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An imperfect life guide for women
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Because Reverse Culture Shock Is a Very Real Thing

On my first day back in Canada after 180 days away, I woke up at 5am, lay in the dark and cried.

Coming down from your travel high is a very real thing and a very hard thing – and it’s a very weird thing to talk about because it makes you feel guilty. Because like, you’re home! And home is good. And there are so many people here you love and who are sending you messages in all caps telling you they can’t wait to see you. And even though you can’t wait to see them either, you still feel extremely sad, and you can’t explain why.

But the thing is, it isn’t about them. The classic “it’s not you it’s me” line is, quite honestly, very true. Because here’s the deal:

You just changed a lot.

I mean, I’m the same in a lot of ways. I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of high-fiving someone; still on a cheese and cracker diet; still scared of the dark at age 27.

But your heart feels weird and different because of all these experiences you just had with yourself. So as a result, you’re having this internal struggle of feeling different within this place of “same-ness” – within this place that has been so familiar for the past 27 years and that you now feel a little displaced from. And that makes you nervous about being back while simultaneously appreciating this comfort, and you can’t decide which sentiment is outweighing the other right now and it’s all just really fucking weird.

In a way, you’re scared to be comfortable.

Even on the normal days when you went to work at the cafe and came home and drank a coffee and talked to everyone on the porch – even then, you always knew you were trying something different and felt proud because of it.

I mean, the other day I got a message from a friend I met travelling that read, “So whereabouts are you in the world right now?” And I loved that, because what a cool idea that I could be anywhere. You meet these people who are all finding their own route, and you lose track and catch up and another day can literally equal another country. And all the sudden it hits you that you’re home, and you’re going to still be home the next time someone asks. And that isn’t bad! You wanted to come home. But it’s still a new mentality you simply have to adjust to.

Now you’re home and you have to do something.

It was easy when you were travelling. Out of money? Work a random job and save up and move on. Work for accommodation. Eat canned soup out of your van for a week. You figure it out as you go, and you don’t feel any pressure to have a plan. But now you’re home, and you live in one place with one person and one monthly hyrdro bill. And you aren’t waking up wondering which hike to do today; you’re waking up and wondering WTF AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE, and that is hard and scary to feel again.

The hardest part is letting go.

It feels like a breakup. I know I’ll move on. I know it will be good to move on. But in this moment when it’s still so fresh in my heart, I feel inexplicably sad at the idea of doing this. At the idea of letting go of all the people and places and moments that impacted these past six months, and letting it all shift into this new chapter of my life as moments and memories and people I think about and keep in touch with whilst doing something else.

Sure, you’re going to have NEW life-changing experiences! But the fact is, this is still over.

I have full faith that my life is only going to keep getting bigger and better. But regardless of that, this is over. The time when I had a little dream and went across the world and lived amongst the hills and sheep and bottles of Tui. When no one asked what your weekend plans because Mon-Fri just wasn’t a thing. They asked you what country you were going to next. Whether or not it was too cold to swim in the lake today. Have you checked the free clothes bin lately? And this specific experience –that day way back in the fall when I just knew it was time for me to jump out and do it – this experience is done for now. And realizing that, plain and simply, sucks.

But at the end of the day, you just don’t know how to explain all of this.

You can’t find the right way to express all these feelings, and even if you can, you feel guilty for having them because you’re scared it makes you sound unappreciative of home and the people who are there. So you just don’t. You brush past it and catch up on life – and then you wake up at 5am and cry for yourself.

But I think that’s okay.

Like, that sounds so depressing how I just worded that: “You wake up at 5am and cry for yourself.” But it’s not. It’s part of travelling.

When I first got to NZ, I went through similar feelings of letting go of whatever I had just left and coming off that high of being surrounded on the daily by these people and this job and this life that I loved so much. And it was freeing to let go of that for the time being, because it allowed me to enjoy this new chapter so so much.

And I know that will happen again. And I’m excited about it happening again.

But I also think you have to let all this run its course. Let yourself feel the feels of something ending before you can get super over the moon excited about something new starting. And don’t feel guilty for it. Because it has nothing to do with anyone or anything else. It simply has everything to do with you and this beautiful thing you just did.

Besides, it’s not all bad. On the bright side, now you’re home and you get to shower WITHOUT WEARING FLIP FLOPS and that is so. fucking. exciting.

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