What to expect when you get home from travelling
This article initially appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald
Words: Ben Groundwater
So you've decided to go home.
It's a life-changing decision, like quitting smoking, or going on a crash diet – only the results of this one are much less likely to make you a happier person.
The dream has to end some time. Most people won't stay away travelling their whole lives. Doesn't matter how much fun you're having overseas, the money will always run out, or the call of home will become too strong, and you'll book in that return flight and prepare to get back to reality.
Here's a tip: expect it to suck.
Week one is an aberration, when visiting home feels as exciting as visiting anywhere else in the world. Everything old is new again – the pubs, the restaurants, the parks, the shops, the company. It's like you're still on holidays, only this time your family and friends have come along for the ride.
Your mates buy you drinks, your mum makes you dinner, your clothes all go in the washing machine, and everyone treats you like a bit of a rock star for the simple fact that you've decided to grace them with your presence.
If you're smart enough you might be able to make this feeling last a couple of weeks, spacing out your catch-ups with friends and family.
Inevitably, however, it will all go off the rails. It will start with this sneaking suspicion that although all of your friends are making a good show of being happy to see you, they couldn't give the remotest toss about what you've been up to for the last however many years.
They might patiently look at a few of your photos and smile at the appropriate times, but really, they don't care. You've had a fantastic holiday, they haven't. Time to move on. Did you see DJs is having a sale?
Then there's the following soul-crushing conversation that you'll have with pretty much everyone:
You: "So, what have you been up for to the last 'x' years?"
Friend: "Um... Nothing really."
And that's when you'll realise that that is pretty accurate. Nothing much has happened. In one sense your old home feels like a different place – everyone has a tattoo now; people are activating their food; Brynne Edelsten is a celebrity – but on the other hand, it's all still exactly the same.
Your friends are the same. The only thing that might have changed if you're as old and creaky as me is that they've all gone and got married and started popping out infants. They'll look at your madcap overseas adventures as kind of quaint and insignificant.
Most other things are the same as well. Those pubs and restaurants and parks and shops are the same ones you decided to get away from in the first place. All those things you looked forward to – the Vegemite on toast, the nights relaxing on the couch, the catch-ups with friends, the trips to the beach – won't seem quite as exciting once you've ticked them off the list the first time.
It's at this point that you'll start to yearn for life on the road again. For me what you'll miss most is the excitement of daily uncertainty, the not knowing exactly where you'll be going today, or who you'll be meeting, or if you'll even be able to order your dinner without some colossal balls-up caused by the language barrier.
At home, you know that tomorrow you'll be at home. And the next day you'll be at home. And the day after that you'll be at home. No random adventures. No chance meetings. Just home.
Oh, and you need to find a job.
Before long that will happen and you'll be mired once again in the reality of home life: work five days, take two off, and repeat.
The good news, however, is that the depression over this less-than-ideal situation will subside over time. You'll slip back into the routine of home; it will get better. It will all start to just feel normal again.
If it doesn't... Well, you know what to do.