I knew this was going to happen, I was more prepared for it this time. This reverse culture shock. Stepping off the plane with mixed emotions. The excitement of returning home, the relief of certain comforts, but the surprising freshness of it all. As if this is just the next stop on your destination list. The sensory overload of walking into a supermarket for the first time, the overwhelming amount of choices for your pizza toppings, the luxury of a warm shower and a comfortable bed. Everything is fun and exciting and new. Your family and friends can’t wait to see you and your cell phone is overwhelmed with texts for the first time in almost a year.
Welcome home parties and reuniting with loved ones fills up your schedule. You can’t wait to devour a meal at your favorite restaurant, cruise around in your car (which suddenly feels a lot more luxurious than it once did) and finally get your hands on some decent beer. Everything is a novelty. Even mundane chores like filling up your gas are foreign and exciting.
You try to throw yourself back into your old world. Follow along with conversations about the iphone5 and something called Gangnam style (???) You listen, attempting to keep up. In the beginning everyone has questions about your trip. You try to describe your stories in a passionate but humble tone. Your memories are still fresh as the scrape from your recent motorbike accident.
Excitedly you stumble over words, pleading your tongue to keep up with every thrilling detail. Short anecdotes turn into long tales of haphazardly running around foreign countries; chasing wild pigs through the amazon leads to the time you ate fresh goat in the desert which turns into a story of being crammed in the back of a 4×4 with 3 goats, a baby pig, a chicken and several large tortoises strapped to the roof. Wow. You start to think to yourself, did I really do all that? You end up catching yourself. You know that you are incredibly lucky to be able to travel for an extended time and the last thing you want to do is sound like a pretentious brat.
In fact, you hope your passion and excitement is infectious, you hope your stories of mishaps and adventure will inspire everyone to drop their jobs, sell their possessions and take off tomorrow for somewhere, anywhere completely foreign. Somewhere you don’t speak a word of the language, somewhere you have to get by with body language and laughter. Somewhere the people eat termites. Somewhere the daily mode of transportation is a mototaxi with neon flashing lights, somewhere you will get lost and things will be hard and different and wonderful. Somewhere you will never be able to say “I’m bored” again.
Of course your tales of climbing mayan ruins and bathing under waterfalls will grab attention for a while but those watchful eyes will soon become glazed over and your excitement will be overthrown by interruptions of weekend plans and office complaints. Soon the welcome home parties will come to an end, everyone will get used to you being home and they’ll eventually forget you were even gone. They’ll add you into memories of past events and try to reminisce with you about dinners and parties you weren’t even around for.
And soon the memories of 10 months of adventuring overseas will blur together like a fading dream. But the same things that excited you before you left, picking out a new dress for new years, staying out all night on the weekends, planning the next weekend trip to Vegas, just doesn’t bring the same thrill that it used to. Which is when you have to choose. Are you going to let the past 10 months become a once in a lifetime trip, the kind that stays in your heart forever as a crazy whim of your twenty something self? Or are you going to let travel become part of your life, let it absorb you wholly and completely, allow it to become a longing inside of you that will never stop nagging until you give in. To sacrifice everything else, forego those nights out and music festivals to save for something greater. Something you know will become life changing and monumental.