I always used to think the phrase ‘post-holiday blues’ was an excuse for travel lovers (me included) to book another trip. I had experienced feelings of dislocation after returning home from short trips, but I didn’t think much of it.
‘Everyone struggles after they come home, too. It’s just part of the process.’
Soon, ‘reality’ commanded my attention and life just continued. Work, study, friends and future plans kept me from dwelling on this detachment for too long. The momentum of planning and saving for my next adventure, ignited a fire that gave it all meaning.
Healthy, I’m not sure, but the anticipation became my accelerant.
Fast-forward a few years and I wasn’t just travelling full time, I was making a living while doing it. And although I was playing continental hop scotch, at that time, I hadn’t lived abroad for a long stint of time – so, the jolts that came with every return ticket weren’t as severe.
It all changed in November 2016. After spending the best part of a year in Asia, I returned home in high spirits, with a thriving business, a new nephew and the accomplished energy of having fulfilled a lifelong dream.
What I thought was the end was, in fact, the beginning. That dream had evolved and there was no way I could return, simply ignoring that internal pull.
Culture shock is a coined phrase, most of us know. But I believe reverse culture shock – the post-trip preparation – is just as important. It doesn’t garner enough attention because why should returning home result in culture shock?
- Home has changed
- You have changed
Here’s the thing. You have adapted to another culture and, now, you must readapt to home.
Reverse culture shock is the psychological process of acclimatising to your surroundings. And while the physical environment isn’t new, it feels different.
Your habits, perceptions, perspectives and ideals have morphed since you left, as with every human being. Yet, for the traveller, these learnings happen fast and often in the most unexpected of situations.
Home and the comforts of it, according to Craig Storti, author of the Art of Coming Home, are replaced by more than just a physical place we live. Rather, home transforms into something that’s associated with all the people, actions, feelings, emotions and cues that make us feel ‘at home.’
What began as a research project into reverse culture shock has evolved into a deep dive into life’s greatest shifts.
The Inner Fire is an exploration of the phoenix cycle, experienced by all travellers: New experiences growing into great joy, then fading, absence, grief, and back into something new.
Western society teaches us that loss equates to grief. Travelling teaches us that Little Grief is everywhere; that this grief isn’t about experiencing a death of some part of us. But what if it was just the spark of something new?
In Inner Fire, I tell my story about two years living in this phoenix cycle.
Peppered with the lives and experiences of others who have experienced life-changing shifts, my book takes you on another journey: An emotional ride through some of life’s deepest, sometimes unexpected, feelings.