I guess it had to happen someday, right?
Coming back after being gone for so long has been very strange. It’s been busier and more overwhelming than I expected. But, it has also been weirdly normal. About a year ago, I wrote a post explaining how leaving everything behind to travel the world is as hard as coming home afterwards. My motivation for this post was to negate that popular travel saying, “It’s harder to come home than go away” or also commonly known as “post trip depression”. Interestingly enough, past me knew what I was talking about. In my personal experience, leaving was more heart wrenching, but returning has posed its own set of separate challenges. In other words, leaving and returning were both difficult in their own ways for me.
My experience coming homing has not been filled with reverse culture shock, sadness of how everything has stayed the same but you’ve changed, feeling foreign around my friends, and many of the other post trip woes. Yet, I still do not know how to talk about my experience freely without talking too much or too little about it, or when to bring it into a conversation without being an annoying travel know it all. I do greatly miss the adventure and daily freedom. I’m nostalgic for the time when my biggest problem was what amazing Instagram picture should I post today? And yes, my body and mind are not used to being so productive. However, what is plaguing me the most is how normal I feel being back.
My expectations for not only leaving, but returning to Chicago have been so wrong. Before I left, I expected a big breakdown which never happened. While Dan and I were abroad, it seemed like we had been gone forever. Time, people, and memories of Chicago felt so far away. Therefore, I expected coming back to be surreal and assumed it would take me awhile to adjust back into reality. Instead, it seems that no time has passed, and I woke up from a very long, ridiculous nap.
For about a week now, Dan and I have moved back into a temporary sublease in Chicago, I’ve returned to International TEFL Academy, and Dan even cut his long travel hair. Two huge parts of my life BT (before trip) are still the same, but there are so many things that have completely changed. Dan and I are living in a different apartment in a separate neighborhood, I’m working in a different position at ITA, and two of our best friends have moved out of Chicago.
This “normal” feeling has been challenging for me is because it makes the past 8 months a fuzzy memory. It makes the huge dream we realized not only seem like it never happened, but that it wasn’t very monumental. It is almost as though I could have left or not, and would still be in the same place mentally and physically. (I know this is a very negative thought so bear with me).
As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that maybe I feel so normal because this is where I’m supposed to be. I’m not pining over the trip because it was the right time to come home. I grew, I adventured, I lived life to the fullest, I learned a hell of a lot about myself.. I DID IT!
Overall, I have been pretty happy this first week back in the Windy City. I have a temporary amount of time to spend in a city I love, to spend time with people I love, and to continue working for a great company. I’m not dreading the work weeks, workouts, or grocery shopping. I’m not complacent. I don’t feel unsettled. The trip changed those things about me and for that, it will forever live on inside of me, even if I don’t think about it everyday. Take that post-trip depression!
So now, it is back to life, back to reality in Chicago, being grateful for what I have while working for what I want next (more on that later).