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Jan 02 2013

An Unexpected Side Effect Of Extended Travel

travel, post travel, extended travel

A neighbour’s daughter recently returned from 4 months travelling around Asia and she reminded me of something that I found difficult when I returned after a year of travelling around the world: an unexpected side effect.

I had heard of reverse culture shock or re-entry shock, whatever you want to call it.  It’s basically when you have difficulty readjusting to your own culture when you return home.  What I didn’t realise was how my perception of things changed during that year away, which included my perception of possessions.  My year travelling around the world was a real eye-opener in many ways.  One thing I learned was realising that I actually need relatively little to live happily.  In a culture of excess, it was a good lesson to learn and one that has changed the way I live my life.

So, the unexpected side effect that I am specifically referring to here is… no longer needing to live out of a backpack and excess.  That might sound like it should be a relief and a positive thing but I actually found it really difficult.  When I returned home and was finally reunited with the clothes I had put into storage, I felt very overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do with it all.  It’s strange because before, I left for my travels, I had the perennial problem of never having anything to wear.  Can you relate to that?  Then, having returned from a year away, the sheer amount of clothes laid out in front of me was just too much and I couldn’t understand why I used to think I never had anything to wear.  It was a bizarre situation.  So, what did I do?  I sorted through all the clothes I had.  I kept what I needed and gave away the excess to charity.

Because I had gotten used to moving from place to place, I found it hard to adjust to having more clothes so I continued to live as if I was still travelling even though I wasn’t.  I kept washing the clothes I had travelled with and wore them on my days off.  In addition, I stored all the clothes I had in my backpack and holdall.  Over time, I readjusted and used my travel clothes less and less and started to make use of the wardrobe.

If you have had an extended travel experience, did you experience this?  I would love to hear from you whether you did or not.

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

4 comments

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  1. Savannah Grace

    Oh definitely! When I was 14 my mom decided to pack up and leave everything behind to take the whole family backpacking for a year. The trip turned into 4 years. I definitely had moreculture shock going back hone to Vancouver than I ever did going out. So many things r just… Well, shocking!! Its amazing how many things you suddenly realize you took for granted. Hot water, electricity, clean sheets, ice cubes, street lights etc etc. My biggest struggle was fitting in with my peers. I was 18 when I went back and suddenly I could not relate and the stuck up, naive, spoilt attitudes were hard for me to stomach. I didn’t have the same shock with clothing because by the time I got home everything in storage was too small for me.
    Travel truly is amazing and teaches you so much about life, the world and yourself.
    Thanks for sharing this post! I look forward to know of other culture shocks.

  2. independenttravelhelp.com

    Thanks for your comment, Savannah. I can relate to everything you’ve said. Yes, travel does teach people so much. I learned a heck of a lot!

  3. Alice

    It must have been hard to suddenly have excess of so much stuff haha! My cousin just came back form Australia, which she lived in for half a year, and she’s adjusting back to the way we talk now with her Australian slang!

  4. independenttravelhelp.com

    Hi Alice.
    Yes, it can be difficult to adjust in many ways when you return from a period of extended travel or living in another country for a period of time, as your sister did.
    All my best to you and your sister.
    Teresa 🙂

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