Posts Tagged ‘reverse culture shock’

What to Expect When You Return Home From Travel
Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

 


Expect culture shock.

Expect struggles.

Expect feeling a bit lost.

Expect to have people not understand.

Expect that you will be changed.

Expect to be patient with yourself.

Expect that you will be happy to see friends and family.

Expect that you will have no regrets.

Coming back home is not always easy. There are a few pieces of advice we can provide you, but until you live it, it’s hard to say how you will feel about returning. We’ve been collecting career breaker re-entry stories for years now – you can find them here in our Re-entry section.  Or simply bookmark it and read them when you return home – I’m pretty sure you will be able to relate to these other career breakers in many ways.  Each person’s experience is unique. However there are some things that hold pretty constant for all career breakers.

Reverse Culture Shock

Yes, even though you are returning to your home culture after experiencing many new different cultures, you still will be in some stage of shock. Odds are that the first time you walk back into a grocery store in North America you may be thrilled to be there, but you will also be a bit dazed and confused with all of the choices.

After JoAnna Haugen was gone in the Peace Corps for an extended period of time, she talks about how she combats the shock of being home.

Travel Changes You

Travel is a great way to learn more about yourself, in addition to world cultures. And as Paul Milton shares, the experience will certainly change you – for the better.

Craft Your Environment Again

It’s important to surround yourself by people who’ve gone through a similar experience and love travel. Remember the support group you identified while in the planning stages? They are still your support group and understand the same struggles that you may face when you return.

It’s helpful to stay active in Meet Plan Go events and the online traveler community – helping others who are planning their breaks provide you an outlet to share all of the knowledge you gained.  In fact – we recommend that when you return you hop on over to the traveler community again and update your profile with your latest travel accomplishments and be there to encourage and help others plan their career break.  It’s a great way to ‘pay it forward’.  

And be warned…there will be people who aren’t very interested in hearing stories about your travels. Learn to identify them before you bore them to death and find people who do want to hear them.

RE-ENTRY REFERENCES

It’s important it is to take time to process the emotions, questions, and concerns that come up after a career break abroad.  Here’s some tips on how:

>> How to Make Processing Part of the Re-entry Process

>> The Ultimate Guide To Coming Home

>>Reverse Culture Shock – Dealing With It Without Spreading It

How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Springtime in London

The day was bound to come: your career break is over and you are headed home for the first time in months, maybe even years. You are returning from a life-changing adventure, where every day brought something new and exciting, and you are proud of all you accomplished.

And then you get off the plane and everything feels familiar, yet different. You walk through the door to your home and it feels like you never left. You stroll around your neighborhood and everything looks the same.

That feeling is only enhanced when you meet up with family and friends, as it may seem as if nothing has really changed with them either. But you have changed, and you’re not sure what to make of the roller coaster of emotions you’re feeling. You are experiencing reverse culture shock.

You’ll be happy to know that you’re not alone. Just about every traveler experiences it in some variation (including our very own Sherry Ott). What can you do to make the transition easier?

Make it a two-way conversation

Coming home can be a selfish act. It can be easy to assume that everyone wants to hear about your trip and all the exciting things you encountered. But don’t forget that they were living a life as well – make it a two-way conversation. Don’t make your friends or family members feel as if their lives are any less relevant because they didn’t travel – even if they insist that their lives have been “boring” compared to yours.

One way to make this transition easier is to stay up on what they were doing while traveling. You may have started a blog to allow family and friends to follow along with your journey, but make sure the communication is a two-way street. Schedule Skype dates, stay in touch by email, take advantage of instant messaging and follow their updates on Facebook. And don’t be offended if loved ones don’t keep up with your blog – it doesn’t mean they don’t care; thy may just not feel like they can relate.

Be careful of sharing too much information too fast

When someone asks you the general question “how was your trip?,” you may be tempted to go into every detail – from the tree-climbing goats you searched out in Morocco to the baby goats you fed by bottle staying in a village in Thailand. But for the most part, you’ll find that most people ask the same few questions.

Sherry Ott found that preparing some quick answers to the questions people wanted to hear was very helpful. She even created a Reflection By Numbers list so that should could quickly reference some fun facts, like how many bodies of water she dipped her toes in (10), the number of overnight trains she took (10), and the number of photos she had taken after editing (11,868).

And be aware that others might be jealous of you. In her post on Vagabondish, “How to Survive Reverse Culture Shock”, Amanda Kendle warns:

Be careful not to drop your travel tales into too many conversations. After traveling pretty widely, I know I’m guilty of this at times, and there is a clear reaction from some people if I begin a story with “When I was on the Trans-Siberian …,” which seems like one of jealousy. Not everybody has the same opportunity as you to travel abroad, but they might want to – so be sensitive about who you discuss your experiences with.

Try to introduce your friends to new cultures at home

Many travelers can get depressed after returning home from around-the-world travels, finding life at home less than stimulating. Matthew Kepnes put it best in his post, “The Joy of Coming Home”:

Back home, boredom can happen pretty fast if you don’t keep yourself busy. On the road you move around everyday but there is a certain static-ness that comes with being back home. Even if you keep yourself busy, returning home can be a little underwhelming sometimes.

It’s easy to start complaining to friends and family about how boring home is, but they may feel as if you are calling them boring as well. And your cultural adventures don’t have to end as soon as the plane touches down on the tarmac. Seek out restaurants, events, museums and other activities in your area that can make you feel as if you are still abroad. And better yet, invite some of your friends or family along so they can get a taste of what you experienced.

Make new friends

Your career break experience has changed you and while you may return home hoping to reconnect with your old friends, you may find it easier to seek out new friends – fellow travelers who understand who you are now. Caz Makepeace advised in her post, Dealing with Reverse Culture Shock:

Accept that you are not the same. You see things with different eyes and people may not recognize this anymore. Understand that is okay. Remain true to who you are. And if it means that some friendships change as a result then so be it. Things change, it is the nature of life.

Spend time with those who accept the new you and start making new friends. We joined the Sydney Travel Tribes group which is full of travellers who understand us. It always feels comfortable and easy to be with them. I still enjoy hanging out with my closest friends, but it’s nice to be a different me with others as well.

So keep in mind that adjusting to life back home will take some time. As long as you are aware of the signs of reverse culture shock, the better prepared you will be to deal with it.

How to Make Processing Part of the Re-Entry Process
Monday, March 19th, 2012

You’re probably familiar with the terms re-entry and reverse culture shock. While some people sail through re-entry problem-free, most say they feel more lost upon returning home than they ever did abroad.

This actually makes a lot of sense. When we go abroad we’re constantly in the “new.” We’re seeing new things, having new adventures, hearing new languages, trying new food, considering new perspectives.

It’s exhilarating. Euphoric. It’s why we travel!

Back home, we’re no longer in the “new.” Back home, we are the new.

On one hand, we’re happy to be home with family and friends, speaking our native language, eating our favorite foods, and even sleeping in our own bed.

But we also feel like something is a bit off. It’s not necessarily bad, just…off.

I’m convinced that what really gets us in re-entry isn’t reverse culture-shock (I can order my favorite coffee without pantomiming! Do we really need 1,000 types of cereal to choose from?), but rather the on-going, subtler reverse culture-fatigue (Why do I feel out of synch? Do I really want to stay in this career? Why am I so bored?).

After a career break abroad we know we’ve changed. But we often can’t articulate how (much) we’ve changed. Just as the majority of culture is invisible to us, so are the nuanced ways our travels have transformed us.

In my experience, travelers often react to the feelings and questions that surface in re-entry in one of two ways:

1. We hop the next plane abroad without even unpacking our backpack. (I’m bored here! Gotta get back in the new!)

2. As we settle into our pre-travel lives our adventures become compartmentalized. (I had an amazing experience abroad…but (*sigh*) what does that have to do with my life now that I’m back home?)

Whether you choose to go abroad again or stay put isn’t the issue. My reaction to re-entry was to immediately plan my next trip abroad. My husband? He dove into finding a new job in his field.

Even though we had different reactions to re-entry, we discovered that we held the same concern. Traveling made us feel alive, adventurous, and empowered. We discovered new aspects of ourselves that we really liked. But we both felt like we had to choose between being the person we’d become while abroad or go back to being the person we were before we left. And we didn’t want to choose.

What I’ve learned in the course of several re-entry experiences is how important it is to take time to process the emotions, questions, and concerns that come up after a career break abroad. Meeting this challenge head-on is one of the best gifts you can give yourself because no matter what you decide to do in the future, you’ll bring your true self.

Even if you go abroad again, the career break that transformed you is over. Any new adventure will bring different challenges, emotions, and transformation. If you don’t make a point to process these experiences, you run the risk of letting fear make the decisions, which prevents you from being fully present in your post-career break life.

After the heightened experience of travel, some people feel they’ll never be completely happy unless they’re on the road. Others wonder how to replicate the thrill of being abroad into their daily lives at home. Travel is often a vehicle through which we develop  new interests, talents, and skills. Therefore, one way to integrate the new you into your old life is by asking yourself which aspects of my travels made me feel the most alive, engaged, and empowered?

Was it being physically active every day? Meeting new people? Photography? Blogging? Volunteering? Music? Trying new food? Speaking new languages? Solving travel challenges in creative ways? Participating in an extreme sport? Relaxing?

When you discover what fueled you during your career break, you can more easily integrate that aspect of the new you into your old life. If you go abroad again, you can be more intentional in creating future travel experiences.

Re-entry isn’t an event that happens on one specific day. It’s an on-going part of the travel journey. To be honest, you may never feel perfectly satisfied “at home” again. On the flip-side, you more than likely now feel fairly “at home” anywhere in the world.

Which aspects of your career break abroad made you feel the most alive, engaged, and empowered?

 

Cate Brubaker helps all kinds of travelers navigate intercultural, personal, and re-entry experiences in her work with TrekDek, SmallPlanetStudio.com, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Cate is currently planning her next career break.

What to Expect When You Return
Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Expect culture shock.

Expect struggles.

Expect feeling a bit lost.

Expect to be patient with yourself.

Expect that you will be changed.

Expect to have people not understand.

Expect that you will be happy to see friends and family.

Expect that you will have no regrets.

Coming back home is not always easy. There are a few pieces of advice we can provide you, but until you live it, it’s hard to say how you will feel about returning. Each person’s experience is unique. However there are some things that hold pretty constant for all career breakers.

Reverse Culture Shock

Yes, even though you are returning to your home culture after experiencing many new different cultures, you still will be in some stage of shock. Odds are that the first time you walk back into a grocery store in North America you may be thrilled to be there, but you will also be a bit dazed and confused with all of the choices.

After JoAnna Haugen was gone in the Peace Corps for an extended period of time, she talks about how she combats the shock of being home.

Craft Your Environment Again

It’s important to surround yourself by people who’ve gone through a similar experience and love travel. It’s helpful to stay active in MPG local meetups and the online community – helping others who are planning their breaks provide you an outlet to share all of the knowledge you gained.

And be warned…there will be people who aren’t very interested in hearing stories about your travels. Learn to identify them before you bore them to death and find people who do want to hear them.

Basic Training

We cover more on what to expect when you return in Career Break Basic Training, as well as other topics related to your Re-Entry.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go