Being back at home has been a whirlwind of coffee dates, dinners and gatherings filled with questions I knew would be coming.
“What foods did you miss most from home?” Cheese, craft beer, guacamole, and Greek yogurt. In that order.
“What was Korea like?” It’s hard to sum up a country in just a couple words, but in short: vibrant, full of life, crowded, fast-paced, and beautiful.
“What was the hardest part about living overseas?” Being in a time zone 14 hours ahead of home made it hard to talk to friends or family on a whim.
I’ve gotten so used to hearing these questions that I can ramble off the answers without really thinking.
But there’s one question that I wasn’t expecting.
“What’s the hardest part about coming home?”
Boom. Great question. I was so focused on trying to explain Korea that I hadn’t even thought about the challenges I was encountering on my transition home.
Although I hadn’t seen it coming, I didn’t have to think about my response before it came tumbling out of my mouth. My answer may surprise you. No, it wasn’t reverse culture shock or even jet lag.
The hardest part about being home is that it’s so incredibly easy to be back. The hardest part is that I didn’t have reverse culture shock. The hardest part is that although I’ve only been back a month, my year in Korea seems like a lifetime ago.
I left home at the end of summer, and now I’ve returned at the same time of year. It feels almost as if life has just continued and my year in Korea got sucked up into a time continuum. Like some sort of hazy dream.
I had an unbelievable year filled with new experiences and explored a side of the world I’d never seen. I made lifelong friends and learned more about myself than ever before. It’s been difficult to figure out how to communicate this life-changing experience with family and friends. And not everybody wants to hear about it. It’s easy to sound douchey when you talk about travel, and I know as well as anyone that nobody wants to hear stories on end that they weren’t a part of (unless you’re reading a travel blog, of course!).
More challenging yet has been processing what the past year has meant to me. I am no longer the same person I was when I left for Korea just over a year ago, yet somehow, being home feels so normal. I still remember which floorboards creak in my parents’ home and I can drive around town without pausing to remember directions.
It’s made me question just how meaningful my time overseas was if I can slip back into life without missing a beat.
But I’ve realized that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s kind of comforting to know that there’s a place in this world that will always be a source of normalcy. And no matter how long I’ve been away or how much I’ve changed, I can always come home.
I’ve accepted that just because I didn’t have an overwhelming case of reverse culture shock doesn’t diminish my experience over the past year. I made a home in Korea, and now I’m in another place I call home. Both have their own culture, food, and people. Both are normal in their own way. And both will always hold a special place in my heart.