MIND / About coming home after traveling the world

4 March 2017
coming home, sunset Gili Trawangan
Laatste update: 21 August 2017

Finally you pursued your one dream. You bought that plane ticket, said goodbye to your life back home for a while and now you are having the most amazing time abroad. But all good things come to an end and it’s time to go home. You’re happy that you will see your friends and family again and make exciting plans with them. Then you’re coming home after the most fantastic journey… and it feels like someone just punched you in your face. Welcome back.

For many of us traveling is one of the most exciting experiences in life. You explore the world, experience what freedom is, learn about the most particular cultures and make friends for life. You also learn a lot about yourself in a very short time. Traveling made me more independent, social and venturous. It taught me that I don’t have to be scared for the unknown and that it’s not scary at all to travel on your own. It made me feel ultimate happiness while being on the road and I was convinced I could take that feeling of happiness straight away home. Boy I was wrong.

Coming home

After six months of traveling through Asia and North America it was time for me to pack my back again and catch a flight back to the Netherlands. I was looking forward to it, after having such an amazing time. I had seen so many beautiful things, lived so actively, felt so happy and had met so many incredible people, I was simply grateful for it. But it was also good to see my family again. My friends. To start my life in the Netherlands again. Coming home. So it was not a problem for me at all to buy that plane ticket. It was also not a problem to catch that plane, although I took it with mixed feelings. But at the moment I stepped into the car at Brussels Airport to drive back home, I felt panic shivering through my body. What the heck was I doing?


I was home. Back in reality. Reality was no longer something that belonged to the future and it was suddenly there. I realized that the days with pure excitement, being social a lot, living from day to day and exploring were over. That meeting up friends had to be scheduled. There was no space for spontaneity anymore. I felt like someone pushed the pause button and that my life was put on hold. Experiencing something new everyday was out of the question. I didn’t had my own place to live. I didn’t had a job. And maybe the worst of all: I had no clue what to do now with my life. Which direction I wanted to go. What I wanted to do in the Netherlands.

I am not going to lie. The first two weeks after coming home I felt devastated. I stayed in bed for days, not knowing what else I had to do. I didn’t enjoy anything and I didn’t had any energy to do something. My days I spent with this weary, unknown feeling in my body I didn’t know how to deal with. After a day or ten I slowly started to do some freelance work again. I started to search for a place where I could live on my own and was lucky to find something straight away. That’s how I started to live again. Or, with other words, I did something in my life. That says it all. The annoying feeling slowly vanished away, but it got stuck in a corner of my body. And it stayed there for months.
coming home, Sunset Gili Trawangan.

Just continue on

In the meantime I got angry with myself. I felt spoiled. Wasn’t it my own choice to go traveling in the end? And besides that I truly had a fantastic time while traveling. Why couldn’t I simply be happy with that and continue on with my life? Not everyone gets the opportunity to do what he wants in life. And I was just staying in bed at the same time, feeling all depressed, while so many people are dreaming about doing the same thing without having the opportunity to pursue that dream. I didn’t really talk about it with other people, because no one understood it. Just continue on with your life, that’s what they said. Nothing terrible happened, right? No, nothing terrible happened. That wasn’t the case. But I never expected to come back home and to feel so devastated after traveling.

The weird thing is actually that you can never really say anything negative about traveling. People always complain about their boring jobs, that their job is not making them happy for example and that they have the feeling their life just consists about work. They can talk about the negative sides of work for ages. But at the moment you say anything negative about traveling, about the fact that something didn’t go the way it was supposed to go or that you don’t feel well after traveling, it’s your own fault. Because it was your own decision to go on an adventure. You have to feel the consequences, so better shut your mouth. Therefore you simply decide to continue on with your life. But reality was that my life in the Netherlands as it once was, didn’t exist anymore. I just couldn’t suddenly continue on with my old life. I already changed my life drastically before I left home. As a result I came back home without having any direction to follow. It made it even harder to find the way in my life again.

Impact of traveling

In the meantime my first long backpack trip is already a while ago but I am still astonished by the impact traveling had after coming home. I am truly surprised how much it can change your life for such a long time. But I also realize more and more that feeling devastated after traveling isn’t that weird when you just experienced one of the best times in your life. On the road you get to know so many people. People who think the same about life as you do. People you connect with way faster than people back home. You learn to appreciate the good things in life. You learn to enjoy life as it is and to be happy with simple things, like having a hot shower after showering with ice-cold water for weeks. Those are things you never think about when you are at home.

Life back home is complicated. There are so many rules you have to follow. We need to make a career, to always look awesome, to find the perfect partner, to be better than anyone else. We must, must, must. But wherefore? It’s a concept you look at as one big joke while being far away from home. Life on the road is simpel. You life from day to day and the only thing that matters is how to get from a to b. Meanwhile you look for accommodation and food and you enjoy time. Coming home in a world where life isn’t that simpel anymore is pretty difficult. In the end you get used to it again, like you can get used to almost anything, but it takes time.
coming home, sunset Koh Tao

Simply don’t travel?

So can this be a reason to not travel around the world? No, absolutely not. No, no, no. Please jump on that plane. Follow your dreams. Explore the world and yourself. The amazing experience of traveling made eventually way more memories in my head than the negative feelings afterwards. I left it behind me. It took me some time – months and months. I won’t deny that. But traveling around the world was so much worth it. Even better, I am exploring the world again! And I would never do that if it wouldn’t be that amazing.

Maybe I would still have that restless feeling in my body if I wouldn’t be on the road at this moment. But I am sure I would feel it less than ever before. You build up a new life and you make new memories. You develop new opportunities. And so in the end it will be alright. Don’t let my story scare you. There are so many people who travel the world and just continue on with their life back home, appreciating the fantastic time they just left behind.

What I learned

Traveling is fantastic, otherwise I wouldn’t travel around the world again. Therefore I didn’t write this story to scare anyone. Because if there is one thing I would like everyone to do, is to explore the world. It’s beautiful. Please go. I wrote this story because I found out I wasn’t the only one who experienced this feeling after coming home. And because I learned so much from it and I would like to help you as well, I can just give you one tip: have a goal in mind for the moment you come back home and pursue your next dream. Coming home will be much easier.

I decided to not go back to the Netherlands unless I have a plan for the time after traveling. Because that was the moment it went wrong in my case. I thought I would come up with some plan while traveling, but at the moment I left my country, I didn’t spent a single moment thinking about the future. Traveling is a good distraction, but when you arrive back home again, reality is waiting for you at the front door. I think traveling should be a part of your life, your life should not only be about traveling. That’s what I learned. And that I have to be grateful for everything I have back home. Sometimes it’s hard to see the small things in life, especially when you feel devastated after traveling for months, but they are there. And in the meantime you learned a lot about the world – and yourself.
Coming home

  • Reply
    4 March 2017 at 12:29

    Post travel depression is a thing. Like you I came back from my semester abroad changed. I’d been galavanting off around Central and South America for 7 months and once I got home it was like everything had changed, but nothing had changed. I felt like I had nothing to look forward to anymore. Once you get through it, opportunities come up, you take them, and are a better person for the experience. Keep travelling :)

    • Reply
      6 March 2017 at 16:25

      Exactly yes! It takes a time to go through it, but life gives you so much opportunities afterwards. Keep traveling as well!

  • Reply
    4 March 2017 at 12:39

    I read this because 6 days ago I also came home. It was so emotional for me, I cried myself to sleep that night. Before I went traveling I had a plan for my life when I came back. When I started traveling though I made new plans to continue traveling. For me though only my family made plans to see me. After living away for 10 years from the town I grew up in I am at a point where I do not chase friends anymore. If they want to see me they have to contact me. I’ve been left too disappointed with too many cancelled plans. For me my life is travel now and the friends I have know who they are.

    • Reply
      6 March 2017 at 16:33

      Aaawh, that doesn’t sound good. Hope you are doing better already at the moment!

  • Reply
    4 March 2017 at 13:50

    Oh reverse culture shockis the worst. Family and friends just don’t get it. They don’t understand what you’ve been through.

  • Reply
    4 March 2017 at 16:48

    What a brilliant post and so beautifully expressed. It’s really difficult to try to wedge yourself back into your pre-travel life. You try to stay positive and remember the amazing times you had whilst travelling but that only ends up making you feel more frustrated with your current situation!

    • Reply
      6 March 2017 at 16:34

      Thanks Meg, and yes, it does haha!

  • Reply
    4 March 2017 at 17:03

    I totally get you. I came home 3 weeks ago after almost 3 years of travelling and I can definitely agree that post travel depression is an absolute bitch! haha I am so confused and have no idea what to do with my life and am so unmotivated to find a job right now. The staying in bed for days thing – I can definitely relate to that. So thank you for sharing, it helps me realise it will get better and I’m not crazy for going through the same shit :P

    • Reply
      6 March 2017 at 16:35

      No, you are not crazy at all ;)! Hope it will get better soon!

  • Reply
    4 March 2017 at 17:52

    Don’t forget that feeling. Because travel is when you see life as it is for real – uncertain, changing, where people matter and the threshold for friendship is low as it should be. Back to ‘civilisation’ the burdens are mostly artificial and self-inflicted. Your travel has allowed you the choice not to compete.

    • Reply
      6 March 2017 at 16:56

      Love your reaction, I totally agree with it!

  • Reply
    Kyntra Strickland
    5 March 2017 at 00:22

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Every time I return from a trip I feel a sense of sadness and wish I was still going. I’m about to travel for 8 weeks and I know that returning home will be so hard. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way!

    • Reply
      6 March 2017 at 16:57

      You are absolutely not the only one. Enjoy your travels!

  • Reply
    4 March 2017 at 17:42

    This is very relatable. Thank you for the super honest post! I’ve not thought about the whole going home situation yet, however I am dreading the question ‘what next?’ or ‘when will you get a real job?’

    • Reply
      6 March 2017 at 16:36

      I would say, keep on traveling ;). I am sure you will find an answer on those question at some point!

  • Reply
    6 March 2017 at 06:38

    Post travel blues are the worst. I leave in two weeks on my trip and I know I will feel this way when I return. Oh well, lots of photos to keep me going.

  • Reply
    6 March 2017 at 07:53

    This was a great post to read. I traveled all of last year and I am currently traveling now. I have decided to go home in May to start my “real life” again and I already feel lost and confused. Happy to know I am not alone. I also know I will travel again one day. Hopefully that will be enough to push me to find a job and restart my life :)

  • Reply
    Carmen Baguio
    6 March 2017 at 22:24

    It sounds like you have had a good self reflection. For me, it’s after a holiday like Christmas. You spend to much time preparing and in anticipation. Afterwards, life goes back to the daily grind. But, if it were Christmas everyday, then it wouldn’t be so special!

  • Reply
    7 March 2017 at 00:53

    I have to completely agree with you. After travelling for a year, when I took the flight back home, I was almost having a panic attack – the fun filled, non stop, responsible yet care free life was ending there and that totally freaked me out. Life is taking a new turn, lets see how this goes!!

  • Reply
    7 March 2017 at 21:37

    Interesting article. I am about to embark on my first long term travel, and I haven’t thought a lot about what I will do when I come home. Best I start thinking! Thank you for the reminder.

  • Reply
    8 March 2017 at 04:15

    Reading this post scared me to death! I have made a good habbit of avoiding thinking about my future. I want to travel. That’s it. I know I will eventually need to come home or settle somewhere and live.. but thinking about it sends me spiralling. It’s empty. I have no idea or vision of what my future will be. And it’s terrifying.
    It was nice to read at the end that you are back on the road and will work towards figuring out your future. But for now, I’ll just avoid it some more haa.

    • Reply
      11 March 2017 at 12:22

      No worries, you will get there. Just don’t forget about it and maybe you will find something along your travels!

  • Reply
    9 March 2017 at 07:16

    Thank you for sharing this experience! We did not leave yet but coming back is our biggest fear; the time we worry the most… we even considered very (VERY) briefly if leaving is too risky cause we maybe won’t find back into life with our mortgage and fulltime jobs.. obviously we decided to take the risk but the though of “how bad the return will be” isn’t leaving us. …what we keep on telling ourself is that it wont be our last trip and who knows what happens; maybe something pops up and we are settling down somewhere else.. it makes it less final and less scary.

    • Reply
      11 March 2017 at 12:25

      Glad you still take the risk! In the end, it’s worth it, I can assure you ;).

  • Reply
    Mike Clegg - Travel and Destinations
    12 March 2017 at 20:25

    Great to read about your journey and this is a good topic to discuss! I left home (England) 3 years ago now and have since lived in 2 other countries without a stable job and spend most of my time travelling, but only lots of short trips. I do want to head back to England eventually but definitely find it a little scary the prospect of having to come back to reality and get on top of my life! lol. Thanks for sharing what it’s been like for you.

  • Reply
    Madhurima Maiti
    12 March 2017 at 20:34

    Truly agree with you. Very well written. This is a kind of dilemma every traveler faces when suddenly it feels like life is paused and the reality doesn’t seem pleasing at all. But travelling should not be stopped and it comes with its own benefits. Liked the way you put the whole experience in such a compact and crisp manner. Thanks :)

  • Reply
    13 March 2017 at 05:22

    I think any change is not easy even it’s going home after long travel. I understand you have found your life purpose in travelling and it sounds great. Yes, travelling can change your life so much for such a long time. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Claire Ryan
    21 March 2017 at 18:14

    I am currently going through this and it’s so tough. I am so depressed and no one understands what I’m going through. Great article and so relatable ❤️

    • Reply
      26 March 2017 at 19:15

      O no, keep your head up! You’ll be alright again!

  • Reply
    31 March 2017 at 13:33

    This post is so real, I love it! I’ve experienced post travel depression too, and I think you’re right- having a plan for when you come home makes it a little easier. I also really like your comparison between how people complain a lot when traveling vs living the “sedentary” life, it’s an interesting difference.

  • Reply
    31 May 2018 at 19:23

    It’s been a month and I am still not over post travel blues. I even think this term belittles how deep this feeling is. I travelled with my husband and we both have a plan to work on now we are back but I just can’t find a bone in my body that is excited about it. Nothing is working and as you said I can’t complain to anyone! Not even my hubby cz I know deep down he’s feeling the same. So happy corporate world mask is on and just keep going. Not sure how long this will last….

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