It’s hard to find topics to talk about on here, since it’s a travel blog and I’m not currently wandering in another exotic country. That’s why I’ve decided to tell you about a side of travelling that’s not the most glamorous: going home to your country.
Those of you who have travelled for some time know as well as I do how much of a journey itself the return from a long trip can be. Going back after weeks, months or years abroad is a difficult, challenging, and sometimes eye-opening experience. It’s a contradictory mix of various feelings, from the joy of being surrounded by your loved ones again to the incredible solitude that not being able to communicate what exactly has happened inside of you during your time away can create.
I have been confronted to those feelings many times, and trust me, although it gets easier, they never really go away. You just learn to live with them, I guess. With feeling out of kilter. The impression of not really being in the right place, neither here nor there. Of not being able to, nor wanting to, go back to a “normal” life. Of having taken a step back from what’s around you, a lucidity sometimes heavy to carry. Feelings of injustice, guilt over your privilege. Memories of adventure, freedom, authenticity. Pieces of your heart scattered around the world, places and people you miss, images you don’t really know what to do with.
The first time I left, or rather, the first time I came back after five months of traveling through different worlds, I couldn’t wait to go home, hug the people I loved and missed so much, and tell my stories to everybody. The disillusions came a bit later, when the excitement went down and I realized that while I had lived several lives in one for a while there and changed massively in the process, nothing here really had. People’s lives had been going on slowly, following their “normal” paths for most, when inside me, there was a storm of new perspectives, realizations and questions. I didn’t really know what to do with them, so I just kept my memories preciously, somewhere deep down in my soul, sometimes wondering if what I had lived had actually happened, or if it was all just a dream. A long, beautiful dream that ended the second I set foot on Swiss soil.
When I started travelling again a year later (I wanted to dream a little longer), I adopted a strategy that made coming back bearable; I would come home only as rarely and as short as possible. In two years, that happened three times. I would start preparing the rest of my trip the second I came home to my messy room full of stuff I didn’t need (you get used to having all your life in a backpack) and didn’t want to deal with. I would barely take a glance at them and focused on seeing my friends and family and enjoying the comfort that only my parents’ home can provide. I knew it was temporary, so I reassured myself with that thought whenever I started feeling the anxiety of not fitting in, of having a very different mental narrative than most people around me.
This time though, things have been different for me. This time, I have decided to come home with another mindset. I have chosen to deal with the part of my life I so eagerly wanted to leave behind. No more running away.
I do have to say that although I had learned to value my privilege before, especially when it comes to material comfort, since my stay in the Middle East, I appreciate the freedom and the safety of my country a thousand times more. It’s nice to walk down the streets without fearing to show too much skin, for instance. I don’t need to wonder about where the gunshots I hear at night come from and if they’re just festive or aimed at someone. I don’t have to feel that constant tension that says: “Everything is okay for now, but things could go very wrong any second.” I’m not faced with so much pain and misery any more. It feels good. It feels lighter. I feel free.
I feel haunted at times by some images, that I can’t keep from hitting my mind, sometimes randomly, sometimes because of a word, a sensation, a smell. Writing then becomes an outlet, but it has its limits. My last post talked about pretty sad topics, and I’ve been racking my brain for a while now to come up with something to say that’s not so depressing. This summer, I really forced myself to take measures to heal from the sense of unease gnawing at me. I had started writing a boring article about all the ways and reasons why I felt better, to reassure everybody. However, I admit it, I would be lying to you and to myself if I published it. To be honest, I’m still not feeling great. I am doing much better, clearly, but I still feel sad and lost. I have a few traumas I still need to take care of.
Things are starting to clear, though. There’s no better remedy to overthinking than to stay active and busy, so that’s what I’m trying to do. To convince myself that I have the situation under control. I’ve sorted out my room. I found a secretary internship for this winter, and I started my studies again. There’s a few other projects, too, including a book I’ve been working on all summer. You know what makes it easier, too? The amazing people I’m surrounded with. I get to play music, exercise, make new friends, laugh and explore home with them. They’ve helped me so much.
Don’t worry, I’ve not given up on travelling. I’ll leave again, when I’m stronger, and well-prepared. I miss the road, I do. I feel the call from the distance, that same call that pushed me to leave in the first place, that tells me that my life doesn’t really belong here, no matter what people would want for me. But for now, I needed to make peace with myself, with my home, before leaving again.
For now, I get to be a tourist in my own country. I’ll tell you more about that next time. 🙂