What Happens When You Come Home: Lessons From A Year-Long Backpacking Journey Around The World

In a dingy hotel room in Aurangabad, India some five months into an epic around-the-world vagabond journey, I video-chatted my mom, feeling nauseous and barfy. I’d grown accustomed to stomach problems after eating in India, but this time I was emotionally worn as well. Months of instability on the road combined with the chaos and discomfort that is India sometimes left me feeling battered, weary and longing for the familiar life I’d left behind. I’d come to cherish basics long taken for granted — toilet paper, warm showers, the ease of stability.

“Sometimes you will doubt what you are doing, and you may romanticize the old days when things were easier and more predictable, but then you will suddenly remember that the old way was false and never worked for you and that’s why everything had to change.” — Jeff Foster

At the time, I was in denial about my own weariness, afraid to admit it, even to myself. A journey this far was something I’d dreamed about doing for as long as I could remember, and once I was in the midst of it, I didn’t want to admit that at times, it was just plain hard.

Instead, I optimistically recounted a day of adventure to my mom — the ancient Buddhist caves we’d explored, the beautiful stone carvings of Ganesha, and the head-bobbling stone carver we’d met at the market. My mom listened and asked, won’t it be difficult to return home after such a journey? Will a traditional working life seem boring and stale after fifteen months seeing the world?

I worried about this for days afterwards. I wondered if in finally living my dream, I would ultimately damage my future self, rendering me incapable of living a stable, traditional life, as I had before. Had I seen too much (and is that even possible)? Having been all over the world, would life back home feel dull and unsatisfying?

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