Are you headed home after your travels? Even if you aren't, at some point you will be and you may be surprised at how hard it is to fit in.
Of course if you've only been gone a few weeks it won't matter: you'll just have wonderful stories to tell. You'll be full of the energy that comes from visiting new places and meeting new people.
If you've been gone several months, you may find that life as you remember it has changed. It may not have - it may be that you have changed. How do you cope with that? How do you fit back in?
I've been through this in my own extended travels so I can share what worked for me. I was also inspired by Lynn's insightful Facebook post on this page, where she highlights some of the pitfalls of long-term travel and returning home - re-entry isn't always smooth.
Women on the Road NEWS: Contents for Issue #45
- Re-entry: Fitting in Back Home
- What's New on www.women-on-the-road.com
- Questions anyone?
- My free travel writing course
- Most Popular Posts Last Month
- Travel News from Across the Web
- Cause of the Month: Famine in the Horn of Africa
Prepare to return before you leave
You know you're eventually coming back home so why not plan for it before you leave? Don't be afraid to make a few assumptions. Assume you will have changed more than the friends and family you left behind. Assume you'll be looking at the world through a different lens. Expect your tastes to be a bit different: you may no longer like fast food or weak coffee. You may be bored after so much time seeing different things. Worse, you may be boring! Not everyone will want to hear about your narrow escape from militias in Africa or your stint at an elephant training camp in Thailand. Assume you may feel just a little bit let down by your return.
Organize your living arrangements
It's all well and good to break your lease, sell your home or sublet your appartment but make sure you've made a contingency living plan for the first few months of your return home. There's nothing worse than begging a few days here and there on everyone's couch. Make a deal with a friend and offer to rent a room for a month or two when you come home. Get your family to fix up a spare room for you. Or if someone moves into your place, make sure they'll be out well before you get back. Having a home base waiting for you is one of the most caring things you can do for yourself.
Hide some money under the mattress
Figuratively, at least. No matter how tempting, once you've saved up for your trip, take a bit and stash it away - 10% of your funds is about right. This means you'll have something to come back to and if you've been traveling in cheaper countries, you may be stung by how expensive things are when you get back home. I remember returning home (which was then Geneva) after two years in Asia and needing to get a job quickly - I spent more in coffees in a day than I had for food in Bangkok!
Line up some work
If you have a job, see if you can negotiate a leave of absence. If you can't, then try to line up a bit of work to help top up that bank account. Talk to your friends and colleagues about hiring you, even for a few weeks, when you get back from your travels. Not only will it help financially, but it will reintegrate you into your home environment more quickly than if you lounge around in a torpor dreaming of a faraway land.
Stay in touch with home
These days it's so easy... an email, a Facebook post, a Tweet, a Skype call. It's nice to be cut off from 'real life' for a while but if you cut yourself off radically, don't expect to slot right back in when you come home. By keeping in touch, you'll give friends and family an opportunity to share at least part of your trip so that when you do come home, what you've done and where you've been won't seem so foreign. You'll have a little something in common.
Don't try to transition all at once
It may feel like you're stepping directly from one world into another but try to do it in stages. Once you're home hold on to parts of your trip. Your memories will help but they do fade. You were in Asia? Eat out in authentic Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. In Europe? Take a French or Italian class. South America? Join a tango, merengue or samba group. Register for a travel forum and help others plan their own trips. By keeping one foot in the past, at least for a little while, returning to the present will be less brutal.
Focus on the good stuff
No matter how disconcerting your environment when you get home, there will be some heartwarming times. Seeing your friends and family, of course, but simpler things too. Understanding the language, for example, or knowing how things 'work'. Eating familiar foods. Finding your old books and favorite scarves. Constant shower pressure and hot water. Watching films without unusual subtitles. Walking the streets without anyone staring...
And if all else fails?
Start planning your next trip!
- Please join our growing Facebook community and post about your travels, ask a question, share a link or photo, or just say Hi.
- Meet up on Twitter @womanontheroad to hear about my travels and tell everyone about yours.
- Share your experiences with the rest of us by writing a story!
This month, Karen told us about Restoring my joie de vivre: solo in Paris, Beate learned life lessons from traveling solo and Sylvia uncovered the best online Camino forums if you're planning a pilgrimage.
- Ask me a question! The question bag was certainly full this month...
- Anna in Australia is moving to Paris and asks: how long should I buy travel insurance for?
- Future travel writer Janice wants to know which travel writing course should I take first?
- Stephanie is curious about living in France
- Magda would like to work overseas minding children and taking pictures
- Allison wonders whether there is any great job out there for a vagabond
- Sandra wants more information about teaching English in Spain
- Joanna wonders about solo travel for senior citizens
- Glennifer asks what clothes should I take to Europe in summer
- Malsee is concerned about how safe is it to travel solo to Istanbul, Turkey
- Finally, someone who didn't leave a name asked about being blonde and female in Costa Rica (I answered this one exceptionally because it's relevant to so many readers but be forewarned - I don't usually answer 'anonymous' questions... Call me silly but I like to get to know my readers.)
- Link to my website from your own blog or site.
- And when you visit women-on-the-road.com, please don't forget to click LIKE in the left-hand column!
My Best Travel Reading Picks
The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide
Are you traveling solo for the first time? If you don't know where to start, or if you're a bit apprehensive, this feisty, congenial, well-designed and clever e-book will tell you everything you need to get out that door and on the road. Find out how to save for your trip, break the news to your loved ones, take care of those last-minute jitters, and even how to deal with coming home. It's compact, light and to the point - no padding like so many other e-books. Author Stephanie Lee, an architect turned traveler, says you should "Embrace your individuality and sense of adventure." I couldn't agree more!
Video 101: Tips and Tricks for Awesome Visual Storytelling
If you want to hang on to your best travel memories, get them down on video. Never shot one before? My friend Lisa Lubin can help. She's a television journalist and producer who won THREE Emmy Awards for her broadcast work (and spent several years traveling solo around the world). She just released a superb ebook that sums up her approach to video: figure out your story, make it human, plan your video ahead of time, use interviews, write to complement the pictures and edit it all together. If you're keen to develop your video skills but can't afford a course because of money or time, let Lisa show you how it's done. As a special treat to readers of Women on the Road News, she's offering us an exclusive $10 discount on her book, so don't forget to use this discount code when you order: solowomen.
Ticket to Safe Backpacking in Southeast Asia and India
My final book suggestion this month is a gem of an ebook. While it's supposed to be about safe backpacking, it's actually so much more. Its author, Amanda Villaruel, tackles almost every subject that could possibly interest a backpacker to the region, from avoiding travel scams to the best border crossings to culture shock. Amanda is a backpacker herself and has gleaned all this incredibly detailed information from her own experiences and first-hand research: if I were headed to Asia for the first time, this is the one book I would want to have with me.
If you love to travel and love to write, have you ever thought of writing to pay for your travels? Writing paid for my own travel across several continents so I know a bit about the writer's life and what editors like. I'd like to help you achieve your writer's dream so I've pulled a lot of my knowledge together for you in a free online course called the The Travel Writing Magician, available exclusively to readers of Women on the Road News.
Just sign up and get it in your mailbox in seven easy daily installments. Work the self-help assignments on your own and see how your writing improves after just one week. You'll never know if there's a travel writer lurking inside you until you try!
1. International Travel Nursing
2. Travel Packing List
3. Travel Accessories for Women
4. Stay in a Monastery
5. Overseas Jobs
6. Cheap Ways to Travel
7. Travel Writing Jobs
8. Teaching English in France
9. Travel Money Belt
10. Best Time to Visit
5 of the Next Big Backpacking Destinations
Top 10 Underground Walks
How to Travel with Friends
The Girls' Guide to Traveling Solo in Muslim Countries
10 Reasons Why It's Good to Come Home from a Trip
How to Use Twitter for Travel Planning
5 Essential Mass Transit Travel Tips for Women
Thermal Spa Love
Whatever Happened to My Travel Fitness?
Travel Racism in the Middle East
Visa-Free Travel by the Numbers
Solo Travel Websites Worth Checking Out
Top Tips for Solo Travel
For food lovers...
...and lovers of other arts
If You're Visual
The Sleepy Capital City of Vientiane
Zagreb: Traditions, Culture, Kissing
5 Free Things to Do in Seoul, South Korea
Prague: An Exploration of Czech Culture
6 Reasons to Visit Romania
Kayaking Around the Islands of Palau
20 Things to Know Before Moving to Sweden
Kazakhstan's Secret City: Astana
The Famine in Somalia
Drought in Somalia is nothing new, except this year it's worse, one of the worst in 60 years. It's not just the drought though: high food prices, conflict and government instability have all contributed to what the UN officially declared a famine a few weeks ago.
Little is being done about it, though not for want of goodwill. The terrorist group Al Shabaab, with links to Al Quaeda, is in control of much of famine-stricken southern Somalia. So far the group hasn't been letting many aid groups through so essential supplies aren't reaching those in need. To escape the famine many Somalis have headed for the borders of Kenya and Ethiopia. The massive influx of refugees is straining whatever capacity there is in the camps and many starving families don't find any help when they get there - after days or even weeks of walking. They may have lost family members, especially weaker children, along the way.
Recently Al Shabaab left the city of Mogadishu and that may help aid reach some of those who are starving - we are talking about more than 11 million people, or the equivalent of the entire population of Belgium.
To help, or for more information:
How to travel cheaply within Europe
(c) 2007-2011, Leyla Giray. All rights reserved. Women on the Road News is published monthly. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.