Travelers always talk about how there is a readjustment period when returning home from long-term travel. Sometimes they talk about how roaming the earth can make them feel a bit lost (it reminds me of my time with the intriguing traveler). I can attest to both of these feelings, as I’ve experienced them many times in my travels throughout the years.
How funny it is that the same thing that sets us free and puts us in awkward situations also has the ability to make us feel trapped or lost.
My Time Feeling Lost
As I was scavenging through random old folders on my computer last night, I came across a brief post I wrote a few years ago after leaving Central Asia (but never published) that portrayed some of these feelings:
What can I say? A lot has happened in the past 5 months that has left me feeling both hopeful and lost, at the same time. What a combo. Some days I’m just not sure how to feel. I left America with a plan to test the waters with Russian, to learn, and to experience the world from a solo perspective.
Along the way, there were many highs and lows.
Sometimes I would see backpackers, real backpackers, walking down Sovietskaya in Bishkek with their guidebooks in hand. “Oh, tourists,” I would say. “Wait, I’m a tourist, too.” And just then, some random local person on the street would stop me and ask for directions, in Russian.
It’s safe to say that by the end of my stint in Central Asia, I became a person somewhere in the middle – not a local, but not a backpacker anymore. Expat? Not quite either.
I was confused more and more for Russian as my hair got blonder from the sun and my clothes became more local. But, not quite there.
The same goes for my Russian language knowledge. I knew a lot about the language, but I was definitely lacking the conversational skills. I was no longer a beginner, but definitely not where I knew I wanted to be.
I may currently be home with uncertain plans, but I don’t think I’m done with Central Asia. Even though I definitely felt like giving up Russian lessons some days, I don’t think I’m done with those either.
During my trip home, I didn’t know where I was going next. My main goal was to try to get a job in a country that speaks Russian in order to save some money; otherwise, I planned to return to K-stan and learn both Russian and Kyrgyz. Obviously, I got that job teaching English in Ukraine, and I’m thankful I did because it resulted in me being in the Baltics at just the right time and meeting Patrick.
Feeling Lost Between Travel
One of the lost feelings portrayed in this post deals with the unknowing in between all the excitement of travel, and these are seriously some of the worst times. When I first returned home from my semester in Italy, I refused to turn my cell phone on or do much of anything except for reminisce through travel photos and lay in bed.
I was reading a post by Christine on Almost Fearless about how she was feeling in a funk. They had just returned to Chiang Mai after a year of roaming around the world as a family (with an adorable baby!) and she just wasn’t knowing what to do with herself.
Along the same lines, a friend was telling me before about his experience sky diving here in Australia. For him, it was such an exhilarating experience (much like travel) that normal day-to-day life became unsatisfying and bland. After a while, you start to feel lost and wondering when the next adventure will begin.
I guess these periods are a bit depressing, am I right?
Feeling Lost in a Place
More than just the period in between travel, there is also the idea in this post about feeling lost in a place when you can’t quite categorize yourself as one way or another. As stated in the blurb, I was in Bishkek for a period of several months, and that left me feeling quite distanced from the backpacker scene (what little one was there), and yet still nowhere near the expat scene. Sure, I was living there and paying bills and buying groceries, but it wasn’t in a sense that I was buying household furniture, seeking a paycheck or applying for long-term visas. I was a slow traveler.
Losing What You Built
Slow travel also made me feel like I left a piece of myself in Bishkek — like I had built up a bit of a life there, learning about the culture as much as I could, and then left. I think this aspect of slow travel has benefits, such as the ability to enrich your life with the new people you meet and the experiences you have, but it can also make you feel — at times — like you don’t have a home base.
I guess you’ve got to take the good with the bad.
Let’s End on a Positive Note
Because travel is not really a depressing activity, and I don’t want you to be scared away from the idea of long-term or slow travel, I’d much rather like to end this post on a positive note!
For the past few years, I have found myself saying, “Oh, yes, I will return to Central Asia.” Time passes, other opportunities come up, and others are passed. Finally, after seeing the final lines in this piece, I am happy to say that I am returning. How cool is that?!