When Home Gets Hard

A rut. A funk. A slump. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve been in one for the past few weeks. I’ve felt suffocated and heavy, like my body is being dragged down under a tide of sadness and I’m too lethargic to fight my way out. Most mornings I wake up feeling like a...

A rut. A funk. A slump. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve been in one for the past few weeks.

I’ve felt suffocated and heavy, like my body is being dragged down under a tide of sadness and I’m too lethargic to fight my way out. Most mornings I wake up feeling like a hummingbird is caught inside of me, as panic beats its wings madly inside the cage formed by my chest. Panic forces me up out of bed, but it disorients me and paralyzes me too. I feel certain that something terrible is coming my way and, as if to compensate for this nameless, faceless anxiety, my mind conjures up all types of horrible scenarios of things that could (no matter how unlikely) happen for me to fixate on. In those moments I am trapped in a prison of anxiety where fear is my warden; I want to talk to someone and let my worries rush out of me like the tide being called back to the ocean, but the irony is that the worse my worries get and the more talking or writing would bring relief, the heavier I feel—like my tongue is gilded in lead and I can’t muster the strength to form words— and it seems like I can’t do much but despair.

So, I’ve spent a lot of time lately doing what I did before our trip: sitting with sadness and fear, and mostly just trying to make it through each day. And when that is too hard, I try to just make it through the next hour, or even the next few minutes, waiting for the shadow to pass and a little light—a little hope—to creep back in.

I think part of my melancholy stems from the fact that I’ve been back in Toronto for exactly four months now. This is the longest I have been anywhere in the last two years and the glow of being home has finally started to lose its luster. When we first returned from our travels, we were exhausted and kind of burnt out and it felt good to be somewhere that was easy and unchallenging and fixed for a good chunk of time. It was easy to focus on the things that were good and novel, like seeing friends and catching up with family and having lightning fast internet so that we could stream things on Netflix with impunity. It was also easy to accept the feelings of disconnect and discord that being back in our old lives brought as well, from getting lost in closets full of clothes to celebrating big milestones in the lives of our friends, like promotions, and babies, and houses with thirty-year mortgages—all reminders of where we could have been if not for the past two years. It all felt weird, but we expected it to, and that seemed to help.

[For the record, I want to state explicitly that our friends back here in Toronto have been AMAZING and it has been truly fantastic getting to hang out with them and catch up after so much time away. They have been really supportive of our travels and our unconventional choices and getting to spend time with them has been one of the best things about being back. I really treasure this time we have spent together and we feel really lucky to know such wonderful and interesting people who are always happy to welcome us back to the fold.]

But it’s been four months now, and all of those feelings are not so easy to accept any more; they aren’t just trivial little oddities so much as they are the bulk of my life. Just as you might barely notice a pebble in your shoe at the start of the day, once you walk around with it all day it leaves a mark, even though the pebble is just as small and smooth as it always was. Imagine having a pebble in your shoe for four months…

I think I expected that with time, home would seem less weird, but in fact, it has become more jarring and alienating.

I know of so many travelers who have returned from epic trips and spoken of how hard it was to reintegrate, knowing that they had fundamentally changed and yet life back home had remained the same and now they didn’t seem to fit anymore. Every single day I wake up and I wonder if our trip ruined me for the life I’m in now, because all I can think is that I don’t belong here and I am not sure I ever will again. I am genuinely happy to see my friends build lives for themselves that bring them joy, but with each passing day, I realize more emphatically how different my source of happiness is from theirs and that can be unsettling. I know now—more than ever—that the life I was living before contributed to my apathy and malaise. I know that for many people having children and a high paid career and owning their own home brings them a deep sense of satisfaction and I would never denigrate anyone if that’s the case. But I now know for sure that—as wonderful as those things may be—I don’t want them (maybe some day, but certainly not now!) and I legitimately don’t think they would make me happy. Truthfully, I was happier with just a backpack-full of clothes than a closet-full of them, and I find the silence of the suburbs suffocating, not soothing.

Steph in the Himalayas

Realizing things like this makes me feel farther away from many of the people I care about than I did when I was on the other side of the world, and it’s this psychological distance that is so hard to handle and contributes to my feelings of loneliness and being unmoored. Whereas on the road we were constantly bumping into other like-minded travelers who understood the allure of the open road and had turned their backs (even temporarily) on the traditional western way of life, here I feel like an outcast and like my choices are not valid or valuable. I feel uncomfortable because of the inflated prices and the rampant consumerism and materialism that abounds, and the constant pressure to conform to a similar mentality. There are things that are great about being home, but this post isn’t about them. I feel ideologically isolated from most people here and like my goals and aspirations are completely askew from what is considered normal or acceptable. What’s worse, as much as it would be terrible for others to tell me I don’t belong here, it’s harder still when the voice telling me that is my own.

I remember feeling so happy and free while we were traveling and thinking to myself that we had created this joy for ourselves, that happiness wasn’t a destination on a map and that we could therefore make it anywhere in the world.

Being back in Toronto, I have started to doubt that: I know it’s a great city and I’m not casting aspersions on it or the people who are gratified to live here, but… it’s just not for me. I miss the wet markets of Asia, the street food, the smell of incense at the temples, the smiles and the genuine human connections we experienced while traveling. I yearn for my past and memories of our travels haunt me; pangs of wistfulness course through me when I look at our pictures and it’s often painful for me to look at other blogs and see the proof of others out there experiencing a world I am missing so much. I am sick of being at home, and homesick for anywhere but here.

A temple in Vietnam

I am alarmed that since pausing our travels here in Toronto, the spark inside me seems at risk of sputtering out. A year ago, I looked forward to the adventure that I knew awaited just outside my door, and now I barely leave the house and have no interest in being a “traveler” in my own city. I constantly feel tired and uninspired, and I miss places we visited during the course of our travels with a ferocity that I never did for “home” while we were on the road. As much as my travels have changed me, I feel myself backsliding into old behavior patterns that I can’t seem to shake in this part of the world and it’s made me feel a bit hopeless. I have seen & done so much, only to find myself back at the start, sinking back into the same black pit as I did before. I want so badly to be happy in the way that I know I am capable of, but I’m struggling to be my best self in a way that came naturally to me when we were traveling.

I haven’t lost all perspective: I know that I have much to be grateful for, that life here is not really so bad, and that much of my present situation is of my own choosing.

We decided to take this time off from traveling to build our business to not only replenish our travel fund, but to also see if we’d be able to hack it being truly location independent long-term. I’m happy to report that part of why I’m feeling so burnt out is because we’ve actually had a gratifying amount of work come in—from web & graphic design clients, to those needing marketing, advertising and copywriting services—that has not only kept us busy, but helped us meet our savings goals every month. It’s exciting and exhilarating, but it’s also scary, too. I won’t be the first person to say that being a freelancer is hard work, but for someone like me who doesn’t naturally gravitate towards risks and still has a hard time handling uncertainty, it’s stressful putting your faith in the unknown and simply keeping your head down, doing your best work, and believing that if you keep at it, the next job will find you when you need it. So far, that seems to be true, and I keep reminding myself that past precedence suggests that some looming catastrophe will not suddenly befall us and any risks we’re taking will pay off when it matters. I am trying to silence the persistent voice that resolutely predicts failure and doom, to be grateful for what we do have and what we have accomplished, but I don’t want to pretend that this period hasn’t had its rough spots.

Initially when we returned home, I took comfort in the knowledge that our return was just temporary and that we’d be soon moving on. And then I hit this funk and I began to feel stuck and started doubting myself and sort of stopped believing another adventure would happen. But the thing I keep forgetting, the kick in the pants I need when I’m stressing out and feeling hopeless, is this: Two years traveling the world isn’t something that just happened to us—we worked our butts off to make it happen. And we’re going to do it again.

Steph and Tony in Laos

We’re now at the point where we have to start the process of picking up stakes and moving on again. I admit, as mopey as I’ve been to not be traveling, the thought of starting fresh terrifies as much as it excites me. It’s amazing how quickly the unknown can become daunting once more, and the truth is that there’s so much about our new set of travels that we have planned that I’m fretting over because I have no idea how they’ll go. We really are barreling towards a new adventure, with all the fears and uncertainty that entails.

Sometimes it seems easier to just give up, join the conventional rat race, and stay put. It may not make me happy, but it feels safe and easy. However, the other day, while walking the dogs, I remembered that this fear I have been feeling isn’t anything new. It’s easy for me to forget it now, but I was TERRIFIED before we left on our Big Trip. Even though I was dissatisfied and unhappy with my life in Nashville, I was still reluctant to let go of it and was worried leaving it would be the biggest mistake we could make. We all know how it turned out, but I didn’t know it then: It was only because I found the courage to let go and push through my fear that I was then gifted with two of the best years of my life.

The hardest thing about home is the same contradiction it’s ever been—It’s hard both being here and leaving it. I thought the last two years traveling the world would make me fearless, but they didn’t: I’m about as scared to set out on our next adventure as I was the first time. I’m frustrated that I seem to have come full circle, that I can shake off my fear about as effectively as I can a shadow. But I also know that if I found the courage to wrangle my fear and change my life before, I can do it again. Even if the fear never leaves me, even if it sometimes beats me back, I’ll never let it keep me down for good.

So even though I’m scared of once again leaving a place and a life I don’t really love, I’m getting ready to do just that. I want a lifetime of adventure and I won’t let fear get in my way; I’m willing to fight for it because I know my life was meant for more. So, I’m not going to settle—down or otherwise. Instead, with about a month to go before we uproot and begin anew, I’m going to claw myself out of this black hole of emotions and try my best to get back to enjoying the things that I currently have in my life and soon won’t.

And then? I’m going to leap towards my dreams, and I’m not going to stop.

Popular in: Musings

58 comments Leave a comment

  1. Wow Steph.. I am sitting here in tears because I know EXACTLY how you feel (and believe I told you so when you first came home.. excited to have a home base for a bit 🙂 )It’s been much longer than four months since our return… years in fact, and we still do not feel as though we belong. We’re making it work for now – camping mini-adventures most weekends, joining a Portland Travel Bloggers group through FB for meetups to speak to like minded travelers, etc but we, too, know this life, nice as it may be, is NOT the life we want. I’d rather struggle with the fears of figuring out how it will all work out, then spend one more minute trapped in this cubicle, living a life I don’t feel I fit into. Keep the faith, know that there are others out there who understand how you feel, and know you guys are carving a life for yourselves that you will be proud of! Can’t wait to hear where you’re heading 🙂

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 5:04 pm
    1. Rhonda author

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Rhonda. It’s always helpful to know that there are others out there who have been dealing with these feelings for much longer than I have and that I’ll get through them no matter what! Sometimes my anxiety really does get the better of me, but I can’t make any decisions when it does, which is probably for the best… in the end, I know it is better to juggle fear of failure and whatever else I’m feeling while actually trying to build the life I want than to give up because it’s easier to do so and then spend the rest of my life wondering what might have been. I’m still dreaming and I’m not ready to give up on those dreams yet, even if things frequently feel dire right now.

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 7:46 am
  2. Aw, Steffie. I know your angst all too well. Whenever I’d come home, it would pain me so much that I would just want to be sick. Weeks would pass and I’d still feel the same. I’d often feel that I had no home, because nowhere made me feel 100% happy. I’d travel and love the experience, but miss my friends and family, or I’d be with my family and miss my adventures.

    The thing that’s made me happy is creating my own reality. I’ve created a job for myself that satisfies my wanderlust. I think that’s the key – create the life you want, not what is expected of you. Whether that be in Toronto, Nashville or Singapore…or all of the above, all the time! We live in this fantastic digital era where the possibilities are endless. You both seem to be on the right path to do just that! The freelance life is awesome. You can do what you want, when you want, and most importantly…where you want!

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 5:26 pm
    1. Affie author

      Affie! Of course you understand, having settled in so many different places! I think you’re absolutely right that pressure from friends/family/strangers can be intense, but the key is to build the life I want, not the life others think I should. I’ve been very resolute in telling people about the path we want to follow, at least for the near future, and many people think it sounds crazy… but we’re fine working for ourselves and making less than either one of us did before if it means that we can travel the world at the same time. I realized that a lot of other people wouldn’t be ok with that pay cut and not having stuff, but it’s what feels right for us. With each month, I gain more confidence that freelancing can work for us and we’ll get enough jobs to make ends meet. Hopefully with time, our income will increase and we won’t have to scrimp and save quite so much, but right now we are fine doing that if it means traveling because it’s worth it to us.

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 7:51 am
  3. Oh darling, you know I’m going to agree with you. I wish I could give you a great big hug!

    Of course it’s going to be super hard, but you know what? Living unconventionally will always be the harder choice. We’re living outside the model. You said it yourself – no mortgage, no kids, no high flying career means we’re not sure where we’re supposed to be. There isn’t a structure for this. Freelancing + travelling = awesomeness for us but not for everyone. I’m currently sat here snuggled up with Boots and thinking of everything we’ve all gone through. I’m living with Boots so that I can save up and go travelling again, just like you. I thought having a wardrobe and a chest of drawers and my family and friends nearby would give me the lasting satisfaction we all crave. I feel exactly the same as you but it’s OK. It’s totally human and NORMAL. Just because we’re living a different path to the one we were seemingly brought up to want, it’s totally normalising to open up and talk about it.

    For you writing here, and for those who will comment and contact you about this – It’s OK. We’ll figure it out together.

    I love you guys.


    Oct. 27 2014 @ 5:38 pm
    1. Madeleine author

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Maddy! You’re right that making unconventional choices is more difficult and that can be scary and isolating at times, but I have certainly made my peace with the fact that I need to do what makes me happy—not others—and it is up to me to decide what that is. Sometimes I wish so badly I could be happy with a “normal” life, but at least for now, my heart desperately wants something else. I’m so glad there is such a strong supportive community of likeminded people out there to help me through this—that’s part of what I’ve been missing out here in Scarborough! 😀

      Stay strong & give Boots a cuddle for me! And we should definitely catch up sometime soon—it sounds like you have so many changes afoot too!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 7:55 am
  4. Yes. Yes. And yes. The displacement. The fear creeping in. The funk. I will only echo what you said to me just a few short weeks ago – try to take solace in the fact that you are not alone, that this is ‘normal’, and that we are all rooting for you. I will share that I feel much better than I did; that the stress has eased, the anxiety has lifted, and the future looks a little brighter. I wish that for you too, my friend.

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 6:17 pm
    1. Gillian author

      Thanks for the vote of confidence and commiserating, Gillian. I know much of what I’m feeling is based on my own issues and insecurities and that the only way to beat them down is to just keep pushing and prove to myself over and over that I am worthy of happiness and I can do this. But it’s hard, and I do weirdly feel lonelier now that I’m surrounded by friends (and they have been really wonderful, I can’t stress that enough!) and am not traveling. I just really feel out of my element and like I’ve lost a critical part of myself. I suspect I’ll be a mess for the next few weeks, but hopefully once we’re back on the road (even though our next destination is not really any more exotic than Toronto…) that the change of scenery will do me good. I really do want to make the most of our remaining time here because I know I’ll look back and think “What was I so mopey about? Things were actually pretty good!”

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:00 am
  5. I’m sorry that you are feeling like that Stephenie, I remember those dark feelings well. It took me a few months to stop feeling panicked and disoriented after finishing our big trip, and to start feeling like I belong again. One thing that I have realised is that I have definitely changed and that I have some very different views to a lot of people. But I have also found that there are others like me in the city that I live in, people that have come to the same conclusions about life as me but not necessarily through travel. I don’t want to live my life in a society that is so driven by money and where people and the environment don’t matter – so I don’t. I hang out with people like me and spend time in nature instead of shopping malls. I ignore the bad things that I can’t change and do my bit to improve the things that I can. I make sure that I do things that make me happy like hiking, eating amazing food, catching up with friends and swimming in the ocean, because there is more to life than just travel (although that will always be a big part of my life and my biggest passion). I hope that you can find some peace soon and that you can find a way to shape the life you want to lead – it definitely sounds like you are on the right track 🙂

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 6:46 pm
    1. Katie @ The World on my Necklace author

      Thanks for weighing in and sharing your own experiences, Katie. I think that if we were planning to stay in Toronto long-term, I would definitely be doing more to make myself feel like this was MY city. I had grand plans of joining a book club and maybe a knitting group, and while I have enjoyed reading and knitting on my own, it just didn’t feel like it was worth it to seek those things out (especially the book one, given the dearth of them here in T.O…. which is shocking!) when we’d just be leaving again fairly soon. My happiest moments have definitely been on the days when I’m spending time with friends, and I do have one friend who has traveled even more than I have, so she definitely understands how I’m feeling. I do think that we will probably settle down somewhere some day—I know that nowhere is perfect and anywhere we choose will have some drawbacks—I just know we’re not ready quite yet, and also when we do, I’m not sure Toronto is the place we’ll want to do it either.

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:06 am
      1. Fair enough. I am sure you will find your place one day, maybe soon or maybe in 20 years. I am excited to hear about what your next adventure will be 🙂

        Oct. 28 2014 @ 6:33 pm
        1. Katie @ The World on my Necklace author

          Thanks, Katie. There are many factors that contribute to Toronto not feeling quite right to us right now (we had to come home before we really felt ready so we are eager to get out there and travel more, we are staying in my parents house which is nice but also means we don’t necessarily have a space that feels like our own, we haven’t been trying to really form a larger community/friend base because we didn’t intend to stick around, etc.,) but maybe one day it will feel like a better fit. For now, we’re definitely trying to enjoy the rest of our time here while also looking forward to hitting the road again. We’re almost there!

          Oct. 30 2014 @ 7:08 am
  6. I think you’re going to get a lot of comments from people who empathise with this! Returning to the place where so many of one’s habits were formed is always a tricky test, albeit one that I think gets easier with time. I started travelling quite young so have returned many times. In the most recent years, I started to notice a difference. I slowly started to see my old home with fresher eyes and old habits loosened their grip. I felt more fluid, like being “home” was just another step on the road, similar to any new destination. This is how it feels on good days (I’m also prone to frustration), but those good days remind me that it’s possible. Life can be a journey of discovery and wonder even within the familiar (although that doesn’t make to want tos too travelling!). I’m sharing this as I just want to give you some hope that these comings and goings get easier, and I think the fear loses some power as new habits start to take hold.

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 7:18 pm
    1. Victoria author

      Thanks for the words of wisdom, Victoria! I think it’s been especially hard for me to come back to Toronto, because it’s been really weird every time I’ve been back over the past 7 years or so, in large part because I was living somewhere else for so long (Nashville). I call Toronto home now because it technically is, but it doesn’t feel like it, and yet it does because I lived here for 21 years before leaving and so it—and Canada—will always feel familiar. But there is so much about it I DON’T know and I haven’t gotten to a place where I can stop myself from expecting to and feeling like I don’t fit here and the city doesn’t want me either. I think it might have been easier for us returning to somewhere like Nashville because we had a stable of favorite restaurants and it is the place that I find myself missing when I miss the way things used to be, not Toronto. I hope I can get to a point similar to yours where I can really just enjoy being in Toronto and leave most of my baggage elsewhere—on shorter visits, I tend to manage better, but four months for me is an eternity these days! 😀

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:11 am
      1. Stephenie Harrison

        I think you’re totally right. I can maintain that fluidity and positivity for a little bit, but after a while it gets very hard. I grew up in a tiny little town and I think if I had to go back there, I’d lose my mind! Right now I’m struggling a lot with deciding where to call home. I crave community and really want to find a base but I’m finding it hard to find somewhere I belong that ticks all the other boxes too. It’s good to know there are so many of us struggling with the same things. How much longer are you there for? Hopefully time will start to move quicker as you get nearer to your next steps.

        Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:27 am
        1. Victoria author

          Right now we still have a wicked case of wanderlust, probably because we had to come home a bit sooner than we were ready due to our dogs (who are as wonderful as we remember, and if there was ever a good reason to come home, I feel certain that they are it!) and there are still many places we would like to see. But I can acknowledge that we were tired and feeling burned out and so having a place to be still for a while has definitely been good and I do think ultimately we would want to have a home base where we could work and recharge for a chunk of the year before heading out for other adventures… we just haven’t found that place yet, either (or perhaps we have, but we weren’t in the right mindset for it).

          Our plan has always been to be in Toronto no later than early December, so that is what we are shooting for. We’ll be doing a similar thing as we did last time, which is to say that rather than diving right back into adventure, we’ll be heading to Minnesota first and hanging with Tony’s family. So we won’t be back on the road really right away, but it will be a change of scenery and some actual proof that we’re not stuck and are moving forward, so although I’m nervous to be moving on (how does it feel like we’ve been here forever but also not at all?), I think it will be good for us too. We’ve been housesitting and my parents are back in 3 weeks, so it definitely feels like time is speeding up (they left at the end of August!)… I think it’s probably time for me to sit down and make a list of the things I need/want to accomplish before we leave, since soon it will be too late!

          Oct. 28 2014 @ 9:07 am
  7. If you ever need to vent, I know where you’re coming from. I’ve never anxiety the way I do since moving back home, nor did I ever think I’d be someone who actually needed to manage anxiety’s physical culminations (crying, teeth grinding, inability to stand still). You’re definitely not alone in this adjustment. Let me know if you need anything!

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 7:23 pm
    1. Sally author

      Thanks so much for reaching out, Sally. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having struggles of your own since returning home. I have always said that while depression is no walk in the park, anxiety is really so much worse in many ways… how fun for me (and many others) that they tend to go hand in hand, right? Writing this post has definitely helped (as did recognizing that I just needed some time to process and be sad and be ok with that), in large part because of lovely comments like this. Your offer extends both ways, naturally!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:14 am
  8. Steph, having also just returned from a long journey (granted only 7 months instead of your two years), I was interested to read how you have settled in. How sad I was to read that you have lost your spark by staying in one place, surrounded by the familiar and those that love you. I too have the open road whispering one minute and shouting in my ear at other times, but have not experienced the depression you describe. I hope your return to the road brings you the happiness you are seeking.

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 7:31 pm
    1. Joanne Joseph author

      Depression is something I have been dealing with for years, so I wouldn’t want any one to get the idea that being home has triggered this in me or anything like that. I had moments on the road where I felt low like this too, although it generally didn’t last for so long, probably in part because I was too busy to let it. I couldn’t lie in bed crying when the world was right outside my room! Truthfully, I know that traveling won’t make my problems disappear and that I have the potential to be sad or happy anywhere. What I really wanted to say, and what may have gotten conflated here, is that I’ve been trying to manage my depression and anxiety which have been rather strong lately and that I’m also missing traveling and that the time here has really made it clear to me that I need to keep traveling because I’m not happy staying put for now. Having friends and loved ones around since being back has absolutely been a fantastic thing, and I miss traveling the least when I’m with them, no question. That’s not to say that the trajectories of their lives hasn’t given me pause, because it has, but I am so very grateful that we have people here that care about us and want us to be happy… even if that means we’re going to take off again fairly soon!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:19 am
  9. So, in addition to the message I just sent you, this.
    You sound so much like me… or I you. Chicken or the egg.
    I relate to everything you have said.
    I understand what it is like to come back to a place after life-altering experiences and find yourself falling back into old patterns. I doubt we are the only two people this happens to… I hate that I feel completely different on the road and like a shadow of that person once I’m home. I’ve learned to try to accept this and not fight against it so much because the fight is what causes the most turmoil. I am just starting to accept that some people treat me one way, and even though I am not that person anymore, their behaviour won’t change. I have learned that happiness isn’t easy and that sometimes it just doesn’t come. I’ve struggled a lot this year with finding a sense of deep-rooted happiness, not just a superficial state filled with shopping and western comforts. I want happiness I feel from just being inside my skin. And I learned that the times behind me that made me happy are just that – behind me, and it is up to me to find a new state of happiness, a new state of survival.
    Lately, I’m dabbling in alternative forms of medicine – naturopathy, acupuncture, and these treatments have been invaluable.
    I don’t want to go on and on, because I feel like that’s what I’m about to do. But I just want to send you all the love I can from Winnipeg. Hope we can catch up at some point before our distances are once again greatly divided! I will be in Waterloo end of December. I gather you will be gone by then, but let me know if there is a chance elsewhere. x

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 8:15 pm
    1. Colleen Brynn author

      Thanks for your support, Colleen, and why am I not surprised to hear that you totally get where I’m coming from? 🙂

      I agree that happiness doesn’t come easy and is something we need to strive for—I’ve also realized, however, just how important my environment contributes to that. It’s easy to stay put, but not every place in the world seems to be the right fit for me and so it does seem to be harder for me to be happier in some places than others. We’re not doing all that much different here than we did in Saigon nearly a year ago, and yet, I felt at home in that city and felt curious and excited in a way I just don’t in Toronto. I want more street food and street life and being able to ride around on a scooter (it’s already way too cold for that now!) and the relief of not worrying about money because the cost of living is low enough that we don’t have to. I know that is ok for me to want those things, just as I know that it’s ok for other people to not care about those things at all… but if that is what my heart is telling me, then it may also be telling me that I need to be somewhere else right now. I have a cousin who lived abroad for over a decade and she’s back in Toronto now… she just knew it was time to come home. (Although, interestingly, when last I saw her, she said she really wants to move back to London, England and is planning to once her current studies are done.) I haven’t ruled out that happening for me, I just know I’m not there yet and so I need to honor where I am right now.
      We are currently planning to leave Canada in early December so it sounds like we might miss you once again. I will keep you posted, however!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:27 am
  10. Steph, I literally yelled out loud YES multiple times while reading this post. I think you probably know how I feel but you did such a good job of putting my own feelings into words. Displacement, fear… the feeling that it would just be easier to give up and go back to the mortgage, the cubicle, etc. It is hard to fight for this life that makes us so happy when others around us just don’t get it and never will. I can’t tell you how much the people around me (mostly family) talk about and drop hints about money… it makes me feel like such a loser that I don’t make much of it. I sometimes forget that I gave that up, saved money and can now do what I want to do. I feel so much money pressure since being back in the U.S. I’m really hoping our time in Mexico will give me some perspective. I am shocked sometimes at how close I am to throwing in the towel… Please know that you are not alone. I feel so lucky to know that there is this community of us floating through the world, understanding and supporting each other. XO

    Oct. 27 2014 @ 9:16 pm
    1. Kim author

      Oh Kim, I know you get this because we talked about this kind of stuff when you were struggling after your return to the States, so I just want you to know that your comment made me smile.

      Also: I HATE the people who get so judgy and dismissive of people who don’t conform to their understanding of the world. I have always hated it, but I had never really been the focus of their attentions so I didn’t realize just how annoying it is. It makes me crazy how money-obsessed some people are… I get that it’s a concern for all of us, but I don’t really care if I never make a six-figure salary: so long as I have enough money to live each month (and ideally, can put a little bit away for safety and security) then that’s great for me. I don’t want to live in a million dollar home, so I don’t need to make the kind of money that would allow for that. (But of course, then they can’t understand why you don’t want to live in a million dollar home and it just becomes clear they will NEVER understand where you are coming from.)

      I do feel better for having written this (one of the perks of blogging!), not least because of all the supportive people chiming in letting me know I’m not alone. I hope that Mexico grounds you and offers you the confirmation you too need right now. Your dreams are worth pursuing even if it’s scary to do so!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:35 am
  11. As we are down to less than 3 weeks left of our adventure we are already feeling the weighty worry and fear as we plan to reintegrate back into life in Toronto. I so wish one set of our parents lived there, but since they’re all in Cowtown we have been busy stressing over apartments. On one hand we are looking forward to a spot to rest a while and really, any apartment in TO will be a luxury after this year, but it’s amazing how much angst all of it is causing – and we aren’t even physically back yet!
    I always thought that once I was in my 30s I would be fearless. I would know exactly what I want and never have niggling thoughts where I would be questioning everything. How young, carefree and foolish I was. The things I can say is that I do still have fears. Fears about change. Fears about the lack of change. But I also know that somehow I mustered up the courage to do this trip and thank god for this community of like-minded souls. I think I will be leaning a lot on this community as we go through the ups and downs of ‘The Return’.

    Oct. 28 2014 @ 2:32 am
    1. Emily author

      I think it’s hard to come home, no matter your situation. We didn’t have to worry about finding a place to stay (and affording one!) or looking for jobs because we had such a clear idea of where we wanted to go next and by and large we have been working towards that and making progress. But whatever road you take, there are bound to be bumps and sometimes I lose my way and need to refocus. I feel sad and kind of over Toronto right now, but if we were here for the long-haul, I know things would turn around regardless. I hope that I can make our remaining weeks positive ones.

      I would love to be fearless, but I’m not sure I ever will be. Then again, as Tony always reminds me, you can’t be brave if you don’t feel fear, so if I can’t be fearless then at least I can be brave. It sounds like you are too!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:41 am
  12. I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been having a tough time Steph; I thought you’d been unusually quiet lately. I also found it jarring switching from being around like-minded travellers to chatting about babies, weddings and mortgages when we visited home over the summer; as happy as I was to see my friends and family I knew they didn’t really ‘get’ my nomadic lifestyle and I no longer ‘got’ theirs either. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing though (as you noted above), we can all still love each other but be different. I think it’s awesome that you guys are achieving such great things with your freelance work and only a month to go until you leave again?! Amazing news! I can’t wait to see what you’ve got planned. Remember, fear is part of the adventure 🙂

    Oct. 28 2014 @ 5:34 am
    1. Amy author

      You are absolutely right that fear is part of the adventure and that it’s something every traveler and adventurous person will have to face at some point or another. I know I can’t help being scared and worried, but I can still choose whether to give in to those feelings or not… Right now, I’m certainly choosing not to!

      We’re hoping to leave Toronto at the beginning of December, so we’re looking at just 4-6 weeks left. That likely won’t be the true start of our next big adventure as we’ll likely just be heading to Minnesota to visit Tony’s family for a little bit, but it will be one step closer (and we will certainly not be in Minnesota for 4 months!). Definitely part of my fear right now has to do with getting ready to leave—there’s still so much to do and I can’t believe the time has gone as fast as it has!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:46 am
  13. I’m so sorry Steph to hear that you are feeling not at your best and for very understandable reasons. Every time I go back Home (no that we have one, I mean my hometown where I grew up) I feel exactly the same even if it is for a short couple of weeks of vacation. There is nothing to worry about it though, it just makes us remember what we really want from our lives, what makes us happy even if it is uncertain and unknown. I’m so glad to hear that you are turning these not so nice feelings into something, and putting your energies into a new adventure that no matter how it’ll turn out, it’ll be new right? Because this is what we all want, chase the new and experience what ever is out there to be discovered. Cannot wait to see where your new plans will take you in a month time, I’m actually excited for you guys! 🙂

    Oct. 28 2014 @ 5:36 am
    1. Franca author

      I think you’re right that sometimes we need to be put in situations that are less than ideal because they really make us realize exactly what we do want. And even if the next steps we take don’t work out or our new adventure doesn’t go as planned, at least we will have tried and that is really what matters most. I’d rather pursue a dream and not have it work, then know that I just gave up on it because I was too scared to try.

      I admit, our next travel plans are not actually very exciting since they will revolve more around visiting Tony’s family than going somewhere exciting and new, but that is the next logical step for us and will get us a little bit closer to where we need to go. I think I will be excited simply because it will be the start of a new page and proof that we aren’t stuck and are making progress.

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:53 am
  14. I am almost in tears my self as I sit here and read this. I absolutely know how you feel, and I have been there for 3 months myself. I wrote a similar, although much less eloquent, piece when I first arrived in Australia, and I totally get it. It’s more than the usual post-holiday blues. It’s a deep displacement, and it only seems to be cured by more travel – and therein lies the conundrum…

    Oct. 28 2014 @ 6:50 am
    1. Tim | UrbanDuniya author

      Ha ha! Yes, the only cure for feeling weird about being home, is immediately leaving… so that the next time you come home, it’s worse. What a cycle to get caught up in, eh?

      Thanks for weighing in, Tim. It seems most travel bloggers have experienced this to some extent whenever they come home, so I do know I’m not alone. It actually makes me feel better to hear from others who know exactly what I’m going through, so thank you for sharing!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:56 am
  15. I really appreciate you putting your feelings down about this (temporary) stage of your life.

    Onwards and upwards.


    Oct. 28 2014 @ 7:12 am
    1. Nate author

      Thanks, Nate. I know I’m not the first to feel this way and I certainly won’t be the last. I think travelers would be remiss to overlook the difficult parts that our lifestyle entails, and this phase right now is certainly one of them.

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 8:57 am
  16. you’ll be on the road again before you know it, when you’re feeling anxious just remember that your time home now is limited and try to enjoy it!

    Oct. 28 2014 @ 7:30 am
    1. Rachel of Hippie in Heels author

      The weird paradox for me right now is that I’m tired of being at home, but scared of being somewhere else, and now I realize that the clock is ticking and soon we won’t be here and where did all the time go… such a downward spiral! I think I need to just sit down and make some concrete goals to accomplish before we leave so that I feel in control of things once again. Hopefully by letting all these feelings out, I can move past them and focus on the good things again!

      Oct. 28 2014 @ 9:00 am
  17. A pretty powerful piece! I was wondering how things have been going. I could relate to a lot of what you wrote. Even though we’re still traveling, we’re back in the US and considering making it home again which I’m absolutely not sure about. We’ve moved at a slower pace, but some of the parts of North American life and I just don’t get along.

    Oct. 28 2014 @ 3:52 pm
    1. Talon author

      Thanks for checking in, Talon. Our situations are similar, though not identical, I think, as we both of commitments in our lives that make being exactly where we want difficult. I know your son is very excited to be back in the States and it is for him that you have really been open to the idea of making America home again. For us, it’s our dogs that we need to take into consideration. We’ve never really traveled with them apart from overnight trips where we stay on he road, so I don’t know how they will take to a more nomadic lifestyle, but I suppose we shall see. They love being in the car, which is at least a good place to start. 🙂 It’s definitely been tough to be back on certain fronts, but I’m sure part of the hurdle is my own state of mind because part of me just doesn’t want to be here forever and so that makes it tougher to be optimistic and open-minded, which I know are important. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants. Good luck to you as you navigate these tricky waters yourself!

      Oct. 30 2014 @ 7:02 am
  18. I’m sorry you’re feeling this way, Steph. Thanks for sharing your experiences, though – it seems like it’s a feeling a lot of people can relate to!

    We’ve been home now for 3 months (wow, tomorrow!). I guess it’s been a little different for us for a number of reasons – we haven’t really been settled anywhere since we returned. We traveled more in August and September and now we’re housesitting. I started a new job, so that’s been distracting me. But it’s been hard not being in Portland. I don’t feel at home in Seattle anymore. Portland is home to us and it’s been hard not being there…but we’re embracing change now. It’s been good having a chance to focus on our goals, too, without all the (wonderful) distractions of home. I can’t say I understand what you’re going through, but I also know we haven’t really hit that lull. So, I guess it’ll still be wait and see.

    You’re right though – you did it before, you can do it again. I have full faith in you both and your goals.

    Oct. 28 2014 @ 10:42 pm
    1. Carmel author

      Your feelings in Seattle are similar to mine, on some level. Right now I feel like if I HAD to be somewhere for a while, then Nashville is the place that would most feel like home. It’s where I lived for 7 years before starting this trip, so even though I grew up and lived in Toronto for a lot longer, it’s the place that is associated with feelings of home in my mind… I guess that’s Portland for you.

      I know that you and Shawn were definitely more eager to return home at the end of your trip than Tony & I were, so this funk I’m in may be one you totally bypass. I’m really happy with the trip we took and wouldn’t change a thing, we both just know that we’re not done with that way of life yet. I was grateful for the lull initially, but now I’m just starting to despair because I miss my “old” life so much right now. It’s probably been important to wallow, but I also need to double down, restate my goals, and dig in harder to make them happen!

      Oct. 30 2014 @ 7:12 am
  19. Steph, I am so sorry to read about how difficult this transition has been on you. Sending you big hugs! I haven’t been through this just yet, but from friends who have, they’ve told me the transition back can take up to a year. I think it is harder to return back because everything is supposed to feel so familiar, but it’s not – plus the fact that you have changed so much during your travels. Know that you are not alone in this, what you are feeling is normal, and it sounds like you have a great support network to lean on and talk to. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing what you’re going through. I hope you can take things one day at a time and appreciate the little joys of being home while you’re there. I know you guys will make more travel happen – just look at all you did and accomplished already! I’m sure you will both succeed in making a new adventure materialize soon enough 🙂

    Oct. 29 2014 @ 8:26 am
    1. Sara @ Simply Sara Travel author

      Thanks for the words of support, Sarah! I know that you have your own big changes on the horizon and will be dealing with some of this as well eventually, and it definitely helps to know I am not alone in this. I am hoping that we will not be here for a full year before being able to head out again, but you are right that big changes generally just take time to adjust to and there’s no forcing or rushing them. I can’t tell you how fantastic our friends here have been and how wonderful it is to have such a supportive community of readers and fellow bloggers to help us wrangle all these tricky emotions!

      Oct. 30 2014 @ 7:26 am
  20. Hmmmm. Sounds like you guys are just missing ME. C’mon… You can say it out loud.

    Kidding aside, travel is like a drug. It stimulates your mind. You’re continually presented with challenges, be they language, decisions, foods, whatever. Then all of a sudden, that stimulation is gone because you’re back in the familiar. I remember when I used to go home, I’d basically spend a week lying on the couch watching celebrity TV – it just kind of sucks you in into a warm blanket of mindlessness.

    It’s more about finding stimulation in your new environment, whatever that is, I guess. If you get too bored, you’re more than welcome to guest post on my blog. Lord knows it hasn’t seen action in like two months. OMG. Has it been that long? LE SIGH.

    Oct. 29 2014 @ 12:31 pm
    1. James author

      I completely agree that with travel out of the equation we have so much more mental space for other things… it just feels like of late those other things have been annoying day-to-day things that it was nice not having to do on the road, like applying for new driver’s licenses and managing finances in a responsible long-term kind of way. If we had returned to Toronto with the goal of staying here for a longer spell, I think we would be making more of an effort to ensconce ourselves in activities and hobbies that would stimulate and fulfill us more, but we’ve really just been working our butts of so that we can leave sooner rather than later. It’s tiring and I’m sure has contributed to me feeling burnt out and sad… but traveling is our goal and for me, it’s worth the work and rough patches.

      Oct. 30 2014 @ 7:29 am
  21. I know that it’s been hard for me to come back to the old life, too. You see so much while traveling and it’s difficult to share that with friends and family who weren’t on the trip with you, as well as what you were talking about with reintegration problems. Thank you for sharing this.

    Oct. 30 2014 @ 1:27 pm
    1. Kara author

      Yes, it can be difficult to relate to others when you have seen so much of the world and they haven’t. I never want to bore people with travel stories or come across as though I think I’m superior to anyone because I’ve been somewhere I haven’t. I feel very lucky that we have friends who don’t seem to judge our wanderlust and actually seem interested in what we plan to do next so we don’t feel as though we’re hiding a huge portion of our life from them. Sometimes I still get bummed out that I’m in something of a holding pattern at the moment, but I know we’ll get through it!

      Oct. 31 2014 @ 7:07 am
  22. Oh Steph, the feelings you’ve described above have just nailed my last 5-6 weeks completely – the panic and the dread being the absolutely worst! We’ve had a similar glow this year and because the weather has been amazing we filled the summer with so much fun that I’ve come crashing back down to earth with a bump now Autumn has started. The feeling of isolation and just generally not fitting in is so frustrating and I really wish I could give you a big hug!

    I have days where I want to scream and shout and people for having zero interest in the things that validate and bring joy to my life, I seem to spend my days talking about other people’s children and hobbies and it drives me crazy! We have some travel friends coming to visit next weekend and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that I can spend the whole time talking about something I love.

    I know you both have exciting plans in the future so make sure to focus on that with the same drive that we all did saving up for travel initially. You will get through this malaise and I have no doubt the life you want IS out there and you will achieve it. If you every want to rant/moan drop us a line – big hugs 🙂

    Oct. 31 2014 @ 2:58 am
    1. Maddie author

      Oh Maddie, I’m so sorry to read this as from what I gathered, you & Paul were settling in quite nicely to life back in England. But I suppose for those of us for whom travel just seems to be an intrinsic part of us and our happiness, it is only a matter of time before the yearning for adventure, freedom, and the big beautiful world rears its head once more. Babymania has been crashing through our friends and family right now too, but I suppose we’re at that age where it’s to be expected. I am truly happy for our friends and I enjoy spending time with them—babies and all—but it really does just make clear for me how much their path is not the right one for me.

      Anyway, I know that you & I both will get through this rut. After all, when we met with you in Cambodia, life was certainly far from peachy keen, and so I know that troubles will still find us when traveling. But I think on the whole that the traveling makes all those troubles a little more worth it, so I’m not willing to give up just yet. I’m working through some stuff, yes, but I’m not done traveling, that is for sure!

      Oct. 31 2014 @ 7:38 am
  23. I can only imagine what you must be going through. When we moved back to the States last year from China, I knew it was only temporary and that we’d soon be in Latvia. So I could fully appreciate being home and reconnecting with friends and family before leaving them again. But the thought of having to move back home for good absolutely terrifies me. What would I DO there? No clue.

    It sounds like you need to pack up those sweet doggies and rent a house in sunny Mexico for a while! I hope you find some solace soon.

    Nov. 1 2014 @ 3:43 am
    1. Heather author

      Thanks for the words of support, Heather. It’s such a difficult spot I’m in at the moment, since I don’t feel fulfilled by Toronto, but I have gotten used to the safety and predictability of being in the same place for a while. It’s hard not to let all the fears that plagued me right before we first set out on our trip overwhelm me once again, even with two years of travel experience under my belt. But, I know that in life I’d never get anywhere if I constantly let my fear call the shots and make the decisions, so although I find myself worried about uncertainty and the unknown once more, I know there’s no way to get over it but by pushing through it and sallying forth once more!

      Nov. 2 2014 @ 9:50 am
  24. Oh honey…I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way. And like many of the other commenters here I have SO been there. Post-trip depression is often discussed around the travel blogosphere but its such a tiny term to describe what really goes on inside us, hey. It makes it sound like its just a mediocre hiccup in integrating back into life at home but its soooo much bigger than that. It cuts right to your core.

    I totally agree with what you said about loving everybody at home but feeling more and disillusioned with life there. And then feeling further away from your loved ones than ever because they are living in a reality that is so far away from yours. And they may wish you all the best and be supportive as hell but there’s still a chasm there between what gives them fulfilment and what you consider fulfilment.

    Do you use vision boards? I’ve always found them so helpful and I actually have one up on Pinterest so people can see and send me some good vibes. 🙂 There’s certainly times when thinking about the wait to travel again doesn’t help and is just depressing, but there are other times when it really gets you through.

    Nov. 2 2014 @ 4:51 am
    1. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling author

      The past week has definitely been rough, but I have to say once again how much I value our friends here who have really stepped up and been supportive as we deal with some unanticipated setbacks and difficult issues. It’s actually made me appreciate them all the more as it’s been so fantastic to have a support system close at hand—I’m not sure how I would have dealt with some of the stuff we’ve had to deal with over the last few days if we had been somewhere where we didn’t know anyone.

      And of course, having so many of our fantastic fellow travel bloggers reach out and commiserate has helped too! Being home has definitely helped me realize just how important it is to feel like I’m part of a community, and that said community doesn’t have to be one defined by physical location.

      I’ve never used a vision board or considered using one before, but you have me intrigued! I often have problems where I become overwhelmed by negative ideation, so perhaps something like that would be really useful for me. Thank you for the suggestion!

      Nov. 2 2014 @ 12:12 pm
  25. I can relate to so many thing that you’ve written here. Obviously no two situations are identical, but you’re definitely not alone in the way you feel. After spending an amazing year on the road, I’ve been having a really hard time adjusting to “real” life again. Even though I’m not back “home” in California, Jakarta is the first place I’ve actually spent three whole months in a long time. It’s a really weird adjustment. The hardest part for me is that all those problems I thought I’d more or less escaped – or didn’t have to deal with – while being on the road all caught up with me the second I stopped traveling. Like you, I’m also falling back into old habits that I had before I left on my big trip, ways of being that just didn’t exist for me when I was on the road. Feelings of apathy, anxiety, and stress are things I struggle with daily as I try to pick myself up and find my way again. It’s not a good feeling, at all. Even though I’m not back at home like you are, I’m still confronted with old friends who all have great careers, new babies, and actual mortgages. And even though these things are not what I want, I can’t help but get overwhelmed at the thought that my choices in life – to travel and live abroad and not focus harder on my career – weren’t the best ones. Sometimes I just wish that I could be like everyone else and want these things too. I feel like everything would be so much easier if I could just fit in. But, I have to remind myself that that’s not really what I want. And it’s not the way I am, plain and simple. Anyway, I feel you on a lot of this. Even though it will be tough to pick up and leave again, maybe getting back on the road is exactly what you need to just get out of this rut. Traveling doesn’t fix everything but it can sure help give some much needed perspective. Plus, I think it really helps that you and Tony are working toward creating a lifestyle that fits your idea of happiness. Just keep your eye on the prize 🙂

    Nov. 4 2014 @ 3:52 am
    1. Justine author

      One thing I feel I learned during our travels and meeting other wandering souls is that I think there really are two camps of people: those of us who feel most alive and liberated when we’re not pinned down to one place but instead have the freedom to go where we please when we please, and those who feel most satisfied when they have a home to call their own. I find that I am a very different person on the road than I am at home, and the person I am when traveling is a purer reflection of the person I believe I really am and want to be. I wish that I could reconcile the two and that I didn’t get so rattled when I’m home, but it’s really hard to be surrounded by so many people who want such different things from myself and not feel like I’m somehow failing or a complete loser.

      You’re right that traveling doesn’t fix everything, but I find I am so much more at peace with myself and my life when we’re on the road and I treasure the moments of clarity that it tends to bring. It’s stressful and not always easy, but it’s one of the few times when I don’t doubt myself or the validity of what I’m doing. When I travel, life as I live it feels like enough!

      Nov. 7 2014 @ 1:32 pm
  26. Ugh, I’m so sorry you’re in such a funk. Reintegrating for us was surprisingly easy, and Kiwis are a wanderlusty lot so being well travelled is actually a total boon in regard to relating to people … but I too am suffering a depression right now for other reasons, and I totally, totally commiserate on that front. Sigh.

    Nov. 7 2014 @ 4:25 am
    1. eemusings author

      We started off feeling pretty good about being back, but the reality is that we never wanted to come home and so I suppose it’s not unusual that eventually we’d find ourselves pining for the trip we felt was cut short on us. Despite being gone for 2 years, our wanderlust hasn’t abated in the slightest and I think it’s hard feeling like we’re trying to squeeze into a life that we don’t really fit in at the moment. I know we have different perspectives on how important it is to “follow one’s bliss”, but I’ve found that after 2 years of allowing myself to be happy, I’m very reluctant to sleepwalk through a life that just doesn’t fulfill me. I feel really lucky that we have amazing friends here, but these days I find I relate better to other travel bloggers who have seen the world and are struggling to figure out how to reintegrate (or how to make the lifestyle permanent). Having that sense of community is really important to me, so I’m very glad that I can achieve that through this blog.

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been battling your own bout of depression at the moment. It’ll wallop you good and things may feel bleak, but just do what you can to make it through the day (or the hour, or the next 10 minutes if things really get tough) and you will eventually find yourself on the other side.

      Nov. 7 2014 @ 1:40 pm
  27. Just discovered your writing and love it! big fan! I totally know how you feel! I have been that way and it sucks… every plane overhead that makes your heart jump, every story of travel, talk of a new country, all the emotions and longing to get out. Hang in there!

    May. 8 2015 @ 1:02 am
    1. rebecca author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Rebecca! It was hard being at home for 6 months, but now that we’re back on the road, I know that we made the most of that time and it definitely helped us rest and recharge for the next phase of our journey.

      May. 11 2015 @ 3:41 pm

We want to hear from you!

Required fields are marked with red.

Anything you share with us will not be published, traded, sold or otherwise used outside this site in any way, ever. We will not spam you.

We moderate comments, so if you haven't posted with us before and your comment doesn't show up right away, we will get to it, no need to post it twice. Thanks for your patience!

Name is required. You can only use alphanumeric characters (a-z, A-Z).