19 April 2012

Re-Entry... NOW WHAT?

I've traveled a fair bit to know that coming home is a major part of the experience of travel.  I generally think of the re-entry process as two part

1) The time when a lot of learning and realizations happen and
2) It's depressing

Yep, there, I said it.

Nobody wants to say it, and it sounds terrible. But its true.  There's a very strong potential to get depressed when coming home and having the adventure be, well, over.  The new adventure is figuring out what you learned, how you grew or changed and what you will do next.

Wow, isn't that fun?  What am I supposed to be doing with my life?  Gee... I think I have been here before.

Isn't that the whole reason I went abroad in the first place... because I wanted TO DO something new with my life, to help me figure out... well... what am I going to do after that...  When I'm living, you know, in my comfort zone at home- but hey it doesn't really feel that comfortable anymore... now that I think about it, being abroad wasn't exactly comfortable either... so, um... NOW WHAT?

I've heard friends who just got back recently get to the same dilemma... It's almost a question of "What was the point of that?"  Because now I feel like I'm neither here... (home) nor... there... (abroad) and so what do I do about THAT? And who do I reach out to? What books are there? websites? Specifically for the RE-ENTERING to my home country.

There's tons of books that are easy to track down when one makes the decision to GO someplace. The travel section in any bookstore has a bounty of exciting, exhilirating, fun and useful reads on travel, adventure, packing up, leaving home, how to do it best, ways to create a budget, even how to deal with a potential intercultural relationship you might pick up along the way.  And if you are lucky some of those travel books will have an anecdote or a chapter at the end on "re-entry".  A few pages, and THAT'S IT. When re-entry is quite possibly the largest part of the whole experience all together.

I was recently chatting with someone at an InterNations networking event, who is preparing to return home to Mexico City after living abroad for the last five years.  I gave her these tips

1) Get involved with global-thinkers when you get home, maybe expats or internationals living locally who "get it" and can offer support
2) Be patient with yourself, and when the thoughts and feelings challenge you, take time to write them down or reflect on what valuable learning you can extract from the unpleasant parts of the process
3) Be sure to bring your experience home with you, find ways to keep the abroad experience real **CAUTION**: There are many ways to do this well and many ways to put yourself through more hell!  Nobody wants to hear you talk about what it was like all day long, be careful to put a filter on yourself, and integrate your new life at home with your old life abroad.

There are some other good resources on Re-Entry, Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio wrote a nice article on Meet, Plan, Go! read it here.   Melibee Global Education Consulting also shared some good YouTube videos from study abroad students, these youngsters actually have some pretty good words of advice... check it out here.


  1. Soooo true!! My friend had a really good analogy. She told me 'Your heart is still there (for me in Brasil) but my body is back in the UK. It takes a while for my heart to come back over and catch up with my body in the UK and in the meantime you are all out of sorts!!' Very true!! xx

  2. Reverse culture shock still hits me every time I come back from South America. Similar to you I have come to the conclusion that the only remedy is to plan the next adventure! I also like to reflect on what I learned in there... whether it's something tangible or just a sort of way of being. Everyone just seems so busy, and cold and complicated... and everything's so clean and organized, and boring! LOL I do love my country but it gets me every time.

    Here's a post explaining more... it really changed my life! http://www.ericaleeconsulting.com/2012/02/06/what-i-learned-in-the-jungle/

  3. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog. I know, I just keep on planning the next adventure, I keep thinking I'll stop and eventually settle down, but that is looking less and less likely... :)