Today I’m coming home from a two week modeling tour of Texas. I’ve been so excited for this trip: I’ve gotten the chance to work with incredible artists (whose images I’ll hopefully be sharing with you soon) and spend time with some of my favorite people (like the incomparable Keira Grant).
I love traveling. There’s something about being on the road that feels fulfilling in a way that staying home never does. I’m sure if you’ve traveled before, you’ve felt that sense of belonging as well. But no matter how much you love traveling, I don’t think you ever stop missing home when you’re gone. Those feelings get even stronger the closer it gets to the end of a trip. Soon, you can’t stop thinking about family, friends, loved ones, and your own bed.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to context switch between being “on the road” and “at home.” Here’s the best things I’ve found to reintegrate back into my “normal” home life, and get back into sync with the people and things that I love, no matter how big or small the adventure.
How to Come Home
—Life changing experiences are like relationships, and ending them is like a breakup. You will go through the same emotional roller coaster, especially with more intense experiences. Acknowledging that you’re going to have a strong emotional response is the first step. Expect to feel hollow. Expect to feel at times that it wasn’t worth your effort. Also expect to feel nostalgia.
Remember that rule of thumb that it takes half the length of the relationship to move on? It applies in this situation too. If you’re coming home from a two-week modeling tour, expect to be restless for about a week. If you’ve lived overseas for the past year, expect to be unsettled for the next few months. And if you have been living on the road or finished a multi-year adventure, expect it to take quite some time.
—Develop a homecoming ritual. Repeating the same few steps at every homecoming allows you to transition back into the normal world more smoothly. For me, a homecoming always starts with a shower and a nap. I am often surprised how much easier it is to change contexts when I am clean and well-rested. Think of it as a metaphorical cleansing, or even a rebirth. I then have a cup of tea, for some solitary contemplation of what I just experienced. I’ve started to associate the taste of a specific blend of green tea with the idea that it’s time to re-center and come home. For me, it’s gen mai cha; I recommend you find your own particular reminder.
—Celebrate. A homecoming should involve a celebration. It gives you a strong, positive memory to associate with the end of your endeavor.
A celebration can be as elaborate as a fancy party, or as low-key as a nice dinner with friends. It also doesn’t have to be a traditional social gathering, but I find that the positive feedback from others helps. A source of external validation can make everything seem more real. Yes, you did succeed at that amazing thing. And yes, you’re back now.
—Always make sure you have another goal within arm’s reach. Or at least, have a direction in mind. One of the worst things you can do is to come home aimless. A lack of purpose and a feeling of transition have a way of magnifying each other, and can easily spiral into procrastination, depression, and a feeling of meaninglessness. A great way to avoid this spinning in circles is to know where you’re headed, and what your next step forward is.
After a homecoming, I personally like to focus on a goal that’s small enough that it still feels attainable, and that I can easily see all of the necessary next actions to accomplish it. I don’t come home and try to write a novel. I come home and try to write a blog post.
—Give yourself time to do nothing. Although it’s great to know where you’re going next, that doesn’t mean you have to jump into it right when your plane touches the ground. All of these steps are meant to give yourself a break between here and there, or between new and old. Always remember to give yourself the time you need to create that space.
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Homecomings don’t have to be just from travel. You can get the same feeling of transition from finishing up an important project as you do coming back from a trip. In the same way, you can use these steps on either occasion. I go through them whenever I accomplish a big goal or come back from an adventure. I’ll be working through them as I finally come home from Texas, too.