What happens after travelling? Challenges coming home.

Plane taking off to come home after travelling

 

Coming home after travelling

As I sat on the plane a map caught my eye; England was just falling off the edge, hardly visible, but in the centre, a flashing dot marked my current position. It had taken me 5 months to cycle here, but in 8 hours I would be back where I started, the whole experience washed away like writing in the sand. 3 minutes on the plane for every day cycling. I felt cheated. Robbed of my experiences.

I used to look enviably to the sky and wonder where the planes were going? Now, I looked out just wishing to be on the ground, wondering what adventures and people I'd find!
I used to look enviably to the sky and wonder where the planes were going?
Now, I looked out just wishing to be on the ground, wondering what adventures and people I'd find!

But it wasn’t really stolen from me; I felt certain when I returned home my life would be substantially different in some way. How could it not? I had gained countless insights into life from many different cultures. The road had carefully unravelled the infinite mysteries of the world to me with every turn, and provided answers to my own thoughtful introspection.

Difficult coming home and missing the friendly people I met throughout bike touring adventure.

Back home what struck me most was how quickly everything returned to normal around me, like the calm after a thunderstorm abruptly coming to rest. I eagerly spoke to everyone around me, excited to find out what had happened while I was gone, but the answer revealed that not a lot had changed, as if time had frozen, as they continued to live the same life, working the same jobs, going to the same pubs on a Friday evening. I don’t intend to sound snobbish, and it’s great that they are happy, but that’s no longer a life I can see myself slotting seamlessly into. Back home, I feel even more lost than I did during my travels.

Similarly, the soft luxurious sensation of lying in my bed for the first time after it had sat empty for so long soon became taken for granted, my rocky, cold campsites long forgotten. The excitement of eating foods I had missed was soon routine, and I couldn’t help but miss the exotic foods to which I had grown accustomed. I longed for my life to be as simplistic as when it was packed into just 4 bags. ‘The cycle’ soon seldom entered conversation, as if everyone else had forgotten it, yet it still felt painfully fresh to me. Still too painful to view the photos and videos even.

Bike touring freedom and adventure in remote places.
This was my final days cycling in Georgia. Am I the same person as when I left?

It’s clear to me that what has changed is me, at the very core; I have learnt what is important to me, and equally significant, what is not. While I was cycling, those ‘things’ I didn’t miss were more revealing than what I did. After living perfectly content and happy with so little, and witnessing happy people with even less, returning to a capitalist culture is a strange experience. Having worn just two pairs of clothes for 5 months, my wardrobe feels excessive, let alone the notion of buying more! I survived without television for so long that watching it no longer holds the same appeal. I find myself restless, no longer content with the norm. I know there is so much more out there, and I need to pack my life with moments and people and experiences. In the words of one bike tourer reflecting on the difficulties of coming home;

We are condemned to a life of eternal searching or eternal misery.

I understand how he feels. I'm not sure my life can ever be the same again. I need to continue the search, to relentlessly chase the horizon, to enjoy the spontaneity and serendipity of life on the road. That is pure freedom.

Difficulty coming home and missing the adrenaline and adventure when bike touring.

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7 Comment

  1. Hi Josiah,
    Do you remember we have met at Turkey’s Southcoast near Myra? I was travelling on motorbike from The Netherlands, we met on the road on the top of some mountain. Back home I found your card and visited your website. It’s interesting reading about your experiences, thanks for sharing them. It helps me also to better understand my own feelings about the last two journeys I made, specially the “challanges coming home”.
    What would happen, as an experiment, if you try to see your own country and people through the eyes of an Asian traveller? Some benefits of our western culture and people are so evident for us, that we hardly recognise them.
    Enjoy your stay this winter as far as possible, have a good restart next spring. I look forward to reading about you next year. All the best, Jeroen

    1. Jeroen!!

      Of course I remember you 🙂 You helped take a video of me 🙂 So glad you found the website, and it sounds like you enjoyed reading! Glad you could understand my post about coming home – it is something those who haven’t travelled seem to find confusing.

      That’s a really interesting thought – Looking on a place with fresh eyes is not always easy, but can make the normal routine of life more exciting!

      Thanks – I’m very excited to start again next spring and look forward to sharing the stories with you 🙂 Have you got any more trips planned? Josiah

      1. Probably the next trip will be to Portugal. Now I can compare travelling on bycicle and motorbike. Specially in Europe I prefer the bycicle: less clothing and much easier to get in contact with people. And it gives more satisfaction. When I compare now, motorbike is nice to see landscapes in a time span that is limited.

  2. Welcome home Jo. We shall miss reading about your adventures and cannot wait until you are back on the road again, but until then make the most of being with your family and friends. Hope you can become content with the norm for the next few months unless of course you find some adventure whilst here. I thank you once again for sharing your experience with us and look forward to reading of your continued journey from Georgia to Australia in the near future.

    1. And a big thank you for your constant support! It it always a real boost to read lovely comments! I’m always on the lookout for adventure – hopefully there is some to be found here!

  3. Hey Jo!
    Come to istanbul, teach some english. Enjoy the vibe. Don’t get bored 😉

    1. Ohhhw, that’s so tempting Harika! Istanbul was a crazy city!

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