The Best and Worst of Coming Home After a Long Trip

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The Best: The Comforts of Home

When I asked my readers on Facebook what their favourite part of coming home after a long time away was, roughly half of them said their bed, their pillow, or their shower.

I guess it’s safe to say that many of us feel a certain connection to the little things that make our home a place of comfort and security.

Whether you’ve spent most of your time away in cramped dorm rooms sharing dingy bathrooms or you’ve been staying in relative comfort but always living out of your pack, chances are you’ll be overjoyed to finally unpack and unwind in a space that you can call your own.

A barn style cottage in rural Australia.
I’m lucky enough to have this beautiful cottage all to myself whenever I come home.

For a while, there’s a certain novelty to having a broader selection of clothes to choose from and having the freedom to just jump in the car and drive.

It’s exciting to revisit old haunts and experience them through changed eyes, and the things that might have seemed a bit old hat before your trip take on a shiny new lustre now that absence has allowed the heart to grow fonder.

It makes for one hell of a honeymoon period.

The Worst: Missing the Thrill of Adventure

Remember what I was saying about post travel depression?

By far the biggest symptom of this nasty little black puppy is that once the newness of your time at home has worn off, there’s a good chance you’ll be gripped with a deep and abiding yearning for the adventures you had while abroad.

While it might have seemed like a pain in the ass trying to get your order across to the Chinese pharmacist through interpretive dance at the time, you’ll find yourself increasingly disillusioned with how ‘bland’ life at home feels in comparison.

Travel ruins you for the real world. Once you’ve caught the bug, no one experience or location will ever be enough again.

The Best: Seeing Family Again

By far my favourite element of coming home after a long time away is getting to reunite with my fantastic family.

Whether it’s chatting with my mother on a long road trip, a few competitive bouts of squash with my Dad, beers with my brothers, or playing stupid games with my niece and nephews – I love my time at home with my family.

Adorable baby boy in black and white
Meeting my adorable new nephew has been one of the highlights of coming home.

This love of being with my family holds especially true during the holiday season, when my entire family comes together to decorate, cook, and celebrate together.

While friendships may occasionally feel strained by the life you’ve chosen to lead, I’ve never had that problem with family. My brothers and I slip back into the same light-hearted banter without any awkwardness, and my parents have never been anything other than supportive of my endless pursuit of whatever it might be that will make me happy.

Seeing those who know you and love you best is a necessary rejuvenation for many of us, and even the most seasoned of world travellers will tell you that seeing family – be it at ‘home’ or on the road – is always a treat.

The Worst: Leaving Them All Too Soon

As much as I love my time with my family, I always know at the back of my mind that I’ll be leaving again eventually. It might not be in a week or in a month, but there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that I’ll be in Australia for a year – let alone years.

When I was younger, this didn’t seem so bad. My parents were as unchangeable as the landmass I called home, and my siblings were forever young bundles of energy and potential.

Eight years on, I find that the changes are more and more dramatic every time I come home. Siblings whom I used to pull all night World of WarCraft marathons with are now parents. One of my brothers has grey hairs in his beard. The youngest is now dating.

My parents, while still active and in good shape, are both nearing their 60th birthday. While they’ll be with me a good while yet (touch wood), each trip away does mean spending less time with the man and woman who brought me into the world, shaped me, and supported me in becoming the man I am today.

Family photo
Taken right before I departed for South Korea way back in 2007.
Family photo couch field
Taken before I left for China in 2012. What a difference five years makes!

While away I missed the funerals of two grandparents and the births of a niece and two nephews. I missed my youngest brother’s formative years because I was off drinking soju in South Korean bars or lying on the beaches of Thailand.

Each trip away is an exercise in trading the precious moments you might otherwise have spent with loved ones for the thrill of adventure, the newness of experience, and the prospect of new horizons.

When I was young, the decision seemed so easy. Travel the world? Sounds magnificent!

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. It won’t be long before family gatherings are a rarity rather than a weekly occurrence.

While I was off discovering the world, the world from which I came has gone ahead and changed.

I worry that someday that warm place that has always waited for me when I come home will no longer be there.

I’ll never regret not having a career or having a mortgage, but will I someday regret choosing travel over more time spent with my parents, brothers, or nephews?

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2 comments

  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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