How to Adjust to Normal Life After Extended Travel

We spent over 2 years traveling the world. With kids. 4 kids. And were we tired. We were looking forward to being home, doing nothing all week, maybe even the whole month. Oh, how wrong we were. How naive, how innocent.

But now, after 3 months at home, and with the help of a few friends, we’ve found some good ideas to help adjust to normal life after extended travel. 

For everyone who has taken a long trip, going back home is the hardest part. We've found many ways to cope with it and make it easier! #backhome #lifeafterthetrip #reallife #afterthetrip

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Life after traveling for the kids

It was hard getting them to change their clothes, let alone get out of the house. They spent their first 2 months in their rooms. We were tired of spending all the time together, yes, we were. But I missed them. I really did. 

I thought they were overjoyed at having their room, their house, good and stable internet, even a pet. 

They were and they weren’t. They missed the food, the excitement, the travel-feeling. They were enjoying making their own furniture, playing with their pets, cooking, eating stuff they could say the name. So, it was being hard on them too. 

 

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And I caught them saying words in Spanish, in Japanese, in French. In British, Canadian or Scottish accent. Craving dim sums or ramen or beans and rice or that pink soft drink we found in Colombia. 

Luckily, my kids are homeschooled. They didn’t have to adjust to school. One less thing for them to go back to. 

Getting back some kind of routine

One thing that helped a bit was to make a small routine. I ask them to plan their week, add 3~4 things they want to do every day of the week. 

I ask that they add something new, some exercise, some learning, some socializing, some challenge, something for the house. And lots of things they like. 

A boy drilling the wood under the watchful eye of the father. Having a goal is one important step into adjusting to the real life after an extended trip.

This is kid #3, building his own bedside table. They all made one as the first project after coming back. Each project was useful and challenging, keeping them occupied and focused!

Joining activities has also helped. They’re having fun with archery, swimming, and Japanese classes. 

And we have once a week when we go out to eat. It’s the day for doing only stuff they like, like watching Netflix or baking or Skyping with their friends. 

On the weekends, we go grocery shopping and we try to play the tourist in the city we are living in, trying to make things exciting for them! 

This way, they know what to expect, so stress levels go down while keeping things exciting for them. 

kid #4 pumping water into a pail while kid #3 watched. It's also a bit part of the movies. The family did laundry there, and it's exactly the same thing! Click for more!

Even though we traveled kind of slow, and we kept doing ‘real life’ things, it was difficult getting back to it. Who would have thought that it would be this hard adjusting to normal life after extended travel?

 

Being back home after an extended trip, grown-ups version

We were tired. It was so much planning and booking and researching for airfare, accommodation, activities, car rental. We really wanted a break. 

But right now, what has been excellent for us is doing exactly that. We’re enjoying doing all the planning for our upcoming trips! 

We also enjoy spending our time planning what we’ll do to our home. Where we’ll plant this or that tree, how we’re remaking the deck if we put this or that photo on the wall. 

BUT the best of it all is sleeping on a good mattress with good pillows. Oh, how we missed that!

Kid#4 trying to enter one of the hobbit houses. We did the Evening Banquet Tour at Hobbiton with the kids. They loved it and so did we!

Hobbits rarely travel, so they don’t need much adjustment.

Ah, let’s not forget cooking with really good and sharp knives. It’s always a moment to praise our home-life. 

And, of course, not having to spend hours every month at an airport or another. Or flying. I hate flying.

What coming back home meant for the parents

I was having a really hard time adjusting to… not having my kids with me all the time anymore. While we were traveling, we were always together. We often shared one single hotel room for days. The only me-time was at the loo.

And then, suddenly, they were free, in their territory. They wanted playdates and sleepovers and go on their bikes on their own and spend days (seriously) inside their own room.

We had meals together, they cook, they vacuum, we watch movies together. But other than that, the grown-ups were alone. 

We had our fist hostel experience in Leon, Nicaragua. The kids enjoyed it a lot and it was a great experience! It enhanced the whole town experience!

This was in Nicaragua. We always at least 2~3 days of normal life per week during our trip, but, oh, it wasn’t easy.

We got a good glimpse of what an empty nest looks like. 

But now we’re all more settled and spend more time together. Not all the time. We’ve come to enjoy the lonely evenings, the chats we can have without interruption. And we now enjoy the time we have together and the freedom we have to retreat if we want to. 

The best way to get used to real life after a long trip

Get a pet. Seriously. 

We found in the cats a reason to stay home. They make our day to day lives more fun and new. 

But don’t buy one, nor get one without a plan. Travelers will be travelers and I bet that you’ll keep traveling, maybe for shorter periods or less, but still traveling. 

Think about it. Think about what you’ll have to do. About the costs – of the kennel, the cattery, a sitter. Or even the regular things, like the vet, vaccines, deworming, de-fleeing, food, toys. 

A cat inside a box and another cat on top of it, playing. This is still one of our favorite things to do.

I mean, seriously. How can one resist to those tiny paws? Adopting a furry friend was one of the best decisions of our lives

 

And adopt. Adopt a pet. Don’t buy one because they’re not things. 

How is life after traveling long-term

It’s not simple. It’s not easy. We found it to be pretty much like when you move abroad. There are many things to be done, many things to get used to, a new life, really. But with old familiarity.

We don’t have to pick a cereal to try – we know the ones we like and the ones we don’t. We know which tomato tastes sweeter, where to find this or that. 

It’s hard to unpack our things and see how little we actually need. To not buy useless stuff because we have space. But it’s so freeing knowing that, if we need to, we know exactly what to take and what to leave. 

One of the best surprises we had in Bolivia was the beauty of it all. Including, of course, the house we rented.

Renting a house instead of staying in a hotel has this bonus – you have the space and the freedom of a ‘real’ home. This one was in La Paz, Bolivia

We have days when we’re really down and thinking that ‘normal’ life sucks. When it’s raining or when we’re so busy doing ‘real life’ stuff (like cleaning), when the neighbors are noisy or littering, or when the travel bug really attacks but we can’t because we have the house and the cats and the kids’ classes and work and appointments.

But we have good days, spent at the beach or playing in the living room with the cats. When we cook together or the kids sit at the table telling me something while I cook, and then we go watch a movie while we eat. Or when we just spend the day resting peacefully, each to their own, in this house we now made a home (still a work in progress, though, now it’s livable).

It’ll have its ups and downs, as life has it. They’re just a bit different from the common people. That’s the reality of going back home after traveling for us.

Four kids at the Uyuni Salt Flats. It was, indeed, the world's biggest mirror - we were, literally, on the clouds!

Walking on clouds, at the Uyuni Salt Flats. Would we change it, not go traveling? No. We loved traveling, even the not-so-good bits. Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Fellow bloggers’ tips for the real life after a long trip

Finding a whole new life

Here’s what Jenny, from TraveLynn Family says:

We have just returned to the UK after a year living in India and four months traversing Sub-Saharan Africa, with our two young boys (aged 3 and 4).

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about our return. I love the UK, but travel changes you and I was concerned how we would all adjust. But we’ve now been back 6 weeks, and we couldn’t be happier!

My advice is to not slip back into your old life. Find a new adventure in your home country and make it happen. We didn’t return to our home county of Kent and instead are making a new life in the Peak District National Park. We’ve found a lovely home to rent, my husband found a new job, and we’ve found a small, friendly school down the road for the boys.

Photo courtesy of Jenny

It’s a leap of faith, but it’s kept us excited with new experiences after our adventures through Asia and Africa. Although, we’re still plotting a planning a few trips overseas for the coming months!

 

Travel locally, of course! 

This is what Danni, from Live in 10 Countries has to say:

Coming back home after long-term travel is a lot like the bump at the end of a rollercoaster ride. ‘Is this really it?’ I thought when I finally gave in to my parents’ pleas to settle down, save for a house and move back to my home country. I had been living in a host of countries for the past 7 years and it seemed like a lot to give up.

The feeling of the blues is completely understandable, but why is it that our hometown, home state or even home nation is somehow not worth exploring and not exciting enough? I decided to change that by indulging in epic staycations.

 

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Every weekend I’d pour over maps, making plans that never involved crossing a border. From road trips along the coast to those big home attractions you never get around to seeing, I felt myself getting more and more excited about home turf. I’d recommend it to anyone!

For me, the only way to cure the post-travel blues is to get stuck into affordable, local travel instead. Why not fire up a browser and see what you’re missing out on?

Find a goal

Lisanne, from Chapter Travel, thinks this is the way to go:

My boyfriend and I travelled together for 18 months through Australia and Asia before heading back home to the Netherlands. Luckily, it wasn’t so hard for me to return home as I expected it to be.

There are a lot of reasons why it wasn’t so hard on me and the two most important ones are that before I returned home I took on a goal and once I got home I created a routine for myself.

There has to be a reason to wake up in the morning. That is what a goal in your life is for. Having a goal in life is always important, whether you’re travelling or if you’re home.

Homeschooled kids learn in a wide range of ways. These are my girls painting with watercolor after being inspired by watching a movie.

The girls painting. That was before we started traveling abroad, as a part of our epic road trip.

So I advise you to create at least two goals during your travels that you will work on when you get home. Be realistic and start with goals that are manageable, so you don’t lose your motivation right at the start. Once you achieved those two goals at home, think of two new ones and so on.

A daily routine, or at least a morning routine, is also really helpful with settling back home. There is a big chance you don’t have a routine when you’re travelling, as most travellers don’t really take note of the time and just do whatever they want when they please. This is great, but often you can feel out of control when you try to do this back home.

So make sure to get some routine in your life and at least take a shower, dress and eat breakfast when you wake up.

Make scrapbooks of the past travels

This is what Jill, from AdventureJ.ca does!

Returning home from a wonderful vacation can bring on the post-trip blues and leave me feeling depressed. The thought of returning to the normal routine can send me into full-on travel withdrawal as I adjust back to day to day living.

Courtesy of Jill. Find her Indian adventures here!

One way I’ve found to battle these blues is to create a scrapbook of my trip. This can be done either online or the old-fashioned. Either way, it allows me to re-live my trip and fully absorb all the things I saw and did.

 

I always include ticket stubs, plane tickets and extra small change from the country I visited to give it an authentic feel. I also write a few sentences about each picture, so I’ll remember every detail in the years to come. Sometimes I even purchase the actual scrapbook in the country I’m visiting! 

Not only does this scrapbooking project keep me involved in a travel-related project long after my trip is over, but it gives me a wonderful souvenir that I can look through any time. My scrapbooks are one of my most prized possessions.

Over the years if I ever feel the symptoms of travel withdrawal, I simply pick up a scrapbook and re-live a wonderful adventure.

Understand about Reverse Cultural Shock

Here’s what Leticia, from Happee Travelers, has to say about it:

If you are one of those people who suffer from an incurable desire to travel, going back home after an extended period away can be quite difficult, and you might feel displaced, as if you don’t belong. Luckily, you are not alone. It happened to me too, and many people in the same situation. Reading more about it will make you realize that this is a rather common process called “reverse cultural shock”. Understanding it’s a common psychological effect can teach you how deal with it, make the process smoother, and easy the burden of being back home. 

There are several studies and articles about cultural shock, which document it into usually 5 stages, with varying names, usually: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, adaptation and reverse cultural shock. At the honeymoon stage, everything is beautiful, and you love the new country. Later, you start to notice cultural differences and unpleasant things about this new place, which may cause frustration and anxiety. Then gradually, you start adjusting and lastly find yourself adapted to the local culture, languages and habits. 

Likewise, returning home is considered a reverse cultural shock – you might notice that nothing has changed, people are still the same, and yet you are a totally different person. The old problems in your country will frustrate you, and you’ll want to leave again. It’s a normal process that happens after living abroad, so read about it, give yourself time to cope and remind yourself of things you missed back home.

Relive your trip on Social Media

As Priyanko, from Constant Traveller, does! 

 

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For the last five years, I’ve followed a set routine. I work from October to July and then travel to one part of the world in August and September. Last year, for example, I spent six-plus weeks travelling through Spain, Portugal, the Azores and Canary islands.

It’s difficult to adjust to a normal routine after taking such an epic trip but thankfully, there is social media to help. I’ve been posting one picture every day from my travels for the past two months on Instagram.

I’m also helping people on Quora find the travel itinerary they deserve and reviewing hotels and activities on Tripadvisor.

My next adventure is the craziest one I’ve dreamt up so far. I am planning to travel across South and Central America for a year in 2020. While I settle in one place and earn the money required to plan this trip, I’m going back in time, sharing my pictures and advise on social media while simultaneously researching for this monster of a trip in the near future.

This seems to help me and I’d encourage you to give it a try as well. Keep your past travel memories alive and always, always look forward to the next adventure.

The walls in the city of Machu Picchu, Peru. It's in the bucket list of most people and, oh, is it worth it! It's amazing even for families with kids!

These walls, I can’t get over the perfection of it all! Can you guess where it is? (It’s Machu Picchu, of course!)

Start a Travel Blog

Just as Elisa from World in Paris

After one year of traveling the world and visiting incredible places every single day, there is no need to say that setting back in Paris was hard, very hard.

It is true that Paris, the City of Lights, is an exciting place to live. However, it was less exciting to go back to the Parisian routine metró – boulot – dodó (=metro – work -sleep), working in the same space and with the same people eight hours a day.

In the end, I decided to use my free time to go on exploring the backyards of my own city, looking for unusual and quirky things to see and do and tell about my Parisian findings in a travel blog. That’s how World in Paris was born two years ago!

And what it started as a kind of no-travel therapy is now a source of inspiration for people who want to travel like a local in Paris. Because the world is beautiful but, in the end, Paris is always a good idea 😉

 

Use your weekends wisely

That’s how Ruby, from A Journey We Love, does:

As an expat and having lived in London and now the USA, it was hard for me to go back to the normal life when I was living this life abroad, and enjoying every minute of it. So, how did I keep my travel bug under control and how did I make my life more normal?

  •  I took weekend trips: Even though I was working abroad for a certain period of time, I can still use the weekends and the holidays to explore a part of the world I couldn’t otherwise explore if I was living at home. Then I’ll have something to look forward to on the weekends!
  •  I plan your weekdays accordingly: If I wanted to have a ‘normal’ life, I did it on a weekday. I did all my chores, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, anything and everything that’s routine on a weekday. That gives me more of a structure to my days after I get out from work.

Now, you may be wondering if I travel every weekend. I don’t. I use some weekend time to:

  • Explore the city I live in. There may be hidden gems you don’t know of.
  • Catch up on TV shows, watch movies, go shopping or just stay indoors. You’ll need to rest too and it’s perfectly fine to just do nothing and sleep in. You can’t just keep traveling or doing chores all the time.  It’s fine to just wind down!

The more you have a routine, the easier it is to get back to your ‘normal’ life.

Watch travel movies

Like Inma, from A World to Travel, does: A World to Travel

Keeping the travel bug under control in between travels used to be everything but easy. However, after doing it dozens if not hundreds of times (yes, really, as I’ve been traveling since my teens at least once every two months), I have found there are two things that help me get back to a life without travel for a while without trouble. These are planning other trips, which should not come as a surprise at all and it is something I am sure most everyone in love with travel does; and watching travel movies. Reading books helps too, but since I’m more of a visual person, movies are my drug of choice and I can’t help it but watch one daily. Here are ten of my favorites.

  1. Lost in translation
  2. Wild
  3. Tracks
  4. Samsara
  5. The motorcycle diaries
  6. Y tu mamá también
  7. Baraka
  8. Up in the air
  9. Out of Africa
  10. Life of Pi
A VIP movie theatre room is always cool - and it was a lot cheaper in Bolivia! Another pro point of this amazing country!

Well, we do like ourselves a movie. We didn’t stop going to the cinemas even when we were abroad. This was in Bolivia, where we could use the VIP room (it was the only one where Beauty and the Beast was in English)

Make travel a habit

Like Jonathan, from Journey Maxx:

We all have different travel style. Short getaways or the long-term nomad way of life. But there is one common theme of all trips that are interlinked. That is the sense of adventure, discovery, and curiosity. When you return home a bit of unwinding and slowing down is certainly in order.

But then, a week or two later, I don’t know about you but I feel my energy drops to the point of fatigue. And along with so, I end up losing my sense of adventure. Sure, I can carry on reading up on destinations in anticipation of future trips. However, the more I drift into a dream world, the more detached from reality I become.

Likewise, it is all good and well keeping myself entertained watching many of my favorite films and TV shows but too much lazy time and not enough exploration can turn into a bad habit. The adrenaline of adventure gets replaced by apathy. The most energetic thing I end up doing is probably bouncing a tennis ball against a wall!

5/6 of us on the stunning Franz Josef Glacier trail (NZ). I can't wait to do it again!

II totally agree with Jonathan here. I miss the Franz Josef Glacier walk (NZ)! It was so beautiful! Probably one of the prettiest we’ve been to. And one of the only where the way was a lot more beautiful than the final goal.

 

So how can I prevent myself from sinking into such bad habits? How can I keep my “travel persona” intact even when not traveling?

Well, even if there is a while till my next trip, my suggestion is to just keep your adventure spirit up by simply going on mini-adventures in the local area. Does not have to be anywhere too far away. Certainly, there is London near me where options are aplenty but even if that is a bit too much of a trek, I am fortunate to be surrounded by some splendid nature trails and small-scale hiking routes.

Nothing grueling, just simply getting out of doors at least once exploring the greenery of the shires. And sometimes, you will be surprised as I was when rediscovering an old Roman settlement. A regular routine of exercise is so good for the health and personal well-being. Making a weekly habit out of it keeps the endorphins up.

In summary, as someone who believes in routines and rituals, the answer is to keep the travel habit going in you at least psychologically so that your adventure spirit does not fade when you aren’t traveling.

A regular dose prevents me from being stuck in a rut and more so puts me in a better-prepared shape for my next trip. Suddenly, the thought of long journeys become less of an issue. Oh, for the record, I do advocate an actual walk or hike or trip to a museum or something along those lines, the supermarket does not count!

The climb to the top of Mount Mauao, in Mount Maunganui, NZ, is highly family friendly! Click for more!

Climbing Mauao, the mountain in Mount Maunganui (NZ). It was a lovely hike and it’s one that’s suitable for the entire family, even though it’s up a mountain!

Prioritize

That’s what James, from Portugalist Travel Blog, does:

Setting back into ‘normal’ life after an extended period travelling is no easy feat. Whether it’s job hunting, catching up with friends and family, joining a gym, or finding a new place to live, it always seems like the list of things that needs to be done is never-ending.

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by all of the chores that need doing or to put unnecessary stress on yourself by trying to complete them all as quickly as possible. Not everything needs doing straight away, though, and you’ll find the whole process much easier if you stagger the tasks out over a couple of days or even weeks.

Begin by writing down a list of everything that needs doing, number it in terms of importance, and work out roughly how much of your time it’s going to take. This will help you to avoid taking on too much too quickly. Plot these tasks out day by day, and write yourself up a little schedule of what to do and when.

Although the planning takes a bit of time, it’s definitely worth it. It’ll help you focus on the most important stuff first, and having a plan of action will mean you feel a lot less overwhelmed by it all.

A computer, headphones, pieces of paper, a pen, and a coffee mug: everything one needs to be a digital nomad and/or work from home. And the internet, of course.

Yep. It can be on an app, on a piece of paper. Just by making the tasks visual, stuff seems to become less scary and more manageable!

Write all about your trip

Andrea, from Our World to Wander, shares this:

Coming back after traveling for a more extended period is definitely not easy. You do need to do some adjusting and to get used to the idea that you are back home and not on the road anymore. My husband and I traveled for one year before returning home. It was the most fantastic experience, and we dream of sometime repeating it. 

When we got back home, we were excited to be back with our families and loved ones. To be able to share with them the tons of stories we had gathered and to show them our stunning photos.

But after a while, reality started to creep in, and we started missing our travels. Going somewhere for two weeks or for the weekend inevitably cannot compare to continually being on the road. So I had to find something else to soothe my travel longing.

That’s when I realized that writing about our travels makes me feel good. Be it on our blog or in my diary, I just try to write a couple of times per week and to revive some adorable memories. It feels so sweet to relive those moments again.

Salt Cathedral, Zipaquira, near Bogota, in Colombia, is pretty amazing!

There is light at the end of the tunnel. This one was in Zipaquira, Colombia.

 

Another thing which has helped me cope with returning home was keeping in touch with the friends we made while traveling. We have made a lot of friends, both locals, and fellow travelers and regularly talking with them sure is comforting. 

But yes, the travel bug is still inside, live and kicking. And no matter what I do, sometimes I feel it.

Stay in the present, move forward and integrate your travels into your life

Here’s what Cate, from Small Plane Studio has to say:

After I return home from traveling there are three things I do to make re-entry and readjustment a smoother process.

First, I quickly develop a daily routine that includes exercise, eating well, getting out of the house, and (re)connecting with people important to me. Doing those things really helps me stay in the present and feel like I’m still moving forwards (because sometimes returning home can feel like going backward). It also helps me not get stuck in a nostalgia rut, constantly wishing I were somewhere else.

The decorated rice dough being cut by a child during a cooking class in Nagoya, Japan. Click to know more!

This is the decorated rice dough balls the kids learned how to make in a cooking class in Japan. I’m really glad we’ve always done cooking classes.

The second thing I do is to intentionally make time and space in my life to deeply reflect on my time abroad, how my travels have changed me, who I am now, and what I most want to do next (I even created a workbook – The Re-entry Roadmap – to help returnees reflect on these important topics).

Once I’m back home, I miss being surrounded by new cultures, food, and people, so the third thing I do is to intentionally integrate the things in my life that make me feel global, like meeting up with other travel enthusiasts, recreating my favorite meals from abroad in my own kitchen, and planning my next trip.

Protect your memories

By Danny, from Coddiwomp:

The holiday blues loom large every time I come home from travelling. It’s never easy.

And one of the things I find hardest is the constant stream of identical questions that come up every time you see someone new. Somehow answering the questions over and over again takes the joy out of the memories.

 

Interestingly, there’s a method of treating PTSD that asks the individual to recount their trauma over and over again. Over time, as they do so, they become separated from the emotional impact of the experience.

It’s a similar thing that happens when I answer the travel questions.

So I try not to give too much away in my responses. I create script-like answers that give the person what they’ve asked for, but that doesn’t reveal too much about how I actually feel, or what actually happened. 

I don’t want to become detached from my travel memories. Those wonderful mental snapshots of adventure, which help sustain me as I re-enter home-life, are all I have left of the experience. 

I see them as treasured possessions. I owe it to myself to protect them.

Scotch Eggs are readily available in Scotland, but the best we've tried were at Stockbridge Market! Pay a visit, you won't regret it! To know more, click along!

The famous in Scotland, Scotch Eggs. LOVED IT! Maybe it’s time to learn how to make it.

Eat your trips

This is what Elaine and Dave, from Show Them The Globe, have to say:

The freedom, the exploration, the adventure… it can be challenging to return to real life and routine after an epic trip. For us, food and drink are the perfect tonics to ease the travel blues on our return home.

As we’ve travelled we’ve fallen in love with cuisines and cocktails across the globe: Mexico City reaffirmed our obsession with Mexican food, Ethiopia makes us crave spicy wat atop a serving of injera, Japan gave us a new found adoration for sushi and ramen and Rio taught us how hard it was to walk straight after 3 caipirinhas.

When the yearning for faraway adventures takes hold we cook up an international feast and mix a cocktail with a twist. We also love to book a table at one of the many delicious restaurants in our city and relive our past adventures while toasting our futures ones!

To finish it…

I hope we were able to help you a bit with it. I, for sure, gained a lot of ideas about what to do next to help!

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