How to settle back home after long-term travel

Nov 21, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. ET

We Australians love to travel — so much so that we're often away for years at a time. Moving back can give you just as much of a culture shock as you got roaming the streets of Rio de Janeiro. So how do you deal with settling back into life in Oz?

woman unpacking luggage

There are few things in life more stimulating, rewarding and enlightening than long-term travel. You learn so much about yourself during your time abroad, about how you cope with challenges, about the things you value, about your ambitions — not to mention how much you learn about the world.

But what happens when it all ends? How do you cope without facing a new challenge every day, or with the monotony of a 9–5 job dictating your life? How exactly do you answer someone when they ask you, "so, how was it?" And that’s if they even bother.

There are many problems to address when you come back home. Here’s a few tips on dealing with the transition.

Accept that many of your experiences are huge… But not to everyone

Settling back in is never easy and yet sometimes you’ll find little sympathy from other people who have, without you, simply carried on with their lives. Marriages may have happened, kids may have been born, taxes were certainly paid and toilets were unblocked. What you experienced might sound glamorous, but it offers little that is tangible or relevant to those who haven’t travelled. Plus, you’ve just lived the dream for a year!

Appreciate your memories, but remember life goes on

So some people might seem disinterested, but that doesn’t discredit what you did, what you experienced and what you achieved. Hold on to those memories, because you’ll come back to them throughout your whole life. And now that you’re back in Australia you might not be living at such a fast-paced rate anymore, but that doesn’t mean you’re not building upon the awesome memories you have of travelling.

Make time for all the new stuff in your friend’s lives

While you were hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru, your friend Betty was pushing out a little sprog. Now he’s 1 year old and Betty just doesn’t seem interested in heading out to the pub anymore. And when she does? Well she just talks about the sprog. She’s changed, she’s moved on.

Or has she? There’s a good chance it’s actually you who has been so unaccustomed to domestic life that it seems kind of dull to you. We don’t need to tell you that what your friend has experienced is just as huge and amazing as everything you’ve done, so cut her a little slack and just try and be there for her.

And all the old stuff

Other friends will seemingly be the same as you left them but, somehow, they just don’t seem on your level anymore. They still seem to be worrying about what colour shoes to wear for their date next Friday. You saw true poverty in the slums of India!heels

Remember, this is why you fell in love with your pals in the first place. Give it time and you’ll soon find you can balance worrying about your outfit with worrying about world peace!

Make new traveller friends

We’re lucky to live in Australia, a place that travellers love to visit and that seems to give birth to millions of travellers. In a place like Australia, you don’t have to stop meeting new people just because you’re back home.

Get yourself to the nearest expat bar, sign up with CouchSurfing or just try to get involved when you hear a different accent. Remember that amazingly friendly Spanish guy who showed you around Madrid? That could be you.

Appreciate what Australia has to offer

What’s more, your adventure doesn’t have to stop now you’re back home. Sure Australia isn't a huge place, but there’s so much on offer here for week-long breaks that we’re sure you haven’t seen. Bust that camera out and try and look at Australia with a tourist’s eyes, you just might be amazed at what you find.

Give yourself time to get used to being still

It won’t be easy at first, and you shouldn’t rush yourself to feel okay with not darting around all the time. It’s like you’ve been swimming in the sea and now, as you return to bed, you feel an uneasy sway that reminds you of your constant movement. Best way to deal with that? Just close your eyes, accept the feeling and remember that it will go.

Finally, remember it doesn’t have to be your last trip

If travel is truly what you love, there’s nothing to stop you carrying on doing it. You can find a job as an English teacher abroad, you can try to find work that’s location independent, or you can just work in Australia to save the pennies for a new trip. If you’re not ready to settle back home just yet don’t worry, there are millions of Australians out there who feel just the same!

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