They say it takes at least six months to come to terms with moving back home after living abroad. I remember reading so many self-help articles on reverse culture shock, and six was often the magic number that came up. At the time, I thought I could defeat the six month mark by forcing myself to begin the job search ASAP and establish a routine ASAP.
But just like break ups, trying to outsmart the natural process of moving on only made it worse.
In the first month, I spent some time traveling to soften the blow of my decision to leave the life I’ve created somewhere else. The second month was all about agonizing over a time that would never return and paying homage to it through writing. The third was about establishing a routine back home by finally brining myself to look for a job and seeing my friends regularly. The fourth, a continuation of the third, with less breakdowns.
If you’re lucky, by the fifth month, like me, you would already have a job, or things lined up. And when that time happens, expect birth pains from adjusting to a new job, new workmates and a schedule that is more normal than what you were used to.
But, for whatever reason, the sixth month brings clarity, without you even realizing it’s already been six months since you left your old home abroad. Without you realizing that routine is not so bad. Without you realizing that you haven’t seen your friends from abroad for that long.
When you do get in touch with them, things are different yet still the same -your relationship enriched by new and separate experiences, but still bound by that special time you were all destined to meet in that part of the world.
Maybe part of why you left home that time was because you were afraid of routine. You were afraid to dedicate your life to the four walls of a concrete building, afraid of settling, afraid of not living life to the fullest.
You probably also left your home abroad because what was once exciting had already become routine, and you can’t see yourself living the way you did forever.
But at the six-month mark after coming home, routine feels ok – at least for now.
Routine makes you appreciate the small surprises that come your way, it makes you appreciate the things you once took for granted.
It may be a visit from a longtime friend, an impromptu drive with your family to the countryside, or just time to recharge in a familiar place- after your tumultuous years abroad. You realize that routine isn’t as bad as it seems and is simply a state of mind. You can break away from it if you want to, regardless of where you are in the world or what your situation is.
And it is not determined by what job you have, but how you spend your time and how you set your mind.
At the sixth month mark, I realized I made the right decision of coming back home, because I can’t imagine myself anywhere else – at least for now.
I can’t see myself starting over somewhere else, I can’t see myself getting a random job just to live in another country, I can’t see myself suspending everything I valued yet again for uncertainty. More than it being a safe decision, it was the decision I just knew in my heart, logic aside, that I had to make.
At the six month mark, I picked up a guidebook to explore my own country, determined to have the same wanderlust I did for exploration when I was abroad. I went out, less than when I was abroad, but enough to keep things interesting. I wrote – a passion I rediscovered after the perspective I gained from living abroad. I rediscovered the things I loved to do before living abroad and all the distractions that came with it. And everything is meshing together well, so far, thanks to routine.
I’m not yet completely ok, but I’m ok enough to want to stay where I am.
I think routine brings me balance – and balance is what I need right now.
That’s probably why I came back home. And just because I did, it doesn’t mean that I’m settling. It just means that I am preparing myself for even bigger adventures to come, from the place I grew up in – the place call home, for now.