How do you feel after coming home from being abroad?
My grandmother used to say that soon after coming home she felt like she never had been away. Maybe for her traveling was like taking a nap in the middle of the day. Waking up confused but refreshed and rarely fundamentally changed. When I come to think about it, she never really felt that she fitted in, so she tried even harder to dissolve in. Of course you also have to take into account the Soviet times and the socialist sameness and everyone trying to be a copy of each other.
I am Russian born, German raised and traveling as much as I can. I am confused about the meaning of home. And I used to travel in order to change. Or find the real me – to borrow all the cliché. Some people don’t travel to change, but eventually a change of scene is a change of the within. Whether you allow it to alter you or can keep it up in familiar structures are separate questions.
I encountered a few traveling blogs where was written that the hardest part about traveling is the coming home part. The traveller has changed but home stayed the same. Apparently. (I argue that even if things stayed the same, there was a process going on. So things are the same but they are slightly altered than before, if you take a closer look.) However, the experience is often a feeling not to fit in anymore. The realization that it is doing a world of good to see old friends, but left with the bitter feeling of being worlds apart.
In science there is a term – reverse culture shock. It is like a culture shock, but backwards. In social and cultural anthropology the term culture shock is not a very popular guy. But if I look at it as an emic term though, it is okayed. Meaning it is okay when people say they have a culture shock – this is their way of expressing their experience. Me, on the other hand, shall not name it culture shock to describe their experience. Earlier this year I was in China and Hong Kong with the aim to research the culture shock of migrants living there. I ended up talking with foreigners about their life worlds and was in the end more interested in how they felt when they came back home for a visit or tried to live at home for a while.
A couple of days ago I came home from two weeks holidays in Ireland. In Galway we stayed over Couchsurfing with a young couple who were traveling for a year and just settled back in domesticated life, with a townhouse, a playstation, a table
and a bird. It was a wild bird and they fed it everyday until it came closer and closer to the doorstep until it was tamed. Eventually it disappeared one day. Leaving a bag of bird food, but not the color of the wheat fields.