Turning Reverse Culture Shock into Positive Change

Tina in Jeonju wearing a Hanbok Billie Houckham

Written by  August 1, 2017

Three emotions you'll encounter when you return home. 

So what happens after you return home? What's next? These are questions you don't really worry about when you first decide to venture out into the world. At least, I didn't.

The truth is, you return home and nothing is the same anymore. Even if some things are still the same, you know from deep within that you are no longer the same person.

It's been three months since I’ve been back. Every day, I wake up feeling like it was all a dream. I’ve been frustrated and experiencing major reverse culture-shock and post-travel blues. The city that I grew up in and the country that I love so much now feel like a foreign place.

When you return after immersing yourself in another culture, here are some of the thoughts and feelings you might encounter: 

Disconnection

You may feel like an alien, disconnected with some of your peers and dearest ones closest to you. In the beginning, you will experience joy from seeing everyone again. While some are genuinely interested in the stories of your time abroad, you will find others don't even ask.

When they do ask you about your experience you may ramble on with some, but mostly find yourself tongue-tied. Where do I even begin about my experience? So much has happened, but instead, I end up summarizing it in a single sentence and muttering something else along the lines of "it was a great experience." When in fact, it was the best investment I've made for myself and it was truly life-changing.

The reality is that my priorities are not the same anymore and I feel misunderstood all the time.

They then proceed to ask what's next and tell you that you should "commit." The reality is that my priorities are not the same anymore and I feel misunderstood all the time. Although their concerns for me usually reflect fear, I know that it's also out of love and that we're all doing the best we can with what we know. However, I’m no longer asking for permission or being apologetic of my life choices. My journey is a never-ending learning experience.

Change in priorities

My priorities have changed and now I have the intention of living my passion. I can't live the same "normal" life as I used to. My path was never conventional to begin with and I know that I want to live in different countries now. I value freedom and passion more than comfort and stability.

In so many ways I feel that travel has killed my ambitions and ruined my life, but I know that it has actually changed me to take bigger risk and life a life with no regrets. I left South Korea for several reasons but I'll definitely do it again in another country. What I thought was a one-time thing is actually an ongoing process. Travel is not a destination but a lifestyle that I choose to live.

Extreme emotions

You will find yourself questioning why you're here. You've experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows abroad and now you feel heartbroken.

Before I left, my heart felt like it was going to burst. I was excited to return home, but I was extremely sad to say goodbye to everyone especially my students whom I knew I would never see again. I've become attached and built my home in the people that I've met and the places that I've gone to. Once I left, I felt a part of me missing.

Surely, everything is temporary and goodbyes are never easy. Travel, especially solo, brings out the best in me. I'm happiest and most authentic when I'm travelling, which is why I seek my next adventure.

These are just some of the examples of things I wish I knew from other travellers before I left, but there's a number of ways to deal with all of this. Become aware that you're feeling this way and give yourself some time and space. It may take a few weeks or months, but it'll be different for everyone. It'll help to reconnect with family and friends and talk to your fellow expats who may be experiencing the same thing. Remember that you don't have to have everything figured out, prove anything to anyone and that it's okay to live a life others don't understand.

During the emotional mess that I've been experiencing, I need to remind myself to stay grateful. My loved ones welcomed me back with open arms and my love for them will never change. I was able to attract a few opportunities simply by focusing on my passions and the skills that I want to learn. One of my connections reached out to me because she read my travel blog and thought I was a talented writer. I am now a content creator for her organization, which is a dream position because I love to write and their mission resonates with me.

I know that I can build a lifestyle of travel, doing what I love while making a positive impact and inspiring others. This is just the beginning. The beauty of travel is knowing that your home base is not just where your loved ones are—home is everywhere.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Tina Chow

Tina Chow is an avid traveller, aspiring writer, and visionary change-maker. She is passionate about millennial leadership, self-empowerment, and career development. Currently, she is embarking on her new adventure as an English teacher in South Korea.

Website: instagram.com/tina_adventures

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