After 18 months solidly on the road, spanning 12 countries and too many bottles of beer on the beach I returned home 2 weeks ago for a brief UK pitstop – attending  the TBEX Travel conference, getting some solid work done and catching up with friends and family.

But what is it like returning home after so long on the road?

I know a lot of backpackers are worried about leaving home (in which case read my 10 myths of backpacker travel!), but once you start your trip you’ll soon realise the worry is returning home and readjusting to ‘normal’ life.

Well it’s been an odd experience to say the least, filled with good and bad parts – so here’s how I’ve found the whole thing…


Catching Up

backpacker returning home

Catching Up Over A Few Drinks…!

Without a doubt one of the best things about being home again is seeing old faces and catching up. Particularly with family.

I only saw my parents a few months ago when we travelled New Zealand together but other faces like my grandparents and such like are people I haven’t properly seen for the entirety of my trip.

Technology has avoided me getting homesick that much and missing people – even my Grandad bought an iPad so he can text and Facetime me on the road – but it was more the physical contact that we caught up on.

There’s nothing quite like a hug from your grandma is there to welcome you home?!

Catching up with my buddies has been pretty awesome too. One of the things I missed most about home was not being able to surf with them and since my return I’ve been lucky enough to have a few good session up in north Devon – catching up in cold, rainy car parks, out back in the waves and annoying them intently with stories of board short sessions in Bali!


The Familiar

One of the weird things about coming back is that everything is familiar. It’s an odd experience that I find hard to describe…but you kind of slot right back in to where you left of to a large degree.


Returning Home

It’s almost like being in limbo, like the last 18 months were a hazy dream you’ve just woken up from.

Gone are the strange sites and sounds of distant places, gone are the new experiences you had on a daily basis and gone are the numerous backpackers you meet, party and explore with.

The unknown and the excitement are gone, replaced with locations and faces that to a large extent seem untouched by time.

One of the hardest things to overcome is the realisation that you’ve changed a lot – but people you interact with on a daily basis haven’t. They haven’t experienced what you’ve done, learnt what you’ve learnt.

I don’t mean this in an egotistical travel veteran kind of way – but the truth is you’ve changed a hell of a lot and have the experience of the world with you now, it’s an inevitability of life on the road, no matter how slight it may be – you’re the one who has changed.

9 times our of 10 the people you chat with are in the same job, house and relationship. 

My viewpoint on this has altered the longer I’ve been back. At first (and I’m a bit ashamed to admit this) I felt sorry for those people. Sounds bad doesn’t it?! I want them to experience the world and see what I’ve seen – it’s amazing!

But then I realised what do we really want from life? We want to be content and happy. To my friends who truly are happy – I salute and admire you, you’ve found what you wanted, taken it and are content.

…it’s the people that call me lucky and say they’re jealous that I now feel sorry for. They simply need to man up, bite the bullet and put their dreams into action!


Boredom and Productivity

long term travel returning home

The Mug Says It All…

Another inevitable process of coming home is boredom. The first few days were a whirlwind of catch ups, impromptu drinks and banter. This was further extended by the chaos of TBEX!

But now…well…I’m bored!

I’ve grown accustomed to spontaneous trips, an ever changing set of surroundings, meeting hundreds of amazing new people each day.

One of the biggest things I kind of overlooked was the fact everyone has real life 9-5 jobs Monday to Friday and I….errmmm….don’t!

So during the days I’m pretty freaking bored and have sod all to do! Sure I’ve gone for walks and slotted in some surfing – but most of the time I’m plain bored.

This however is what I bargained on! I wanted to be unstimulated so I could be productive! I had a large to do list of stuff that I needed to get in order – and without the distractions of beach parties, dive trips and island hopping I’ve jumped in feet first and I’m making some serious progress.

The work load I’ve covered being at home would’ve taken me months on the road – not least for the unpredictable wifi of Asia but also through the ability of being able to focus!

It’s a double edged sword but I’m using it to my advantage.


Settling Down?!

So has coming home triggered feelings of wanting to settle down?

backpacker bedroom

The Joys Of Having A Private Room Again!

Has being around my family and friends made me think twice about my rather random lifestyle on the road?

Do I appreciate my lush double bed and being greeted in the morning with a cup of tea and biscuits enough to give up noisey, uncomfortable hostel dorms and return home.

Not in the slightest!

I appreciate the time I have to properly recharge, restock and re examine what I’m doing and where I’m heading.

I appreciate the home cooked meals and the friendly faces.

But I’m most definitely in this for the long haul and don’t plan on stopping any time soon if I can help it.

If anything returning home has solidified my decision to live the dream and explore. It’s made me miss travel. It’s made me miss all the stupid little things I almost hated at one point. It’s made me miss…well…my life.


It’s pretty hard to put this in black and white (and I don’t want to upset my mother!) but home isn’t where my life is anymore. 

My life is out there, with backpackers, with all those lost souls in a permanent state of holiday, with the so called nomads who have turned the beaches into their offices.


Home isn’t even where all my stuff is anymore – I have left my possessions scattered across the globe…maybe in an unconscious decision to force myself to keep going and pick it all up at some point!  I haven’t even fully unpacked my stuff yet either!

I’ve appreciated being home.

It has been amazing (and still will be for the couple of weeks I have left) but I’ve finally let myself accept that I doubt I’ll be content in a single place for some time to come, and that single place will probably not be the UK.

But for the time being I’ll enjoy every bite of the home cooked roast, every sip of that cup of tea in bed (seriously I love it!), every cold night in front of the fire and every shiver inducing duck dive of UK surfing.

It’s a reminder of what I left behind, but also a reminder of what I left it for.


Any of you guys return home after a long trip? How was the reverse culture shock for you?


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31 Responses

  1. Sam

    I completely relate, especially to the part about things being familiar, but also weird at the same time. It’s also very odd to see how people’s lives have stayed still, and they are mostly the same while you’ve changed. And yes, I completely agree, the ones to feel sorry for are the ones who say they’re jealous of what you’ve done.
    Sam recently posted..Top 10 Art Galleries and Museums in LimaMy Profile

    • Chris

      Glad it’s not just me Sam! It’s an odd limbo like feeling – stoked to get back on the road again!

  2. Mr. Surfplugs

    Brilliant reading your comments, yes, completely agree about people saying you’re ‘lucky’.. I get it all the time… you’re so lucky to have your own business! .. no i’m not it was a big decision to ditch my 9 to 5 mundane job and a lot of hard feckin work! but I love it an it drives me… so 2 fingers up to the nay sayers man and keep doing it.. I absolutely love the fact that you are out there doing EXACTLY what others just talk about…. and in someway on those days when im surfing on a drizzly monday morning I remember why i made that decision! …. catch up soon. chEARs, Rob,

    • Chris

      Indeed Rob – people don’t realise how much work being self employed can be hey?! But if it can afford us the time to surf and explore the world then it’s worth every minute!
      …and as for drizzle Monday morning surfs…well you know what they say – “a bad day in the water is better than a good day in the office”!

  3. Christina

    Chris I felt exactly the same when I moved back to New York after living in Costa Rica! I found it hard to relate to people for awhile and I also felt bad for most people. Then one day I decided to change how I looked at it; if I don’t want to be judge for my lifestyle I certainly have no right to judge them for theirs! And like you said, if they’re happy then that’s what counts. After all, don’t all travelers love connecting with locals while we’re on the road?! Those people are just our mothers/fathers/high school friends…only in other countries.

    Also I’m super jealous of your cold nights in front of the fire! Having tea while chatting with friends in front of a fire has to be one of my favorite things in the world…after travelling of course :)
    Christina recently posted..Discovering Ireland (Part 1: Dublin)My Profile

    • Chris

      That change of viewpoint is one of the biggest things of my return I think Christina – you can’t judge anyone if you don’t want them to judge you – love the analogy of our parents and friends being the locals of other travellers…I’d never really though of it like that!
      Well you can have my cold nights in front of the fire in exchange for some sunshine!?

  4. Helen

    Great post Chris! Me and the hubby are heading home for a month over Xmas after 19 months away in Indonesia…I’m so excited! Will be back in Indo by new year though. Defo ready for the break, but think i’ll be ready to come back to the sun after a month in the UK winter time. Also have NO cold weather clothes…which means it’s going to be a chilly 24hrs before I get myself to Primark! Haha. Where u off to next? :)

    • Chris

      19 months in Indo?! Wow that’s a pretty epic trip – I love Indo but I’m pretty content with it just for a month at a time – Bali especially can be pretty intense! Good luck with keeping warm!haha!
      I’m actually heading your way before the end of the year…bintang!?

  5. Zara @ Backpack ME

    Nice read!
    I get what you say about going back home.. in the beginning you’re busy catching up but then you realize that everyone else is doing their own scene and you’re just there… when you could be somewhere amazing in the world!
    The other thing that makes it hard to relate is that not only people have 9-5 jobs, but they also LOVE talking about them, bitching about their bosses, the stress, etc.. and then, how can a person relate? Specially when everyone thinks you’re just a bum and you’re on vacation 24/7?! People don’t wanna heart too much about your travel experiences either.. same as you can’t relate to their regular working life, they can’t relate to you telling them how you were living in some village in Asia, or eating amazing street food wherever else in the world.

    Ok, a bit of a rant here.. but you get the point!.. :P
    Zara @ Backpack ME recently posted..The joy of traveling in CambodiaMy Profile

    • Chris

      hahaha I enjoyed that rant Zara – always happy for people to vent travel frustrations!
      I guess people can only really truly relate to things they’ve experienced themselves and the travelling lifestyle isn’t the most common – people are always suspicious of anything that isn’t the social norm – but ah well it’s them thats missing out hey?!

  6. Claire

    This post literally just made me well up because it is exactly how I’m feeling. I just got home from a couple of months in Ghana and it’s like I just don’t fit in anymore but at the same time everything feels exactly the same. I think I need more travel plans :)

    • Chris

      the only way to cure the travel bug is to simply keep travelling Claire! Where’s next on your hit list?

  7. Sarah

    Glad it’s not just me that was born in the wrong country!! I totally agree that UK is no longer home. The journey to find the country that should have been on my birth certificate continues… And it’s the best journey ever!!
    LOVE your blog. By far the best out of the hundreds I have read

    • Chris

      “journey to find the country that should’ve been on my birth certificate” hahaha love that expression! Pretty sure mine should have been Australia!
      Stoked you like the blog too! Seems we just missed each other in Ecuador…I’m in Montanita at the moment!

      • sarah

        Still in Ecuador now, love it!! id love some advice/help. What theme do you use on Word press. I want to buy a decent looking one that you can edit text layout etc? advice on themes would be gratefully recived, thanks

      • Chris

        Me too – you heading this way at all?
        Theme wise I use Theron Pro – try checking out woo themes and theme forest for HEAPS of awesome designs!

      • sarah

        Not sure at the moment, in Otavalo living with an Ecuadorian family trying my hardest to learn spanish haha. and also trying to set up a blog!! thanks for your help!!ill def let you know if im headinjg your way and i will blackmail you with coffee or beer for free advice!!ha

  8. Dale Moore

    I can relate Chris, I just came back from a 3 month backpacking trip in Europe (pretty minor league to you but still a decent length) and am already thinking of ways to get back on the road. It was good to see all my mates again but they look at me in funny ways as though to say your parents are loaded even though I funded my entire trip with 5 year’s worth of part-time work while I was studying.

    • Chris

      Sucks when people don’t realise the effort and sacrifices you made to travel hey Dale? Glad to hear you’re back on the saving plan though and planning a new adventure – where you heading to next?

  9. Tracy

    I’m so glad I found this blog. I have been backpacking the East Coast of Australia for the past 6 weeks on holiday and I am returning back to the US in 2 days. I am scared to death to go home! It’s going to be hard to readjust into a routine after this experience. I will miss meeting new, interesting people!! I get what you mean about feeling sorry for the friends who don’t travel, essentially living in their small bubble and marching on like robots through life–okay the last part is all me (and I feel ashamed, too!! Haha) I’m hoping my attitude towards going home will change!! I’m definitely leaving bits of my heart in Australia and hope to travel again soon!

    • Chris

      Hey Tracy – glad the post helped you out a bit – it’ll be a shock to the system for sure but take it all in little steps and you’ll adjust. If you’re like me though you’ll never be settled and you’ll be totally driven to get on the road again!
      Good luck with returning home – we’ll cross paths on the road again I’m sure!

  10. Jessica

    I love this blog piece, I just came back yesterday from two months in California living and working (minor length to your trip but still) and finding it extremely hard to re adjust to life back home again, I feel the need to turn around an walk back out the door and get on another flight somewhere! It’s like I’m homesick but for travelling. I really hope it goes away soon, please keep updating on your travels an experiences I love to read about other travellers out in the world , after all we are a totally different kind of our own that only fellow travellers will ever fully understand

    • Chris

      Homesick for travel – I love that phrase Jessica!
      It’s a tough readjustment hey, at least it’ll motivate you to start saving and planning again though. I think once you’ve travelled your never going to settle at ‘home’ again anytime soon so I wouldn’t fight it!

  11. John

    Great thoughts. I’m currently half way through 5 months in India, and loving it ofcourse. I have some extra perspective: I traveled for 7 months through Africa 25 years ago and experienced all those things you talk about when I returned. It’s taken me all this time to have another real trip (vs. vacation, you know the difference). But no regrets: I raised 2 amazing boys and have had interesting careers.
    For all those who can’t imagine “settling down”, very very few can manage (or even want) to be eternal nomads. But don’t fear this. From my perspective, the unique experience you are having backpacking will stay with you forever, will shape your thoughts and actions for the rest of your life. You don’t need to resort to a boring job and a white picket fence. Keep the light, you are lucky to have seen so much, leant so much, met so many, so use it (how you treat others, especially different from yourself, what is important in a job, and what isn’t, what you need in accommodation, and what is luxury you can afford to give up [maybe so you can save for a trip every few years!]). My point is, it doesn’t need to be either / or, traveler or boring person. Apply your travel experience to inform a more fulfilling life.
    My $0.02 worth.
    Cheers mate!
    John, 51
    John recently posted..14. A Jungle Paradise: the Northeastern StatesMy Profile

    • Chris

      What a great perspective John – glad to hear how travel changed your life and how you’ve found a balance you’re happy with. Indeed I do have a rather extreme perspective on it now given my time on the road but you’re right, no need to side on the extremes of either side, it’s all about finding your own personal balance of the two that supports your lifestyle choices.
      Stoked that your time in Africa had such a great impact on you – I really need to explore it more!

  12. Carrie

    So much of this is true. We just returned home after 7 months in Asia and New Zealand. Only 5 days back and I am already struggling to readjust.
    We travelled as a couple and we gave up our house to go away, along with selling a lot of our possessions (although now I’m back I still think we have too much stuff, funny how constantly being on the road makes you realise that you really don’t need a lot of things).
    We are having to live separately now we’re back, it was worth it for the trip and the experiences we had, but all we can think about is getting back on the road!
    Not sure I can ever settle back into “normal life” again!
    Carrie recently posted..New Zealand’s North Island in under a week!My Profile

    • Chris

      Stoked to hear you had a great adventure in Asia and NZ, where did you explore? Indeed returning back is always going to be a huge adjustment after that long on the road…fingers crossed you get back out thee again soon!

  13. Kal

    This is great. Really comforting to know it happens to all travellers. Really struggling with home after 22 months. Definitely confirmed passions for travel. All of the perspectives above sum it up beautifully : )

  14. Jorge

    Just back from a 14-month-trip around Asia and Australia and stumbled upon your article while trying to ease the pain reading other travelers’ ways to deal with it. Great read sir! Can totally relate to it.

    • Chris

      Awwwww no Jorge – I hope you’re coping ok?
      What was your favourite adventure? And more importantly…whens the next one!?


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