Culture Shock — at home?
Re-acclimatization — to your own home?
There’s an interesting travel consequence or feeling you might not think of. It’s not serious but it surprises many of us, so I’m sharing it here so you’re aware of it in case it hits you when you end your first travels.
When we think of traveling, we think of the culture shock we feel as we experience new cultures. However, as a traveler, you come to expect the differences. In fact, you may welcome them and seek them out.
But we don’t expect to feel a culture shock when we return to our home country, town, city, or even neighborhood. We expect to feel something… perhaps many things, but I’m not sure we expect to feel… well, read on.
Here’s what reminded me to finally write about this issue.
Recently a woman in an online women’s travel group posted a query stating that having returned to the United States after traveling for 9 months she has felt nauseous, headachy and exhausted. It’s been over a week but she still feels like she is jet-lagged and stuck with a cold, perhaps in an uphill battle getting re-acclimated to her home country. I felt “re-acclimated” was a great choice of words.
I felt “re-acclimated” was a great choice of words. Indeed, I felt that after 3 years of solo travel around much of the world. My close post-college friend Carolyn did as well after 9 months around the world. And my close friend Gary, whom I met traveling, felt it too after 2 years of travel. But other people identified with it, even when they travel for shorter periods.
Here were my immediate thoughts for her:
Somehow we are in a “go” mode while traveling. Adrenaline, excitement, everything is new. Then we come home to the same old places, people, foods. Maybe the same old job or the stress of needing a new job. Maybe the stress of finding a place to live. At the same time that the adrenaline and excitement are gone. You’re not meeting new and therefore exciting people every day. You’re not eating different foods daily or learning new words or histories or places. I have traveled 3 years, 1 year, 1.5 years, 4 months. Decades, technology, countries, all don’t matter. It’s the same return.
One woman said she has “a reverse culture shock” whenever she comes back to the States (her home country) after traveling.
Spencer from the US nailed a big part of it very well:
“The biggest thing is getting used to the rush and the noise. We’re in such a hurry ALL THE TIME! I’ll go to a restaurant and want sit and have coffee and chat after dinner for an hour or so…and the waitress is looking at me like I kicked her puppy because …right I’m costing her money. The speed of life is definitely hard to adjust back to.” (BTW, you can learn about her travel experiences at HungryBoots.com. If there’s not a lot there, bookmark it because true travelers are often so busy traveling that our blogs don’t reflect our experiences immediately.)
Conversely, a woman from Manhattan, of all places, commented that returning to NYC, she finds it quite slow, saying she is used to a much faster pace.
Another woman said thank you for bringing this up. She’d thought she was being too sensitive. When she’d returned to her “peaceful sunny hometown “she felt “more lost, sick and afraid than when abroad.”
And the words of another American long-time traveler, Rebekah Foust…
“Culture shock. They don’t mention it about when you return home but in my 10 years of travel, I find it truer than when I get off the plane in any foreign country.”
By the way, each of these women is an actual traveler, not living abroad for 6 months a year or years at a time. I’ve omitted the experiences of live-abroad returnees as that’s not what we’re discussing on Tales of Travel and Tech.
Do travel if you’re so inclined though!
Returning home isn’t all bad. There’s the comfort of being home and seeing the faces of the people you have long loved. As much as I love the discoveries and excitement of travel, I also love the familiar feeling of walking into a “home” place, knowing a food, knowing a street, etc.
I spent my first two continuous years of travel in Africa, Europe and Asia. To most people, two years may seem like a long time. But it doesn’t always compute that way, feel so long, to the traveler who is, for the most part, always on the move, exposed to a barrage of wonder and newness. After I returned home, my reunion with family and friends was heartwarming and as satisfying as I hoped it would be. The weeks that followed, after everyone knew I was back, and I began to settle in, that I began to notice some interesting things. After a few months I fought the phantom feeling that I should be moving on, to some other exotic local, no doubt a conditioned response. The pace of the world around me seemed slower, less interesting and mundane. It was a bit depressing at times, knowing that I had reached the end of the line which meant I had to get a job, find a new place to live and integrate back into a world that I had already “been there done that”. I was a bit disassociated. When I was on the road, people saw me as a traveler, a man of character who was taking risks and challenges. Back home, I was still considered a man of character but riding on the wave of my incredible adventure produced only a short wave. No one could really relate to me. Everyone was living their lives and seemed to be more concerned about how soon it was going to take before I would be able to make the integration. What I learned is that a traveler should only travel for themselves and expect no pats on the back. My traveling experiences changed my life in the best way. Only I will ever know to the fullest extent.
P.S. Twenty-seven years later I took to the road again for another two years. This time it was Central / South America, Australia and Europe