Seven years ago, almost to the day, I moved from the United States to Leicester, England for a little over a year to pursue my Master’s degree. It was one of the best years of my life, and I have memories I will never forget and made incredible friends along the way. When I came back to the same city, I grew up in I felt stuck. I had just spent a year in a foreign country where I had initially known no one and carved out a life that was full of adventure. Coming “home” felt wrong. I had changed so much, and it seemed like everything paused while I was gone only to start again when I returned. No one had changed. Everything was the same, and it drove me crazy.
Travel has become one of my favorite pieces of my life. Going somewhere new ignites a fire in me that few other experiences do. You meet new people, experience new cultures, new sights, new sounds, and smells, new ways to look at the ordinary things you take for granted. Everyone talks about leaving, but no one talks about coming home.
Leaving the life, I had built was hard enough. Saying goodbye to the people I had come to think of as my best friends and all of the places that grew to be familiar to me was extremely hard mainly because I had no idea when I would get the chance to see them again. Coming home was harder. Starting over again in a new place is exciting; it’s incredible; it’s challenging. Starting over in an area that has lost these qualities is excruciating.
Coming home after such a long time is similar to being a local celebrity. Everyone wants to know about your adventures and see how you’ve changed. What was it like over there? Did you see anything cool? What was your favorite part? Then the interest starts to wane, and life goes back to normal. I think that’s the hardest part. You spent the past several months being abnormal in the best way possible. Your life is so full of color and vibrancy, and then you come back to a world of grey scale. Nothing is quite like you remember and you lose the excitement that only travel and living abroad can bestow on someone.
It is maddening to see how much you have personally changed only to look around and realize no one else has. You want to scream WHY HAVENT YOU EXPERIENCED ANYTHING NEW? DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE MISSING? Unless someone travels that don’t and I find that infinitely sad. I know so many people and even family members who have never traveled out of their home state much less the country. You feel lost. You feel angry. You start to pity people. You feel like there was no point to changing so much if everything else stays the same. Then you feel like that was the entire point, and if you had remained the same, you would be just like everyone else. Stuck.
This is why so many people who travel often can’t wait to travel again. People call it wanderlust or the travel bug, but that’s not fully appreciating the situation. Yes, people travel to see specific sites and are completely content, but there are those of us who are never fully content at home or in one place. What travelers really want is to be surrounded with people who know what they are feeling despite not really being able to communicate that feeling in words.
The hardest part of traveling is coming home. That’s why we feel the need to leave. So we can grow, change, learn, experience life in all of its messy glory, and feel complete.