Saturday, October 15, 2016

Thoughts On: Reverse Homesickness

Reverse homesickness, reverse culture shock, whatever you prefer to call it: it's something we don't normally consider before setting off on a big trip abroad. Whether you're a bit of a worry wart like myself or not, I think it's a pretty unanimous feeling to be a mixed bag of nerves and excitement moments before entering the departure gate. The two times I set off on my own overseas I felt a huge surge of panic leading up to the moment my plane took off. I worried about the things and people I would be leaving behind, the things I would miss about home, in effect preempting the few instances of homesickness I experienced later on in my trip. I'm no seasoned traveler by any means, but based on just these two experiences, I can say with absolute certainty that despite this, coming home is so much harder than leaving it behind.

That's not to say I missed my home comforts at some points throughout my trips and wasn't thankful to return to my own bed. But once the normality of daily life set in, I found myself itching to get back on a plane again. I'm not even an adventurous or nomadic traveler; when I go abroad, I prefer spending a considerable amount of time in one place rather than racing through all the countries and landmarks so I can 'see' everything in a short period of time. I thoroughly enjoy being in a place long enough so that I can establish somewhat of a routine; my last trip was especially true to this, as I was pretty much interning full time in London. So it's not like I was fearing the 'everyday' life upon my return to my home country.

When I was in London, locals would quiz me on why the hell I was there, of all places, when I'm from Australia. Even family would scratch their heads about my desire to travel and say how lucky I was, still am, to live here. There's no place like home, right? Without a doubt, I feel incredibly grateful to have grown up in such a beautiful place. While I have always been somewhat of an Anglophile, it's not simply a case of 'the grass is always greener on the other side...'

If it weren't for the independent trips I have taken abroad, while few, I can say with conviction that I wouldn't be the person I am today. My 15 year old self could have never dreamed that I would become the confident, driven, headstrong person that I am. I used to identify as an introvert, but thanks to pushing myself, I realised that I thrive off human interaction. I was just too afraid to put myself out there before. In a city where I knew no one, where there's always something going on, I had nothing to lose but to soak up everything that London had to offer.

Naturally, I guess you're going to attribute the positive change in yourself to the place which saw you blossom. So it's there that I picture the best version of myself. London was my 'home' for little over two months and my time there was enough to leave me feeling empty, like something was missing, for well over a month after coming back to my actual home. Before, home always meant comfort and security. But after my trip abroad, I craved a home that set my soul ablaze with excitement, a home where I could be whoever I wanted to be in a city that barely knows my name.

Reverse home sickness goes something like this: One afternoon you find yourself jamming along to some music and then that song comes on and it's like a punch to the stomach; the song or songs that punctuated the nights dancing on sticky floors with the people you grew so close to in a short amount of time. You weren't ready to leave it all, them all, behind. You realise you're still not ready.

Reverse homesickness feels like your roots have been uprooted but your wings have been clipped. You struggle with neither being 'here' mentally nor 'there' physically. What was once familiar seems unfamiliar. You can't express this change that has taken place within you except that you know that the moments and experiences that helped it to eventuate were, and are, the most worthwhile pursuits you could ever wish to make. 'Home' will never feel the same again. With every return, you will forever be planning for and chasing after your next adventure.

'Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to go'

But all hope is not lost, and after the initial 'dazed' period of the first month back home, I have slowly begun to feel fairly content and happy with where I am at this moment in time. I know myself well enough now to know that I'll never wish to stay in one place my whole life. Living abroad for an extended period of time (aka more than 2 months) has always been somewhat of a bucket list pipe dream, and I'm determined to make that a reality. But for now, I've fallen back in love with my city and need to remind myself that there's nothing stopping me from 'getting out there' just as I did in London. I think it's just easier to become lazy. Home will always be there and it will always be home. There's not the same sense of urgency to see the latest exhibition at the state gallery or go on road trips as far south as Margaret River and as close by as the Swan Valley. I may never be able to sate my appetite to see and do bigger things, but for the times in between, I can still make the most of every day. 

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