After nearly eight hours in the air I finally arrived at my destination. The grass seemed to be such a vivid green, the people talked differently, and the streets looked like no city I had ever seen before. It was unfamiliarly beautiful and I was so excited to go explore that I couldn’t check in to my hotel fast enough. I had made it to Ireland for my study abroad program and I already loved everything about it.
My study abroad experience was the spark that ignited my never-ending passion for travel.
Fast forward to the end of my journey. I didn’t want to leave, but I thought it would be nice to go back to family, friends, and everything familiar. But when people asked me about my trip I was at a loss for words. “It was amazing!” I would say. But I didn’t even know where to begin to describe what it was like. Even when I would try to explain parts of my experience, my words could never fully convey the sights, sounds, smells, and memories that were so fond in my mind.
This is part of something called reverse culture shock (which I will cover more in depth in a later post), when you struggle to adapt to life after returning from a trip abroad. Little by little, your “travel high” starts to fade away and you eventually begin to fall into the same routine again now that you’re back home. You start to forget that elated feeling you had while traveling where it seemed like you didn’t have a care in the world and you could conquer any challenge. The everyday becomes mundane and you can’t wait for your next adventure.
That enlightening feeling you get while traveling is all because of your mindset, and the good news is that you can recreate it even when you’re back home! What it really comes down to is stepping outside of your comfort zone and breaking free from routine, and you can stay in the “traveler’s mindset” even when you’re not traveling.
It’s easy to go back to the same old routines when we go home. But if we spice things up a little, we can see the world with newborn eyes. Making some changes on a regular basis can make the “traveler’s mindset” a natural part of you no matter where you are, even at home. Start with these 17 ways to stay in the traveler’s mindset when coming home, and soon enough you may find yourself a whole lot happier and enjoying being home more than ever before!
1. Discover what’s around you
Visit nearby cities, parks, neighborhoods, museums, viewpoints, trails, etc. that you haven’t been to yet, even if it’s a tourist attraction! I grew up in Chicago, but my first time going to the Sears tower wasn’t until I was 22 and my friend from Sweden was visiting so I wanted to show her the sites. There’s nothing wrong with playing tourist in your own town! Take a weekend road trip or just spend the day discovering the sights and places right within your reach that you never paid much attention to before.
2. Make conversations with the people you encounter instead of being preoccupied with your phone
Think about all the opportunities you have on a regular basis to meet new people, hear their stories, and experience the beauty of human connection. Standing in line at the coffee shop, riding public transportation, walking down the street, sitting at the airport… the list goes on and on. It’s become so common for us as a society to retreat to our digital devices that we let countless moments pass us by that could lead to anywhere from an interesting conversation to an entire life changing event.
3. Try new activities
Thanks to the revolutionary Meetup.com, you have no excuses anymore to not try new things. You could join a new club, try a new sport, take up a new hobby, learn a new language… the possibilities are endless!
4. Escape routine
It can be really easy to fall into the trap of doing the same thing each day, which turns into weeks, then months, then years. Spice things up and try to add in a little variety whenever you can. It can even be something as simple as going to the grocery store on different days or not having a set exercise schedule. Take a new route to work, walk or bike instead of driving, or pack a lunch and find a new place to eat. Anything outside of the “regular” will do the trick!
5. Try new foods
Whether it’s a new restaurant that just opened up or a place that has been around forever that you never tried, now is as good a time as any to check it out. You may even find a new favorite! If you’re stumped on the dining out front, try a new recipe. Thanks to the Internet (and Pinterest in particular) there is an endless supply of all kinds of recipes out there that you can attempt!
6. Escape into a thrilling read
A good book can take you all over the world without ever leaving your couch. You can escape into the fantasy world, read stories of all sorts of journeys, or indulge in the history of a new or familiar destination. A few of my current favorites? I Am Malala and Life From Scratch.
7. Take time to notice the little things around you
There’s a great big world out there but it’s made up of all these tiny pieces that come together to create the master work of art. Try to pay more attention to those little things and look closely at the beauty all around you, like each of the tiny petals that unite to create a beautiful flower.
8. Explore your curiosity
When we are children we have such passionate curiosity, always wanting to know more. As we grow older, we sometimes forget that curiosity and just accept things the way they are. We forget to ask questions and challenge our assumptions. Break out of society’s shell. Revive your curiosity.
9. Be present
Stay focused on the now rather than constantly stressing about potential outcomes of the future. Embrace the present moment exactly as it is and your mind will be freed from the jail of the future.
10. Do something you’ve always wanted to do
Have you always wanted to ride a motorcycle? Go rock climbing? Start your own business? Run a marathon? Whatever it is, go do it! Some might be easier than others, but figure out ways to overcome any barriers that stand in your way and go pursue your dream!
11. Keep an open mind
Especially as a traveler, you know the importance of keeping an open mind. Plans go awry, you’ll come into contact with many different people, cultures, and customs, and you’ll have to get around in cities you’ve never been to before. Navigating these situations is much easier when you have an open mind since you can bounce back more quickly when things don’t go as planned. Keeping an open mind when you come home is one of the easiest ways to tackle any situations that come your way.
12. Move somewhere new
Whether it’s down the street or across the world, sometimes a change of scenery is just the push you need to find inspiration and refresh your mindset. Plus it forces you to clean out your belongings and get rid of unnecessary junk! I’ve moved every year for the past six years (soon to be seven next spring), yet have only lived in three different cities during that time. For some people that may sound miserable, but I love the change and how it keeps things interesting!
13. Add fuel to the flames of your wanderlust
Between Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, and everything else out there online, you have plenty of resources at your fingertips to feed your wanderlust. Perusing through blogs and other people’s travel photos helped me survive my short stint in the corporate world, and reminded me of everything I love about travel. Even if you need to decorate your apartment or hang up photos of past adventures – whatever it takes to keep you motivated and optimistic for your next journey!
14. Find other travel enthusiasts
Remember that you’re not the only one struggling with the transition of coming back home after traveling. If only you could easily find those people who know exactly what you’re going through, or have been through it themselves in the past. Oh wait, good thing it’s 2015 and platforms like meetup.com exist! Search for groups of travel enthusiasts, where you can find others who are thrilled to hear about your journeys and would love to adventure with you, even right at home!
15. Be spontaneous
You don’t have to do anything drastic like taking the next flight out of town or blowing all your savings on a new car, but find different ways to surprise yourself that you didn’t plan for ahead of time. Order the first thing you see on a menu without looking at anything else. Buy something at the grocery store that you don’t even know what it is. Rearrange your furniture. Do something that scares you. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself addicted to the spontaneity in life!
16. Remember your “me” time
We all need to take some time every so often for ourselves to rejuvenate our mind and body. This “me” time can be in the form of many different varieties, all depending on what you’re into. Remember to occasionally treat yourself, because you deserve it!
17. Don’t take life too seriously
No one gets out alive anyway, right? If one thing doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. Start making it a habit to think to yourself every time something goes wrong: Will this really matter a month from now? A year from now? Chances are, in most cases it won’t. Lighten up, dream big, and have a little faith in the universe. For more on this, read You Are a Badass.
Coming back home doesn’t have to mean leaving the traveler’s mindset behind.
The key word is mindset. It all comes down to changing the way we think. It’s not about the geography, it’s about what goes on inside your head while you are traveling, and replicating that when you come back home.
Keep your eyes and mind open and seek out the new and unexpected. Keep it up, and soon enough you will notice transformational changes and find that the traveler’s mindset can stick with you wherever you are.
Interested in learning more? My friend Ginger runs a fabulous website called The Traveler’s Mindset where she shows you how you can get out of your comfort zone and shift your mindset to create a more positive and meaningful life.