Being back home and reverse culture shock

I’m currently writing on post about the most beautiful places in New Zealand. It’s kind of therapeutic to look at my travel photos – it makes me miss New Zealand so much, but at the same time I feel so thankful to have had so much time there, seen so much, to have been able to open up to so many new experiences. My first travel year has changed me deeply.

Pittwater
Take a break. Take time for yourself. (Pittwater, Australia, 2017)

“This was when I learned that you have to give up your life as you know it to get a new one: that sometimes you need to let go of everything you’re clinging to and start over, whether because you’ve outgrown it or because it’s not working anymore, or because it was wrong for you in the first place.” – Kelly Cutrone

Do you sometimes feel like you’re stuck when you come home too? That you haven’t changed at all or way too much? I am probably going through reverse culture shock. Not only that though, from time to time I ask myself what am I doing with my life? It’s good to see my family and friends and I love spending time with them. Yet I feel like a foreigner in my own country. I have come home about a month ago. My second working holiday visa for Australia expired. I had started off living and travelling a year in New Zealand, this somehow led me to Canada and then Australia for two years. Now? I am kind of lost.

“You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt with. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding and my dear one, you and I have been granted a mighty generous one.” – Cheryl Strayed

Well, who says only positive feelings are good feelings? It’s the times when we are struggling where we grow the most. At least this has led me to have a daily yoga routine and maybe I can sort out some emotional and health issues while I’m back home. It’s sometimes easier staying busy and moving from one thought to the next than just surrender and quieten the mind. I have to tell myself again and again that my self worth does not depend on how much I do, that sometimes simply being here and showing up every day is enough. This year I had to go through some heartbreak and maybe, just maybe, I can treat myself as kindly as I would treat someone else.

Back home
Spend time in nature to reconnect again.

“Leave problem solving alone for a while. Allow yourself to experience true presence instead.” – Bronnie Ware

Right now I’m trying not to plan too much. I had a skype interview scheduled for a summer job in Dublin – somehow, by telling me that this was way too early for me and that I had to take care of myself first, I got the flu. A week later, I had another interview for a job in Cork – and another health issue came up. So I just have some ideas in my head right now. Looking for a job to save some money – either here or more likely, working somewhere in Europe (has anyone lived and worked in Ireland and could tell me about it?). I definitely want to do a yoga teacher course, maybe in Bali, maybe in Australia, once I’ve got the money saved up. And another idea is a TEFL course, even though I am not a native speaker (anyone here who has taught English abroad?). I feel like once I work through some issues and make the first step, things will flow again.

New Zealand
Reverse culture shock can be scary.

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” – Cheryl Strayed

These are the things that I found most helpful in dealing with reverse culture shock:

Spend time in nature.

Nature can be very different in other countries. I know that there are beautiful places in Germany, but sometimes after you have been away for so long, it is more difficult to connect to the different landscape. Still I think it is better to go hiking, sit in the park – don’t hide away. Mindfulness has gotten quite important for me and it helps you connect with nature (or, the other way round, nature connects you with mindfulness, helps you to stay in the present moment). Listen to the birds, look at the sun shining through the trees, feel the wind on your skin. These simple things often comfort me.
“For one minute, walk outside, stand there, in silence, look up at the sky, and contemplate how amazing life is.” – Trust Your Journey

Read encouraging books and blogs, listen to music.

If you like to read and feel like you need to hide away for a little bit, read some encouraging books. Anything you feel like reading. I like to read travel stories, even when I’m back home, or especially then (need inspiration for travel books? See my last post). Blogs might help too. Only thing I would warn you about is spending too much time on Facebook, Instagram, … It can seem like other people are living their dreams and have everything sorted it (even though that’s not true most of the time), while you are struggling. I follow Facebook people and pages with positive messages, like Trust Your Journey, Louise Hay, Conni Biesalski, Bronnie Ware,… One of my favourite blog posts about coming home is from This American Girl, “The Truth about Going Home”.
“You’re never alone when you’re reading a book.” – Susan Wiggs

Get inspired for your next travels.

If you want to keep travelling, think about where you could go next. If you don’t have money saved up yet, you will get there. You can save money in a job at home or as a digital nomad. Or go abroad and work there for a while. Blogs like Nomadic Matt show you how to travel even if you don’t have much money. Or even just look at photos of different countries and get inspiration there. You are not stuck. Be patient with yourself. Use that time at home to get new ideas.
“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”  ― Anaïs Nin

Write and talk about it.

Write a diary for yourself or even a blog to share your experiences. Maybe even just ‘count your blessings’, wrote down what you are thankful for right now. Look for travel forums where you can talk to other travellers. Even if you feel like your family and friends don’t understand what has happened in the months or even years you were away, try to explain. Let them take part. Just be careful: I know that often things can look better on the other side (in other countries) and you might feel this way for a while, but try not to criticize everything in your home country. Others and you yourself might get tired of it. Don’t be afraid to explain that you have to process everything that has happened. And if you feel like nobody understands, look for expat groups in your area or facebook groups where other people have gone through the same.
“When we share our stories, what it does is, it opens up our hearts for other people to share their stories. And it gives us the sense that we are not alone on this journey.” – Janine Shepherd

Do yoga and meditate. Do what you love.

Not everyone likes yoga, but physical exercise in some way certainly helps. I love yoga as it calms me and I feel like I am not pushing my body, but rather opening it up. Depending on my mood, I do different exercises. Right now I follow the youtube-channel “Yoga with Adriene” and find it very helpful and uplifting. Do what you feel like – play the guitar, watch a movie, write that book, meet a friend for a coffee.
“Accepting means you allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling at that moment. It is part of the isness of the Now. You can’t argue with what is. Well, you can, but if you do, you suffer.”  – Eckhart Tolle

Be kind and gentle towards yourself and others.

Accept your feelings. Trying to push yourself to feel happy can make you even more miserable. Often if you just allow the sadness and accept it instead of constantly fighting it, you feel a sense of relief. Be gentle towards yourself. What would you say to or do for a friend who feels lost? If I get stressed about jobs or saving money, I remind myself that the universe has always supported me so far. I love quotes and they help as well. One of my favourites:
“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history of economics or science or the arts.” – Cheryl Strayed

Take little steps.

Don’t expect that you have to have everything figured out. Don’t think five years ahead. Start out by taking it day by day if you feel pressured and stressed, take time to process.
“Each step you take reveals a new horizon. You have taken the first step today. Now, I challenge you to take another.” – Dan Poynter

Do something for others.

If you feel like your thoughts are going crazy and meditation doesn’t feel enough/isn’t for you, try doing something for others. Take the focus off of yourself. You could try volunteering, bake someone a cake, be there for a friend, offer to babysit, take the dog for a walk.
“Kindness and a generous spirit go a long way. And a sense of humor. It’s like medicine – very healing.” – Max Irons

Mount Beauty
Breathe, no matter where you are. (Mount Beauty, Australia, 2017)

“Don’t buy the daily papers any more woman,
Read all about what’s going on in hell.
They don’t care to tell the world of kindness
Good news never made a paper sell.
There’s all the colours of the rainbow in the garden,
And symphonies of music in the sky.
Heaven’s all around us if you’re looking
But how can you see it if you cry.” – John Williamson, Cootamundra Wattle

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