One of the hardest parts to coming home after traveling is learning how to live fully in the present while you’re somewhere as familiar as home. While you’re overseas, you’re constantly around new things and new people who are inspiring new ideas. You live every moment with excitement and can’t help but notice all the changes and differences to each day. People are exchanging ideas and there is a constant forum for fantasies and dreams that are larger than you would dare to admit back home. You take every chance and opportunity given to you, even if it is as simple as visiting a new beach for the weekend or something as big as visiting Thailand. You say yes to everything because you know at some point it is all coming to an end because of your visa.
But once you’re back home, there is no rush and no looming feeling that it will come to an end. Everything becomes about saving for the future and thinking about things five or 10 or 40 years down the road. But what about today? What about this weekend? We turn off our spontaneity for the sake of a safety net and end up living everyday half asleep so that we can save and plan for some distant goal.
The best part of traveling is being completely aware of the fact that for the first time since you were a child you are 100% living in the present. You are constantly excited about new things and constantly learning from everything around you, not just information from school or from a book. Your eyes are wide open and you are taking it all in.
I’ve written about the hardest part about traveling, but here is the hardest part about being home – learning how to apply the lessons you learned while away to things that are familiar to you back home. Because no matter how much you miss traveling, the reality of it is it’s over and now you are home. Yes, you may be planning to leave again; but if that’s not in the immediate future you have to accept the fact that you are staying put for now. I was in denial about it for the longest time.
But here’s what I have done: stop planning so much for the far off future and things that for the most part, you can’t really do much about right now except work and save money. Take a three day weekend and go somewhere. Have one specific thing to look forward to each month – even if it is something small. Make an effort to see people you haven’t seen for a long time. And most importantly, find environments in your hometown that are unfamiliar to you and make you slightly uncomfortable. We don’t realize how much we are influenced by where our family traditionally shops and eats and what they do for fun on the weekend – even in smaller towns there can be different places to go than what you are used to. You have to force yourself to be in situations where you are uncomfortable. Put yourself in environments where you are forced to learn again.
It sounds silly and simple, but you have to find a replacement for that rush of the unknown and the excitement of experiencing something new or you will forever be missing your traveling past and never living in the present. You don’t have to live everyday like it’s your last, but you have to live as if this period of your life will come to an end – because it will. While I was in Australia, the ever looming thought of my June departure date forced me to try everything possible until I had to leave. Think of your 20s the same way – they will end. There will be a time in your life where you don’t have as much energy and the desire to do unpredictable things and when you don’t have the free time you have now. Your 20s will end. You will eventually have more responsibility. Your retirement savings will become more important to you. So will homeownership. Taking time off to relax will trump taking time off to go do something fun. So in reality, your 20’s are little bit like traveling and it’s ok to treat them as such – because one day I know I will be as nostalgic for my 20s as I am for Australia.
Author Kellie Donnelly is a PR girl living in Indiana and navigating the awkward post-college years.