
Appreciate everything that led up to this pseudo-depression because you are truly fortunate to have spent time abroad. Thank your family, your school and especially your freshly depleted savings account for those extraordinary experiences.
There’s one solution to this overall wistfulness for wanderlust: Take another trip! Look at your life calendar and see where your next adventure will fit in. College kids, sign up for a service project overseas or apply for an international internship.
For my post-grads: It sounds dramatic, but if you feel stuck at your grown-up job, you CAN hand in your two weeks notice and move to Spain to be an au pair for three months.
It’s not for everybody, but if it sounds right for you, a change up like that can be a great way to press the reset button on life. What is that vacation time for if not for an actual vacation? Take advantage of those days and get planning. You’re still young, after all!
Photo via We heart It