The Best and Worst of Coming Home After a Long Trip

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It’s a confusing mixture of feelings that you have when you’re coming home after a long trip. You’re filled with a mixture of nostalgic, rose-coloured sadness and wide-eyed optimism.

Excited to see your friends and family even as your eyes continue to prickle at the mere thought of the friends and lovers you had to leave behind.

Anticipating the delicious home-cooked meals you’ll be eating while at the same time bemoaning the fact you can’t get a Pad Thai and a beer for $4 like you could in Thailand.

Coming home is at once both the best and worst thing about long term travel – a frustrating mish-mash of dizzying highs and often depression inducing lows.

After my own five month, nine country tour came to an end two weeks ago, I’ve been wrestling with the warring feelings of comfort and wanderlust, and I thought I’d highlight the elements that I think are the best and the worst about coming home after a lengthy trip.

The Best (And Worst) of Coming Home After a Long Trip

The sun sets over an idyllic country road.
A stunning Ben Lomond sunset welcomes me home.

The Best: Catching Up With Friends

I treasure very few friends like I do those who have known me since my awkward youth.

I’m blessed to be able to call several people friends who I have known since we were twelve or thirteen years old. While our hang-outs have become fewer and farther between over time and we’ve all gone in wildly different directions in life, there are few things I look forward to more than seeing these familiar faces, swapping tales, and having a few beers.

My first week back in Sydney was a real treat, as I was able to stay in the lavish Cambridge Hotel and be at the very heart of Sydney. Its convenient location made it easy to arrange meet-ups with old drinking buddies, college friends, and high school besties. Just 800 metres walk from Central Station, the hotel is also within walking distance of King’s Cross and the CBD.

I certainly availed myself of that convenient walking distance when I had a few too many beers with Jade from OurOyster on my first night back.

The attached Spanish restaurant did a really decadent breakfast buffet (with included barista made coffee) for a reasonable $17. The super comfortable bed, stunning city view, and complimentary welcome chocolates were certainly a treat after hours of travel too!

Special mention to the awesome staff as well. Not only did we have a great chat about how ridiculously convenient things like Menulog and Uber are, but they were even kind enough to bring my sushi up to my room for me when it arrived. I couldn’t have asked for a better base of operations for my renewed assault on Sydney.

Handmade chocolates.
Handmade chocolates to welcome me to the Cambridge Hotel? Don’t mind if I do!

Not only were countless beers had and delicious meals shared, but my first day back saw my nearest and dearest (sans one selfish fool who moved to England for love) gathered at my best friend’s Sutherland home for an old-fashioned BBQ.

Australian BBQ of sausages, chicken, and steak.
A dinky di Aussie BBQ was my welcome home gift from my oldest friend. Delicious snags, steaks, and chicken with a few cheeky beers too.

While the friendships that have lasted the longest do tend to slip by the wayside at times when you’re off in a shiny new country sharing shiny new experiences with shiny new friends, it’s these loyal and loving few who act as a kind of intangible link that joins our wandering selves to the vague notion of ‘home’ that we’re finding harder and harder to define.

The Worst: Not Being Able to Relate to People

And that leads into one of the worst parts of coming home after a long trip – the fact that your friends have changed and (gasp) so have you!

Travel changes people profoundly. It broadens our minds at the same time that it hones our best characteristics and helps us to shake off our worst.

At the same time, the people who have remained behind to focus on their careers and/or families aren’t just sitting still twiddling their thumbs. Their careers, loves, children, and social lives are shaping and reshaping them just as profoundly, and that can make it harder and harder to relate the longer you’re apart.

While they proudly tell you of their new car or the cute thing their cat did last week, you’re itching to tell an anecdote that doubtless starts with “When I was in…”. On occasion, your eyes might roll involuntarily when they tell their latest story of domestic bliss, and I know my friends tire of hearing me tell another story about my time teaching in China or travelling around East Africa.

You may have been bound by common interests or simple geography in your formative years, but it becomes harder and harder to relate to some people. These friends tend to drift – first fading from your Facebook news feed and eventually fading from your life entirely.

And I’m not talking about the true friends who still make the effort to call you on your birthday or invite you around for dinner whenever you’re in town, but those peripheral friends who gradually, inevitably fade into the background. They’re sad sacrifices, sure, but they do allow you to better appreciate those who have stuck with you while you go through your quarter/mid-life crisis.

Next: The delicious and the disappointing

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  1. Find myself sitting at my desk, 16000km away from home, which isn’t THAT far from where you are now, nodding. Missing births, weddings and funerals all plague us, and sadly the more we travel, the more we miss.

    Growing your own experiences is something special, but finding people that support and understand that is a different story.

    Traveling long term… It’s not wrong, but you’re right, it’s a choice. And not an easy one at that.

    • It used to feel so much easier. When I was young and everybody else was too, it felt like the simplest decision in the world. Of course I want to see the world! My family isn’t going anywhere!

      But every time I come back I’m reminded that my folks are getting older, my siblings will only become busier, and that the carefree days of messing about as a family are all but gone. One sibling already doesn’t come home for Christmas, and it won’t be long before family gatherings are a rarity rather than a weekly occurrence.

      And I just made myself cry thinking about that.

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