So you just returned from traveling abroad. Undoubtedly it was a life-changing experience, rife with cultural diversity and unforgettable adventures. You can’t wait to see everyone back home and unleash your adventurous stories upon them. Except, wait a minute — everyone is rolling their eyes. After three years of throwing world-altering experiences, nobody seems to give a single care about the ways in which you’ve changed. This may be your cue to step back. It’s hard to come home but it’s also hard to welcome someone home when they seem significantly disinterested in being there. If everyone’s getting a little bit sick of your travel stories, here are a few alternate ways to approach things.
1. Be present when spending time with friends
If everyone is talking about the new Matthew McConaughey movie coming out this weekend, it may not be the best time to declare that you didn’t have time for movies in Malaysia because the ocean was like, right there, and it’s soooo weird to be back. You also don’t need to bring up the quality of wine in Italy when you’re splitting a bottle of cheap liquor store booze over a potluck dinner. These musings may be comforting to you when you’re feeling travel-sick, but they only serve to belittle the experiences you’re having right now. It doesn’t make those in your presence feel like you’re particularly happy to be around them.
2. Be interested in other people’s experiences at home
If you want someone to ask you a million questions about the past few years you spent abroad, you have to ask them an equal amount of questions about the past few years they spent at home. Assuming that you had a more meaningful experience in Israel than they had in Ohio is not a fair assumption. The big changes can happen anywhere, anytime. Don’t get so caught up in your own life-changing events that you assume they haven’t happened to anyone else.
3. Know to whom you should turn with your travel stories
Reminiscing about your Australian friend Jack’s inability to sing karaoke is not a particularly interesting topic for someone who’s never met Jack. Yes, you are probably a bit lonely now that the people you spent so much time bonding with are half a world away. But this is one of the prices you pay for traveling. It’s lonely sometimes. We can’t expect other people to pay endless attention to us because we put ourselves in the situation of investing in a community we’d have to leave. Call up Jack. That is why they invented Skype. Stop driving your poor, patient friends from home crazy.
4. Let people plan their own trips
One of the fun parts about being home is that people will come to you for travel advice. While this can be an awesome opportunity to share in someone else’s excitement, it’s also important to remember that it’s them going on the trip, not you. Just because you had a less-than-fabulous experience in Rome doesn’t mean they’re going to hate it there as well. Just because the rural Cambodian village you spent four months in changed your life doesn’t mean it’s going to change someone else’s. Resist the urge to poo-poo someone else’s plans unless you’re 100% sure that your experience relates.
5. Don’t shy away from new memories
There are a million new experiences you can make right in your own backyard, and not a single one lacks the potential to be just as meaningful as the time you spent abroad. Remember the friends who loved, supported and missed you the whole time you were gone? They’re probably half-decent people. They’re probably worth making some new karaoke-fueled memories with, even if they don’t have an Australian accent.
The more time you spend clinging onto the past, the more chances you are missing to start over. Maybe there’s more travel in your future. Maybe there’s not. But incessantly glorifying your previous experiences is only going to drive yourself and everyone else up the wall. There is a whole world waiting for you when you return home from traveling abroad. Don’t be shy to travel through it, too.