The Adventure of Going Home

A capoiera display in Brazil.

Written by  June 25, 2013

How to carry the momentum of adventure abroad home.

The working abroad experience is filled with many new adventures. Every new restaurant, bar, city—even every park—seems to feel like a new adventure. There's always the thrill of potentially meeting new people, trying new food, hearing new music or even recounting stories about home.

As I reflect on the experiences I've had here, and the adventures I will have in my final 10 days, I've come to recognize that the biggest journey of working abroad is the one that comes at the end. As new as Brazil was when I arrived four months ago, slowly it normalized as I became acclimatized to everything here. What started as eating fresh fruit out of mere excitement that tropical fruits are readily available here became an everyday activity of eating fruit because it was just the way things are done.    

With less than two weeks to go, I find myself wanting to re-experience adventures that I’ve already experienced, but have been for some months removed from my life. The backhand side to what I wrote about in my last post—about always wanting to be traveling—is the desire to relive the experiences that we love so much about home. It isn't about wanting to leave Chapeco or the Brazilian experience behind, but to remind myself what it is I miss so much about Canada. Whether it's going to work in the morning and making a routine stop at Tim Hortons along with thousands of other Canadians, or experiencing Stanley Cup fever that is so present nowhere else in the world—an even more remarkable fact since no Canadian teams will be involved. Surely after some time exposed to these again I will want to travel, and such is the cyclical nature of the travel bug.

At the start of an internship abroad, going home seems like it will be a horrible experience filled with sadness. I have made a bit of a life in Chapeco, with new friends, an amazing host family, and a job with great people, there is no feeling that can replace the one that has family and old friends waiting at the other end. Leaving Chapeco is surely sad, but along with re-experiencing all of those things I love at home, there are other reasons why going home will seem to be a new adventure.

Any travel blog surely has an article that points out that working and living abroad is a pretty sure way to change our perspective and give us new experiences that we will take with us for the rest of our lives. Sure, these experiences might make us better people or help prepare us for challenges later in life, but one of the greatest things about going home is being given the opportunity to share everything new with family and friends. While even an unlimited amount of explanation may never adequately reach everything we learn during our time abroad, going home represents a chance to impart what we learned on others around us. Maybe it will be something as small as introducing my family to chimmarao (a type of beverage), or sharing some deeper part of Brazilian culture, going home gives us a chance to share our life abroad with others.

In an even bigger picture, the adventure of going home gives us the chance to discover what we learned about ourselves. Going abroad—whether it's backpacking, working, or studying—is an immense personal development experience. However, my life here is drastically different than the one I live in Canada, and so it's difficult to assess how much I've changed in the last four months. I know some minor things, like I have become far less dependent on my cell phone (which sits dead on my night table 75 per cent of the week), but it is the deeper things I do not think I can discover about myself until I am back into my “normal” life in Canada. I get questions now such as “how did your work abroad experience help you grow as a person?” but the reality is that I cannot answer these questions until I have something relative to compare it to. Have I learned some skills I'm unaware of that will make me a better student next year? I'm almost certain. Maybe they will have a significant difference on my life when I return home, leading me into new adventures I wouldn't have anticipated doing before working abroad. But until I actually leave the surroundings to which I have become accustomed to, I won't know how I've grown or changed since February.

It is cliché to say that the end of an internship only represents a new beginning, but when we think about the change it can bring to our life at home it really does seem to be accurate. I'll miss the fresh fruit, the new friends, the parties that go until dawn, the barbecue of southern Brazil, but I expect going home to be another memorable part of the working abroad experience. Maybe I can take these memories back to Canada to share with others like they were shared with me in Brazil. My adventure here will culminate this week with a final trip to Rio de Janeiro, a trip that I surely will not forget. It's my last big thing in Brazil, but after embracing going home as another experience and not a gloomy time to be frowned upon, I am more confident that the growing process of working abroad extends far beyond the time spent actually being abroad.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Rob Small

Rob Small is an international relations graduate of Carleton University. An AIESEC intern, he is working as an English teacher at a local language school in Chapecό, Brazil. His first time living abroad, he hopes to share insightful, yet entertaining, stories about being a Canadian in Brazil.

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