Homecomings Should be Happy, but this Sucks


“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” — Sir Richard Burton

If you’re a traveler, you know what it’s like to come and go often. Sometimes living life out of a suitcase is a backbreaker, especially if you travel with a lot of luggage, or are a backpacker.

What if you could put a push pin in the map for every place you’ve been, or every place your imagination wants to take you?

Let your mind wander about all the places you want to go.

The idea of going new places probably has you awestruck and excited. Ideas tumble through your mind of adventures, meeting new people, learning a new language…

Is your head flooding with a multitude of stories you’d tell?

Live in those places, with new people. Tell their story first-hand, and tell how it changes you.

“Traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” — Ibn Battuta

Writing can do this too. Some of the best writing worth reading has a great storytelling quality.

What do you see and experience? Taste the local cuisine. Tell about how it feels on your tongue. What do you smell?

Write about it.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” -James Michener

If you’re not afraid to do the above, travel and tell your story.

The truth is there’s a story that’s often untold about travel.

It’s hard.

Social media feeds appear with:

  • smiles
  • tourist spots
  • food
  • experiences

They are mostly true, but they are half-truths. They don’t tell about the times when there are no showers available and you sleep all night in bus and train stations.

There is no bed, but there is a cold hard floor. Sometimes it’s a toss-up between the floor and a cold metal bench that raises your body up off the floor enough to let the cold air surround your body with a hug of chills.

They don’t tell about the times no machines are available to launder clothes. No one tells about the times you feel sick or are hurt while walking through the wilderness, but you can’t stop to rest.

Mostly we hear about how glorious and grand travel is. No talks about the down-side of travel.

No one tells you how hard travel is and that it’s still worth doing.

It’s the chance to live another life, in another culture, and a chance to grow.

Travel changes who you are.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert

I’ve never heard a traveller say how hard the homecoming is.

We’ve been away for a while. And, by a while, I mean so long that our thoughts have transformed. Everything makes sense through the eyes of the people in Spain. We think and dream in Spanish words and culture. We enjoy the simple culture so much that we want to live there. We haven’t passed this way before, but we’re sure to come back.

When a culture makes sense you want to do more than visit. You want to embrace it for life.

We gave up a lot to go because we honestly didn’t know if we would return. We sold the house and most of our physical possessions. The few things we have left are in storage and they matter so little that we haven’t been back to pick them up.

We long to be in Spain. It is a modest, simple culture that makes sense.

Coming “home” is confusing

We took budget airlines there and back, meaning no luxuries of any kind were offered. No beverages, nuts/snacks, no quick connections. Amenities were replaced with low prices and long layovers. The prices are unbeatable, especially if travel is otherwise not possible.

When we left Spain, we returned via an 18-hour layover in Iceland.

Imagine the confusion of the poor lady from whom I was purchasing beverages. I understood the bit of Icelandic she spoke, translated it in my head, and responded in Spanish.

We both shook our heads.

Nothing is the same

Nothing that used to make sense at “home” makes sense anymore.

We stopped at a Mexican restaurant and the server spoke Spanish. Immediately we began conversing in a way that made sense, using words that were authentic to the Spanish culture that no textbook will ever teach.

His smirk and slight cock of head let us know he noticed.

I’m not sure any of us would have so readily or so easily made the conversion before. It’s easy to make someone feel included with a little effort, and it’s worth doing.

Unpack the baggage

While we traveled this time we lived out of backpacks. There was no checked luggage and clothing we had was a capsule wardrobe. When your wardrobe is 10 pieces or less per individual life is simple. Clothes are well cared for and worn often. Some items were completely worn out and had to be replaced.

The emotional baggage isn’t nearly as easy as throwing clothes in the washer and dryer. It’s a complete readjustment of priorities. And, these priorities don’t fit anymore.

Coming home feels foreign.

Everyone expects us to be the same and no one knows how much we’ve changed.

We have to learn this life all over again.

For now, we’ll pause on our home soil, but only as long as we have to.

“The most beautiful place in the world is, of course, the world itself.” -Wallace Stevens

And, we can’t wait to get back in it.