The original article appeared on Elite Daily.
If you look up the definition of “travel” in the dictionary, it will explain it to be the process of going from one place to another. While traveling, you’re thrown into a mixture of cultures and forced to experience a variety of social differences.
You’re exposed to an array of characters; some become friends and others just passersby you may encounter on the street. You explore the world, observe, learn and lust over it.
As you cross borders, your knowledge broadens. You become more open-minded every time you open your passport to a new country. Each stamp on a page is akin to gaining a new scout badge. Lesson after lesson will be thrown your way, and ultimately, it’s totally up to you how you choose to cope with those lessons.
Whether it’s adapting to new norms, finding a job, making friends or putting a roof over your head, you’ll face and overcome the challenges that come your way. You’ll either open up while remaining wary of whom to trust or you’ll remain alone, with yourself as your only company.
Looking back at where you started, you’ll see how closed-minded you once were and accept that you’ll likely return to that mentality when you get back home.
The opportunity to travel will expose you to a whole world outside of what you previously knew. Travel allows you to graduate with a degree in life, spending your days at different destinations and nights transporting to the next spot.
When you finally get home, it’s hard. You’ve spent all this time becoming the most open, easy-going and versatile version of yourself. Yet, somehow, returning to familiar faces of friends and family contrast all you learned.
For the first week or so, you have reunions with family and friends, and all feel very exciting. However, a dark shadow clouds the bright, warm feeling you should have. Meeting up with those with whom you would once have communicated or seen on a daily basis for coffee or dinner soon encapsulates your realization that life went on while you were elsewhere.
New relationships were born, and marriages, proposals and job promotions ensued. As this new, foreign reality kicks in, you register that you no longer fit in where you once did. Everything is different. Nothing major has changed, and the foundations are all still there. It’s just different enough to feel drastic, like a life that’s not your own.
Maybe it’s the way you’ve changed — not physically, but mentally. Maybe it’s what happened when you grew into yourself, having realized your real dreams and aspirations, your new awareness and perspective of life. This leaves you feeling slightly alone and lonely.
Somehow, strangers feel closer than friends you’ve had for years. You feel lost, like your only choice is to leave again. Having just traveled for an extended period of time makes not seeing people from home for prolonged periods a lot sweeter to stomach.
Not only do you realize that life carried on without you, but it’s also hard to translate where yours has taken you. Many of your friends will still be in the same place, with the same people, doing the exact same things they were when you left.
They cannot relate to your experience road-tripping up the Australian Coast in a camper van.
They cannot relate to your struggle and the sweat that poured into seeing the sunrise at the summit of Mount Rinjani. They cannot relate to what it was like to live like an alien in complete remoteness in the French Southern countryside with no fellow English speakers.
Much like your struggle to fit back in, these people struggle to comprehend your experiences.
You desperately want to recall stories, reminisce, share and discuss it all. But, there are no words to describe how you feel. It’s all there, inside your mind, but you just can’t seem to communicate it. Instead of nonstop, hectic conversation you expect awaiting you when coming home, there is silence.
You’re speaking a foreign language and the only people who understand are those who did the same thing: the leaving, growing, learning and changing you get from each experience.
While traveling really assists in making you a more sociable person, the moment you step off that plane to go home, it’s not just your adventure that comes to an end, it’s also the end of being understood.
All the steps you’ve taken abroad and the lessons you’ve learned about yourself are simply undescribable. They’re all undone the moment you return to reality. And so, there’s no wonder that within a few weeks or months, you’ll crave to be off again for a new adventure.
I guess they call it the “travel bug” for a reason.