After your big adventure, you’re looking forward to the homecoming. The adventure was fun and challenging, but toward the end you’re ready for something familiar.
You find yourself daydreaming of friends, family, and the comforts of home. Then the big day finally arrives, when you say farewell to _____, your base of foreign surroundings for some time.
When you return, people are happy to see you, and you’re happy to see them. You swing by your old haunts, read the mail that’s arrived in your long absence, and try to settle back in. At first, it’s all fun and nice. My favorite foods! The old coffee shop. Things are easier here, and everyone speaks a language I understand.
But then, just as you missed home while you were away, you start missing away while you’re home. You remember the other coffee shop, the one you discovered on your adventure. The unfamiliar foods, so strange at first, that you learned to enjoy. Your small-but-important victories in learning to communicate in another language.
Many of your friends and family, who are otherwise intelligent and compassionate people, don’t understand what’s happened to you because they have no context for it. To them, your experiences far away are an “other,” in a place they’ve vaguely heard of but whose connection exists entirely with you. They listen politely to your stories, but they’re ready to move on long before you are.
“You’ll never guess what I saw!” you tell everyone you meet for weeks on end. “I’ve learned so much about the world.”
“That’s great,” they say. “Have you seen what’s happening with American Idol?”
When you went away weeks, months, or years ago, you were prepared for culture shock in your new surroundings. Coming home, the reverse culture shock hits you out of nowhere, which is all the more difficult because you didn’t expect it to be so strong.
It helps to talk with other people who’ve seen what you’ve seen, or who have been away on a big excursion of their own. They may not understand the specific experience you had, but they know exactly what you are dealing with in your reentry. As you go through adventure detox, it may also help to have an upcoming adventure in mind—something to look forward to as you blend your old life with the new.
But these things won’t completely solve the problem. There’s only one option: you must learn to keep some of the memories in your own heart. This is hard to do, because you want to share everything with the people you love… but even as you tell the stories, you realize there’s an unresolvable gap between an experience and its retelling.
It’s easy to begin doubting yourself, wondering if life on the other side was really that interesting, or if things really happened the way you imagine them now. Doubt your doubts! What happened was real; it just can’t always be passed on to people who weren’t there.
It doesn’t make the memories any less special; in some ways they are more special as you realize they can’t be easily reproduced for the world. Some things are yours alone to cherish.