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When living abroad for 1 year, or 20 years, there is always the thought of eventually settling down and going home. But how exactly do you handle moving back home after living abroad?
For us travellers who loved our lives abroad, it can be just as scary coming back home as it was leaving in the first place. As strange as it might sound, I get more nervous about returning to the UK than I do embarking on a new visa somewhere else.
I’ll be honest, I left my UK home in 2015 and have completed multiple back-to-back gap years since then. Each time I visit home for just a few weeks about once a year.
I love visiting my family and friends. However, I still get itchy feet waiting to continue my long-term travels so the thought of settling down and staying in the UK long-term doesn’t match up with my ideal lifestyle right now. I’ve also been away from home for almost a decade now so the UK doesn’t feel like my home any more either.
So, why is it so hard to readjust to home life after an extended time overseas? What can we do to make it easier on ourselves?
Prepare for your move in advance
If you moved abroad knowing it was temporary then you can technically plan for your return home early on. The only time this doesn’t work is if you need to end your year abroad at short notice.
When you’re able to plan ahead of time, you can ease yourself back into that way of life without too much stress. The stressful part of living abroad is the initial move and is the same both ways, you’ll need to find a place to live, a job, work out transport options, phone plans and more which can seem like a lot.
Being proactive and planning in advance will help you a great deal to handle moving back home after living abroad and relieve as much stress as possible.
Catch up with family and friends
When you first move overseas, you’ll no doubt miss at least someone from back home. It’s often one of the hardest things about moving abroad to begin with, and can be one of the main contributing factors to homesickness,
After finally moving back home one of the best things you can do after living abroad is reconnect with people. Reach out to your friends and family and start catching up on all that time you had apart. Having people you care about who also care about you close by is one of the main ways to feel at home in any place and can help you settle back into home life.
Know that things may have changed
When you spend a long time away from home, there will no doubt be many things that change. The physical location could have had a modern revamp, as well as the people that live there growing up and doing different things with their lives.
This can make moving back home after being abroad difficult if you have lost contact with some of your loved ones. Even when you try to keep regular communication, it can be tricky with big time zone differences. Plus different work and life schedules, it’s expected for things to be worlds away from what they were before you left.
If you were only away for 1 year, there may not be too much that’s different compared to a decade but you should be prepared that you might not be able to easily slot back into the life you once had at home.
Be aware that things might be the same
On the other hand, you might find that things are in fact the exact same. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on you now. If you left your home town because you were unhappy to begin with, then it can certainly be harder to adjust to moving back home after living abroad.
If you’ve changed a lot as a person during your time away with new interests, and a new sense of maturity then it might be difficult to return to a place that almost stood still all this time. It seems to be a common topic for other long-term travellers who return home and find their loved ones are still doing the same routines they were doing 6 years ago.
Try exploring your home country
If living abroad hasn’t cured your need for travel then you should consider exploring your home country around your work schedule. You can often notice the beauty of home after being away for a while so why not explore places you haven’t been to before? For example, in the UK I had never travelled much outside of London until after I returned from my first gap year.
You don’t need to stay in the same town when you return from living abroad so there will be plenty of places to visit after moving back home. This can create a soothing feeling to your need for travel especially if you find it hard coming to terms with being back in your home country.
Understand you’ll likely experience culture shock
You might be wondering how you can have culture shock returning to the place you’re from. The truth is, when you spend a long time in another location, the way of life there can rub off on you. It can be through little things such as phrases, terminologies or food. Or it could be much larger cultural differences such as the treatment of the LGBTQ communities or the safety of women.
When you head back to a place so different to the most recent place you’ve called home, you will no doubt notice the differences and be reminded of just how different the two places are.
Plan things to look forward to
If you’re struggling with moving back home after living abroad, one of my top tips is to start making a list of things you can look forward to. When you have positive things to think about, it’ll make your new situation much easier to deal with while you get used to it.
Start off small. Start making plans with friends and celebrate the small wins. When you get a job, maybe a pet, start dating. If you still have a love for travel but you want to set down some “roots”, nothing is stopping you from booking a holiday the following year or visiting the friends you left behind in your gap year destination.
By having things to look forward to you can start to enjoy yourself again, your adventure doesn’t have to end just because you are back home.
Be prepared to make new connections
If you have been living abroad for long enough, many of your contacts may have moved away from your home town too. This means that you may need to be prepared to make new friends when you return. Although you may have been great at this during your expat experience, it can feel daunting needing to start again in a place you’ve lived before.
Whether home or not, you can apply many of the same techniques to meet people and try to make friends after returning. When you have a solid foundation and stable social life, it can really make any place feel like home. So creating a social circle when you get home can really help you settle in quicker.
As long as you understand.
Moving back home after an extended time away is an action that can trigger your nervous system. Reverse culture shock is a real thing. But following some of the steps above can seriously help you improve your experience and make the most of getting back to your home country – regardless of how long you have been away.
Have you ever struggled to return home after a period away? What made you feel better? Let me know in the comments.