Australia, Spirit, Why travel?

Dealing with re-entry

March 20, 2011

I’ve been back in Sydney for six weeks now, which means that only six weeks and three days ago I was in Bagan, Burma with my friend Alicia, exploring ruined temples and failing at trying not to crash my bicycle every time a truck or bus thundered past.

Not as happy or comfortable as I look in Bagan, Burma
But anyway, back in October, after getting used to life without the internet after a month in the Mongolian countryside and then three weeks on the far Western reaches of the Tibetan plateau, blogging suddenly didn’t seem as important anymore.

There are loads of great blogs out there with tips and advice on planning a trip around the world, and plenty of blogs that cover the regions that I’ve visited. There seemed to be little point in keeping mine going, especially when I was trying to pitch paid articles and write in my journal and keep notes for fiction projects at the same time. And, oh yeah, actually see stuff in the places I was visiting.

Now I’m back home, I plan to semi-revive the blog, but it will be more destination and photo focused, with stories and images from my travels that won’t be published anywhere else. You can get your tips on what to pack or which vaccinations you might need somewhere else (or you can always email me about those things!).

So where did I end up going?
When I arrived in Nepal, I spent ten days in Kathmandu while I waited for my Indian visa to be issued, focusing on the writing that actually earns me money and celebrating diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Then I bussed down to Pokhara. After my challenging high altitude experience in Tibet, I decided not to trek this time and instead spent a few days at a yoga retreat in the hills before crossing the border into India and returning to Varanasi, a city I first visited in 2008.

Holy cows of Rishikesh
In India, I spent time in Rishikesh, Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj, Delhi, Pushkar, Jaipur, Fort Cochin and Varkala before deciding Christmas was probably better spent with friends. So after ten days on the beach in Southern India I flew into a snow-covered Britain, where my plane was one of only ten to land at Heathrow the weekend before Christmas.

A month later, after travelling by train through France, Germany and Denmark I flew to Thailand to meet Alicia for a brief excursion into Burma. I spent my 26th birthday in Bangkok at the Myanmar embassy, waiting for my visa to be issued.

By the end of January I was tired, running out of money thanks to the several weeks in Europe and ready for a break. New countries were no longer exciting and I felt like I was just going through the motions of travel. While I had a great time with Alicia in Burma, I’d done barely any preparation from the trip and felt like I wasn’t doing justice to the country, its people or myself.

So I flew from Yangon to Kuala Lumpur, splurged on a night in a five-star hotel and several new pairs of jeans, and hopped on an Air Asia flight back to Australia.

Making myself at home on a high floor of Le Meridien, Kuala Lumpur

What’s next?
The reverse culture shock I’ve experienced being back home has been difficult to deal with, to say the least. Maybe you really can’t ever go home again. Or maybe you can, and that’s the problem – nothing ever changes. I even found myself working briefly for the company I thought I’d left permanently in May last year.

The trip has changed the way I look at my life, and how I want to live it. I’m still struggling to work it all out, but I know that I am not back in Sydney permanently.

In a few months I’ll be boarding a flight that will eventually land me in Guatemala City. This time, I have a return ticket – from Buenos Aires. A very dear friend is getting married in December, so I know I’ll be in Sydney at the end of the year. Beyond that? I’ll be working hard to make a stint living somewhere in Asia possible, and I’m determined to return to cover the parts of India and China that I missed last year.

In the meantime? Stay tuned for some stories and photographs from the second half of my trip.

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  • Reply Michael Hodson April 27, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Really thoughtful post. I actually didn’t suffer from too much reverse culture shock when I got back from my long trip, but I think that was primarily because I ended that trip up in Australia and New Zealand. I’m sure if I’d gone home from some of the “wilder” parts of the world, I’d have felt differently.

    • Reply Megan April 27, 2011 at 8:24 am

      Thanks for your comment, Michael!

      I spent Christmas in Europe and came home from Malaysia in Feb, so being out of Asia wasn’t a massive shock to the system (like it was when I landed at snowed-in Heathrow after spending two weeks on the beach in Varkala, India!), although little things that kind of irritated me about life in Sydney and Australia in general are starting to turn into big things.

      The lack of stimulation was probably the biggest shock – I went from navigating the unknown and being active 24/7 to doing nothing. Getting some contract work within the first ten days of being home was a huge help, because it got me out of the house but even now months later I still feel unsettled. I can’t wait to get back out there soon, and I have some great things planned for the next twelve months!

  • Reply Abby April 27, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Oh, yes… The re-entry. It gets easier! Really!! We need to start a support group…

    • Reply Megan April 28, 2011 at 8:41 am

      I have a feeling any re-entry support group I got involved with would quickly become a ‘re-exit’ support group 😀

  • Reply wandering educators April 28, 2011 at 12:17 am

    one of the problems of being so well-traveled is that you become a cultural marginal – on the fringes of so many cultures, and not at home in any. can’t wait to read of your next adventures.

    • Reply Megan April 28, 2011 at 8:42 am

      Well put. I guess you can start to see TOO much and it starts to all get a little confusing!

  • Reply CanCan April 28, 2011 at 1:00 am

    I feel equally removed from every society in culture, no matter where I am! I’ve been in Asia for 9 years.

    • Reply Megan April 28, 2011 at 8:44 am

      But you must feel some kind of connection with Asia, then, if you’ve stayed for 9 years? Maybe not a particular country, but the region itself? Or I guess it’s like Wandering Educators said – you see so much but you stay on the fringe of everything you see?

  • Reply Romana May 2, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Another country that tops my list is Burma. I was only a step away and I so wanted to go… But because I was feeling so tired of travelling I just felt I would not be able to enjoy it and take the most of it, so instead I decided to go to the beaches in the south of Thailand to get some rest. And I don’t regret. Burma will still be there and I’ll go one day full of energy to trully live the country.
    My husband and I are heading soon to Australia after over 6 months travelling in Asia. We will continue travelling in “easy” countries, such as NZ, Fiji and USA, so I hope this will help us to re-enter…

    • Reply MeganRTW May 3, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      I think you definitely did the right thing by going to Thailand to relax – if you’re not feeling the vibe, you’re probably not going to have a great experience if you force yourself to do it.

      I think Australia will be a shock to your system after Asia – it’s just as beautiful but it’s definitely not as cheap!

  • Reply Anita May 7, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I am going through reverse culture shock right now too…its just that strangely enough, I’ve been away 3 times for extended periods during the last 3 years, and now feel more “unsettled” when I’m home (looking for the next job that will lay me off…ha – read: sarcasm!) than I do when I’m traveling.

    Hmmm….maybe I should write about it?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply MeganRTW May 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      I’m interested to see how I go in South America next month – whether I’ll fit back in comfortably to travelling or have to get used to doing it all over again…and then of course experiencing that displacement when I come back to Sydney. A never ending cycle.

      You should definitely write about it – I think it helps to get your thoughts sorted.

  • Reply Katrina May 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Nice post. I’ve been experiencing a lot of the same feelings. Husband and I are working on various web projects to allow us to travel more, so our little apartment in Ireland does not feel like a permanent landing pad. I remember feeling a mixture of being let down and relieved to be back home after my last trip. Familiarity is nice, but I really like settling into a travel rhythm and having the opportunity to see something new every day.

    Looking forward to finding out what happens with your next adventures and your plans for Asia. 🙂

    • Reply MeganRTW May 18, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      Small doses of familiarity are nice – I often long for the familiar when I’m travelling, but as soon as I get it, it doesn’t take long before I’m looking to be completely thrown into the deep end again!

  • Reply Caz Makepeace May 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I know exactly what you are going through. We’ve been having a really difficult time. We’ve returned home after 10 years being away from our home town. Talk about culture shock!!
    If you check the link above with my name it will take you to a post I wrote about reverse culture shock.
    If you are in Sydney you should come to our monthly travel massive (previously travel tribe) meet up groups. It has been a lifesaver for us. Lots of travellers talking about what makes your heart race- travel!! Just let me know if you want to go and I’ll send you the details

    • Reply MeganRTW May 21, 2011 at 9:58 am

      Hey Caz,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I have wondered how you guys have been dealing with being back in Australia after so long away – thanks for linking to your very insightful post – I love your ‘antidotes’ to reverse culture shock!

      I’m only in Sydney for another month before I head to South America until October but I would love to know more about the travel massive. I used to work in the travel industry in Sydney so I think I might know a few of the faces 🙂 You can send an email to megan at this domain 🙂 Thanks again!

  • Reply Heather June 11, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Megan, thanks for checking out my blog and commenting on the recent post 🙂 After reading your About page, I wondered how I wasn’t reading about your adventures all along!

    I see you’ve been chatting with my road trip partner in crime, Adam. I left our travels and Australia a month and a half ago, and re-entry has not been easy at all, as you fully understand. I feels like I’m never going to quite settle in again — everything is different and life will never be the same after the year I just had! I’m trying to find contract work too, and since that is completely different to what I was doing before, it’s slow going. Hope I can get some momentum building so I can be back out on the road like you 🙂

    Looking forward to reading about your travels & adventures from here on out.

    • Reply MeganRTW June 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm

      Hey Heather – I’ve discovered since being back this contracting stuff is addictive! It’s a great way to mix career and travel, but I’m hoping to totally shake things up next year and go back to Asia and work there. Are you planning on coming back to Australia at all?

      • Reply Heather June 12, 2011 at 2:43 am

        I don’t have any set plans to return, but in my heart, I know I will be back — and hopefully multiple times at that. Ideally, I’d love to live there at least 2-3 months of the year…it really feels like a second home now. I have friends who are Aussie and expats alike, miss so much about the culture, and would love to continue exploring the country on road trips.

        • Reply MeganRTW June 14, 2011 at 11:49 am

          Here’s hoping you do make it back 🙂 Flights between the US and Australia aren’t really all that expensive anymore so you’ll have to come back to visit!

  • Reply Brooke vs. the World June 23, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Hey Megan,

    I know exactly what you’re talking about 😉 And like Caz mentions above, we’d love to have you at Travel Massive sometime to chat travel 🙂

    • Reply MeganRTW June 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm

      Hey Brooke – I bet you do, especially with your recent trip back to the states! Once I’m back in Sydney in October I definitely plan to come to a Travel Massive. Sounds like lots of fun.

  • Reply Sylvie October 31, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Dear Megan, planning on visiting Australia next year, so I would love to read some tips about Australia on your Blog too! And I just posted some places we loved in Guatelama
    Thank you again for your precious informations!

    • Reply MeganRTW December 10, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Hi Sylvie 🙂 I’m back in Australia now so I will definitely be posting some stories on places to see in my home country. Do you know when you’ll be heading down this way? Thanks for sharing your Guatemala post.

      • Reply Sylvie December 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm

        Hi Megan! Would love to go next year, from end of June until beginning of August.
        Definitely the east coast, and north east. Heard it might be too cold for Tasmania 🙁 Anything you would recommend during those months?

        • Reply MeganRTW December 23, 2011 at 9:12 am

          It will definitely be cold in Tasmania over winter but that’s no reason not to go! It might even snow in some parts which is a novelty for us Australians. That time of year is the best time to visit the tropics (Cairns, Darwin, Broome) because the rainy season is over and the weather is not too hot. It’s also the perfect time to visit the desert near Alice Springs, although it can get quite cold at night.

  • Reply Federico December 21, 2011 at 7:49 am

    An interesting read with a topic I can certainly relate to.After many years of traveling I always have that feeling, even if I have only been out for a couple of weeks or so. It seems as if the inner me needs less time abroad to be changed as the years go by, reaching a point that I am ready to take off again wherever I am. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do so lately. Great writing!

    PS Guatemala will be quite different to all you’ve seen, but you’ll enjoy the trip to. Planning on hopping over to Mexico?

    • Reply MeganRTW December 23, 2011 at 9:08 am

      Hi Frederico, thanks for your comment! Guatemala was certainly different to Asia. I didn’t make it to Mexico this time round but that’s just a reason to go back 🙂

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