Travelling Transitions: Hiking up the Mountain

Written by  March 15, 2015

Reflections on returning home.

There I sat, in an old, worn-out building on Kanaastraat in Leeuwarden, Friesland curled up on makeshift yoga mats and blankets. Staring out at a grey sky, this ominous sky I was so accustomed to, the one I loved so much while living abroad but the same sky I could not stand to think about while home in Canada.

I often sat on my rusted windowsill that overlooked racks upon racks of bicycles, where I would write in my notebook. This was the place where I spent hours a day dreaming about where I was going to pack my bags and run away next. My bike was stolen twice, and it was nothing more than a laughing matter, instead of what would now be a stressor. I would smile and say to myself “what a horrendous bike, I’m a Dutchie now.”

Here I sit in the Canadian winter, thinking of my broken, stolen bikes and this little windowsill that left scratches and bruises on me, this ledge I miss so much now that I can’t sit there.
Transitioning from living abroad to moving back home is no easy task. This is learning to weather a storm, a never ending trek up a mountain and each time you think you see a peak; you begin to realize it is merely just a plateau. That mountain trail seems so endless sometimes. Perhaps one of the most discouraging feelings is feeling alone and that not too many people would understand what you are going through; we are not all mountain climbers, after all.

Discouragement is not necessary though, from what I have learned. There is a large community of caring, understanding expats online, sharing their stories—you will never have to brave this mountain alone. I say this as someone who can tell you I have been through the transition of living abroad to moving back home. Don’t get me wrong; seeing friends and family is an incredible feeling. But I know to take the good with the bad,and you are more than capable of trekking through those muddy winding trails up this mountain.

Invest yourself in writing about your experience, create art, listen to music that reminds you of your experience—but don’t live in the past. We tend to forget how beautiful the present moment really is when we are stuck living in our past. The past is beautiful and sometimes painful, but it’s over and nostalgia is no place to permanently settle into.
I close my eyes sometimes and picture sitting in Emily’s room, all of us nervous, Lisa asking me about my trip to Iceland, staring at four girls I had just met that I would end up making such a deep connection with. . .girls I felt closer to than others I had known my whole life. I open my eyes and here I am sitting at my kitchen table, nobody around me and the sky is grey again, the trees have lost their leaves and snow blankets the ground.

There is something very important to remember though, you know? Some of us go to hike the mountain just to say we got to the top, to the summit, we lay our flag down and conquer. And for others (myself included), we are not so sure why we decided to give that mountain a try. More than the feeling of getting to the top, we remember the struggle along the way up. The highs and lows, the never-ending winding dark trails, and the breaks of fresh air and sky, peacefulness amongst nature.

For those of us who are focused on the way up fear not, for it’s these extreme conditions that make the hike so memorable and enjoyable. Think about that rest you take halfway through a hike to replenish, to eat and consider where you are right now the same place. You are just resting before your next big adventure, and trust me, you’ll get there. Enjoy your break while you can, because before you know it you’ll be back on the path, struggling to read the road signs and the maps, loving every moment of being lost.

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Elizabeth Tirkalas

Elizabeth had two dreams when she was a child; the first to travel the world, setting her feet on every continent she could, and the second, to be a writer, and perhaps join the circus along the way. Elizabeth is an Ashtanga Certified Yoga Instructor. She graduated with an undergraduate BA degree in History and English Literature from the University of Western Ontario and studied Humanitarian Aid Management in the Netherlands. A Canadian expat, Elizabeth blogs about her life working abroad in Australia.

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