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The Case of the Returned Traveler

I spent the past year living a stationary life in America. I realize I didn’t write much, and it wasn’t necessarily because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I didn’t deem the things I had to say as blog-appropriate. It was a rather dark year for me, mood-wise, for a host of reasons I will not get into (for the same reason why I didn’t get into them before now), and I couldn’t find a way to write about the negativity I was battling in a public space. I tend to shy away from publishing anything negative in my blog, not because I want to pretend these things never happen but because I honestly don’t know how to write about them to you.

I think that’s okay and for now it will stay that way. But it’s my blog, my rules, so maybe one day I will experiment and write something negative/outspoken/controversial. No promises either way!

Halloween: Doing American things in America
Halloween: Doing American things in America

What I do want to write about is a recent realization that has left me reeling. After living at home for so long in a relatively conventional lifestyle, I learned that it is entirely possible to unlearn everything you have learned while on the road.

Well I just didn’t think that was possible. I understood travel to work in an additive way, like you go have your trip and you learn/grow/change and that’s that. Then you go have another trip and do some more learning/growing/changing on top of the previous learning/growing/changing, and in this way you continue to build upon yourself.

It’s just not so.

Life as a grad student
Life as a grad student

All of the patience, the flexibility, the “letting go of control” – I unlearned it all! I won’t say I completely went back to square one, pre-Thailand, pre-Australia even – but I definitely regressed. Afraid, neurotic, dependent: I encountered all of this within the past few months before departing for Peru. (Still got those packing skills though!)

Snowy Baltimore times
Snowy Baltimore times

This isn’t really a bad thing, I guess, it’s more just an observation. Just as I have unlearned things I suppose I can relearn them again. I think there is a lesson here, though, that could be relevant for one-time travelers like college students who do a study abroad and then never travel again, or really anybody:

You can’t just plan a big trip and it changes you forever and that’s it. It may change you, but there is always the potential to change back. How can we alter our conventional lifestyle to maintain the lessons we learned while traveling?

24 comments

  1. Evanne says:

    I totally relate to this! I’ve been in America for a year now as well after living and traveling around Southeast Asia for a year… it’s super easy to fall back into the routine isn’t it? Especially after a year. But having a blog to look back on is a great reminder!

    • mishvo says:

      Haha yes indeed! That’s so true. I love going through old blog posts and reminiscing. Although sometimes I read stuff I wrote a few years ago and I’m like how was that me??

  2. I agree travelling brings out the best in us. Before travelling we didnt even know if could handle worst of situations. I have learned to patient and flexible as you said I hope to continue to be so anf travel a lot

  3. Sheri says:

    I have always been a traveler and a mover, our family moved so many times growing up, then I moved a lot and lived in different countries as an adult so I never actually got to return a place called “home” that I went back to. I have now settled into living in one country and in a comfort zone – there are so many things I learned over the years and hope to carry with me forever.

  4. Liana says:

    I totally relate to that! I just came from a 6 months travelling life, and now I feel stuck until the next one. I do need to travel around and I feel like whilst I grow so much, I’m afraid I could rewind a bit, and be stuck once again like I was for the 2 past year. I guess, the work is still on and you gotta do everything to learn and grown more and more! Life at its best x

    http://tomboychronicle.com/

  5. Chantae says:

    I think it’d be powerful if you wrote about the negative thoughts, if you found the words. It’s a bit scary how quickly we can regress to our old selves pre-travel but there’s always hope of relearning 😛 We as people are constantly in flux. Thanks for the reminder <3

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Chantae, thank you for commenting. It’s true – the only thing that is constant is change.

      I think a lot of the negativity I was battling at the time was related to the graduate program I was in and I felt so stifled because I was afraid that if I said bad things about it online, it would affect my job prospects. I don’t like having to be careful about what I post on the Internet because I’m a blogger and sharing stuff about my life is part of the gig! In the future I think I will just let it out because holding it all in was making me even more miserable. And I wouldn’t even be able to pretend like I liked my program if I were interviewed in person so it would come out anyways.

  6. Liz says:

    I definitely relate to this sentiment. I have gone back and forth in the past 7 years of my life and I don’t think the feeling lasts when I get back home. I seem to revert back to my old ways, drinking sodas, watching tv series and thinking only about money. I wish I could make the travel feeling last longer.

    • mishvo says:

      YES. It’s weird though – like what is it about conventional life that makes us “watch tv series and only think about money”??

  7. Rachel says:

    Traveling can teach us great lessons and help us learn more about ourselves and our travel companions that’s for sure! I also think it has to do with expectations. If you expect travel to give you this huge life changing revelation, you may well be disappointed. And vice Versa of course!

  8. Wow, I was hoping that the patience I have learned on the road would stick with me when I do decide to return home. Laurel has always been more so than me and it is one of the things that I thank has been the best for me on the road. Hope you are able to pick up everything as before and learned habits are always much easier to rekindle than learning them the first time.

    • mishvo says:

      Hi John! Interesting what you said about being able to pick up habits again easily versus learning them the first time, I never thought about it that way.

  9. Tamz says:

    I just returned home from a 4 month trip across Indonesia and Thailand. I totally understand what you might be feeling. It’s like two different worlds for us. One at home – full of “realities” – and the other on the road filled with realities we want to embrace. Anyhow, good for me that I am again moving next month

  10. Siniciliya says:

    I think I understand what you mean and I think that this unlearning could actually mean something different. At least this come from my experience. What if the knowledge you had is not relevant anymore? It just doesn’t work, you have grown. And you might have subconsciously cleared some space for new knowledge to come? Could it be that?

    • mishvo says:

      Those are some interesting questions that I don’t think I’ve asked myself. I think you’re right that the lessons you learn while traveling are “use it or lose it” – so if it’s not relevant because you’re not traveling, then you don’t practice and then you “lose it”

  11. Tina says:

    I can totally agree with it. But do you know in what way? (Its sometimes a bit scary)!.
    I grow up in Germany and now I have been traveling in Australia for more than 2 years already. Sometimes I really have to think about my mother tongue and it is easier for me to find the word I am looking for in my second language xD scary or? Did you ever experience this?

  12. shivansh says:

    I feel you, I just returned from a 2 weeks trip to china and now im feeling like i’m at a different place than my home altogether and it doesn’t feel natural to me anymore!

  13. Sanket D. says:

    I can relate with this entirely. Juggling travel and full-time work is a challenge, and the long breaks between trips can be taxing on the blog sometimes, but I’d honestly encourage you to write about the negative parts just as much. They are extremely powerful when done right, and I’m sure I speak for many of your readers – we’d also like to hear more about your struggles as we enjoy reading about your stories on the road 🙂

  14. yes travelling gives more knowledge about life and can experience life of people of other state or country which will rather make us a better person and every negative part is a better lesson.

  15. Sarah says:

    Yes to this sister- isn’t it so hard! I was the best version of me while I lived and working abroad in Maldives- I never complained or got frustrated, I was totally relaxed, patient, and in return my body felt more awake, I hardly ever suffered with muscle pains (I have a chronic condition so not feeling pain is rare for me!) then when I came home or when I moved to Italy, I was pretty much back to boring Sarah, getting annoyed over nothing etc etc.

  16. Ann Lin says:

    It’s interesting to say how you can unlearn everything you have learned while on the road. We are always changing but at the same time, always moving forward. But I also think that you can’t necessarily expect monumental personal change from travel. You can have amazing experiences but it is truly what you make of them, from your time there to the memories. I don’t think you can necessarily unlearn, but perhaps your perceptions have changed, and that’s not always so bad.

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