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.
Comments (8) on “The Hardest Part about Coming Home”
I feel the exact same way coming back to the states after living in Mexico for 18 months. This was a great post. You really helped me see the silver lining in what I thought a bleak circumstance. Thank you for sharing!
Hey Kelsey, thanks for the thoughtful comment. It’s always comforting to know that someone else can relate. I bet you had an amazing time living in Mexico! I’d love to hear about it. What were you doing there?
Awesome…no matter the adventure, there’s nothing like home…until it’s gone…then family and friends become our new home…
Well said 🙂
We didn’t feel ‘culture shock’ per say when we returned after 14 months, and it was incredibly easy to slip right back into pre-travel life rhythms. For us it was the conspicuous consumption that stood out the most, but only for a few weeks. Now, after a year of being back, I will say that it’s actually gotten harder than when we first returned — we yearn to be back on the road, and we know that we’ve changed and experienced things that have made us ever so slightly different from majority of our friends. We try not to talk about our travels too much, but we constantly have to keep ourselves in check about that!
Beautifully said, Jenia. You just summed up everything on my mind. It’s interesting to hear that you missed it more after some time. I can certainly see how that will probably be true for us as well.
Great post! I can relate after the military has sent me numerous places around the world so far. Some people want to hear about it and sometimes you don’t know how much you should share. Great work putting it into words how it feels coming back home sometimes!
Thanks for the comment, Thomas. It’s always fun to hear when others can relate. Hope all is going well for you 🙂