Returning Home After Long-Term Travel

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Almost 7 years ago Chef and I sat on the patio and hatched the plan that became an indefinite round the world trip that would change our lives. We were to set off for a family gap year that became a never-ending travel lifestyle. We became nomadic long-term travellers.  Last week saw us returning home.

Coming home, living by the sea after long term travel
Cyclone Owen hit us twice this week. Today it’s just been wet, but last week Owen took out our fence and pool fence when a tree came down in the garden. Returning home to cyclone damage was….OK. Four Mile Beach is still just as it was, we can walk here in 10 minutes, it’s beautiful.

In our almost 6 years on the road we visit over 50 countries as well as living for several months in London, a village in Romania and Hoi An Vietnem.

We took the kids to Everest Base Camp and the Potala Palace. We swam with manta rays and had a wild Indian rhino in our garden, and now, we’re home. Back where we started.

We were a nomadic family, if you’re unfamiliar with that term, read up on nomadic family meaning here.

Returning Home After Travelling

We’re lucky, we know this is a temporary halt. If we thought we’d be tied down forever I don’t think I’d be coping nearly as well right now.

The hardest part about travel is absolutely going back. “Home” remains the place you don’t want to be.

Travel, freedom and new adventures still call with a voice that, honstly, is stronger than ever. If you set out on an adventure like ours know that going home will be unthinkable.

But for now, we’re OK, we’re treating our return as travel, in a different place.

16 Surprising Things About Coming Home After Travel

1. Our travel odyssey hasn’t changed us, but it’s changed our lives and how we will live them. Hopefully forever.  We’ve found freedom and there’s no way we’ll hand that back.

2. Hardly anyone is interested in where we’ve been so we try not to bore them with it unless they ask and seem enthusiastic.

Coming home for Christmas after long term travel
We don’t have anything to sit on yet but the tree is up! Returning home from travelling just a week or so before Christmas added some extra pressure and I don’t think anyone has cleaned that grout in 5 and a half years. I’ll be getting the bleach and scrubbing-brush out soon.

3. Coming back to “stuff” is nice. You will be amazed at how much of it you have, despite selling most of it before you left. “Stuff” is no longer evil but we need to remain minimalists and won’t let possessions tie us down.

4. Going back to working outside the home would be unthinkable right now. We’re lucky in that nobody will be doing that around here. You must try to avoid the scenario of going back to “normal” at all costs. Our eyes are now fully open.

5. We were in Kathmandu for weeks recently. I was “over” Kathmandu, getting bored. But I miss Kathmandu, and Romania and Thailand and Slovenia and almost everywhere else like crazy right now. I’d love to be magically transported back there. I’m sure you will feel this too.

6. Returning less than a month before Christmas is crazy. Don’t do that. Our fridge is being delivered just in time to fill with Christmas goodies. Hopefully, if the tropical wet season doesn’t close too many roads this week.

7. I regret not selling a few things. Like the barbecue. It’s stuffed now from sitting outside in all weathers. Had we sold it back then we could have got $100 for it. So far I don’t regret selling anything. So far.

8. Our house, which has been rented for 5 and a half years, is in pretty good condition. Hopefully, you’ll be as lucky.

9. Gardens fare worse than houses. My beautiful tropical sanctuary is trashed through years of neglect. However, getting it looking beautiful again will be fun, I don’t mind too much. I thought I’d mind more. If you have a garden you love consider hiring a proper gardener to look after it, ours just cut stuff back. Not all the stuff, just some. He left me the monster bougainvillaea to deal with.

returning to a neglected garden after long term travel
Bouganvillea related injuries. The garden has been badly neglected while we’ve been away.

10. Things are better here. There has been progress and I can now buy tempeh, tofu and tamari at the IGA. This is good. Everything is just a bit slicker than it was 6 years ago and it’s nice.

11. The travel itch is never truly scratched. It actually gets worse the more you scratch it. You MUST know this before you set off on your family gap year or any long-term travel. Your year will make the pain of not travelling far worse and harder to live with. You will be miserable afterwards if you can’t continue some sort of freedom lifestyle.

12. You will miss your kids. Even though we’ve just moved from hotel to house and we’re all still kicking about together, there is far more room. They disappear to bedrooms with headsets and may as well be on the moon. I’m missing them like crazy.

cyclone damage while away travelling
Cyclone damage from ex-tropical cyclone Owen. He passed through while we were away travelling in Bali. Honestly, we’ve got off lightly. 5 wet seasons and no major cyclone damage to the house. Good renters insurance and a good local agent are vital.

13. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. I’m actually enjoying the shopping and sorting and general household chores. I do not have post-trip depression, I do not have post-trip anxiety and I do not have reverse culture shock. Everything feels OK. Everything feels normal.

14. The kids don’t give a flying one. They are neither pleased to be back nor dis-pleased to not be travelling. But within 24 hours of being back, D was asking if we could go climb Kilimanjaro. So that’s a good sign. They’re happy. The wi-fi is good, of course they’re happy. Boo was just playing online with a kid in Romania. He was so pleased to be doing that, somebody from a place he loves.  It’s good, they are good, all will be fine.

15. The dread of return was far worse than the reality. I stressed and sobbed rather a lot before we touched down. It’s OK now. The anticipation, as always, was far worse than the reality.

returning home after travel
Could you pin this please? It helps us a lot.

So I wouldn’t say I’m exactly glad to be back, but it’s OK, we’re good for now. We’re not really back where we started, other than physically. I don’t feel trapped because I’m not trapped. We have options and we’ll be leaving again ASAP. Life will just look different for a while. Soon, very soon, we will be planning new adventures and getting back on the road where we belong. Maybe after the fridge arrives and Uncle Toby has spent the holiday season with us. How’s your Christmas shopping coming on? Would you do us a favour and hit the Pinterest button below to share? Thanks. Final Update: Within months we were travelling again, we enjoyed being back for a while, but bricks and mortar aren’t our jam. Borneo, Bhutan, Thailand, London, Vietnam, we continue to travel and still have our bases in London and Romania to return to.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

27 thoughts on “Returning Home After Long-Term Travel”

  1. “Stuff is no longer evil”. I love that! I have far too much and know I don’t need it when I’m not with it but after a brief affair with Mari Kondo I’m sticking with it mostly. Glad to hear that for the most part you’re OK about being back for a while.

  2. Glad to read you are ‘settling’ well, wish you all the best for the future. Completely agree with you about not sliding back to how things were. We are one year home and slid back into things we didnt want to slide back into barely noticing it was happening! Conventional life and expectations. Kids settled instantly, been much harder for me and now am working on ways to break out again. Wish I had been more proactive and headstrong one year ago as it would make life easier now!

    • Hopefully Sinead we’ll be back on the road next month, but still one heck of a lot of work to do. The kids really don’t care where they are so long as there is wifi but they both miss the food in Vietnam and want to be back there soon as well as out of this hot climate. Like me, they prefer cold, so they’re asking for Christmas in Europe this year, ideally London as well as somewhere with lots of snow. We’ll see what we can do! But Boo said to me the other day that he quite likes it here, he’s cool with it. But they’re both reluctant to do much because of the heat. We have a little trip lined up for them next week though.

  3. I remember coming back. I remember the freedom–owning only two shirts, a pair of shorts/shoes/pants and nothing else. I slept on ferry decks, the occasional bench and in countless grotty hostels. It was sometimes deeply uncomfortable, but I’d never felt happier in all my life. Yet somehow, here I am tied to so many things and living with so much doubt when it comes to my children. I know that there is a life more extraordinary that’s waiting–but I waffle between wanting to give them the normalcy that I grew up with–the house, the school grind, the minivan, the yard, the dogs, (actually, I really think the dogs are necessary)…and the desire to bring them up with experiences that will offer them a chance to to be exceptionally fulfilled.

    But there are true impediments…

    There are practical concerns that we grapple with that have nothing to do with doubt and fear. Health insurance is barely affordable with two jobs and held over our heads like a scythe of death. Or perhaps that’s just my perspective as I grew up in poverty. But I have seen the reality. Lose your health insurance–and it is very possible should something go wrong–you and your children will die without care. Student Loans. Wow. We are swimming in them. Our student loan debt is 10 times that of our house. These things are permanent fixtures that I am not sure how to manage while traveling.

    I’ve only begun to read your blog, so perhaps I will find enough inspiration to actually solve these seemingly insurmountable challenges. I do think that giving my children a taste of true freedom and life without possessions would be the greatest gift. I just want to find an answer that doesn’t leave them without medical care or access to university should they want that.

    • Why do you want to saddle your kids with the same student loan problem that is causing you so much pain right now? Was it worth it? As we’re not American the health insurance thing isn’t something we can comprehend, sorry. But the wanting to give your kids a childhood similar to your own is normal. I have those thoughts to. Why do we all do that? Why do we all assume that our own childhoods were in some way perfect? My kids have had far more diverse and incredible experiences. They’ve still had the same love and stability, arguably more, because they were never wrenched away from me and made to go to school. They’ve had incredible levels of happiness, fun, shared experiences. I think they’ve had a childhood much better than mine if I look at it rationally. And I wouldn’t want a dog, but there have been other pets along the way, mostly pets that they’re not really interested in for long. We found our way to create our perfect lifestyle.Yours won’t look the same. It took a lot of hard work and determination but we did it. If you want it I’m sure you can find your way, I know lots of American families on the road full time.

      • I definitely would prefer that they never have the debt struggle that we do. It’s a surprisingly common struggle for people of my generation who grew up in lower to lower middle class families.

        To answer your next question—I don’t think it’s worth it, but my husband does. He wanted to be a psychologist and that job fulfills him deeply. He takes pride and pleasure in his work—and his sort of job isn’t possible without University.

        What I want truly, is to give them a sort of hybrid experience that will allow them the choice that I never had. Go to University. Don’t go to University.

        I think something you said is probably the answer—my experience won’t look like yours. We have different challenges and limitations. I certainly hope I can find the creativity to overcome mine—sooner rather than later.

        • So they can go to university if they want to. Yes,a lot of blokes are like that. Defined by their jobs, I see it a lot when women contact me asking how to win their partners round. One woman’s husband had the same career as me, a job that I hated and found monotonous donkey work, but he loved it, loved that he was that person. I couldn’t wait to find freedom. I have another American friend, Yale grad, we met on the road and she’s longing to join us but she had to go back to pay off her debts, she’s worked her butt off the last 4 years and can finally leave. Looking forward to seeing her again soon. You’ll find your way if you want it badly enough.

  4. You’re just up the road! Sort of. We too are waiting for Brexit and knowing what’s going on but Col and I will head to the UK in April/May and then probably a few more times before relocating there with him. Meanwhile, I’ve been taking my two to Aussie destinations and will go to Tassie with my Aunt in a couple of years. Keen to do more travel o/s later on. Although my two were never willing, and I wasn’t able, to do o/s with them we have packed in lots of trips and you and your blog have been a mainstay inspiration in our journey. I hope we catch up again irl soon and share more of our not boring at all lives.

  5. Hi Alyson, is it undelicate to ask why you came back to OZ ? I somehow thought you’d never get back to settle (unless maybe in Breb) – Anyway, enjoy being back to limited amounts of “stuff”. And keep writing … I would miss that too much !
    “A Guti Rootsh” say the locals here, which means as much as “have a good slide” (from Old to New Year)

    • The house needs work Talitha. We’re not here for keeps, just passing through. We had it on the market ages and had no interest because of neglect. So we need to get it polished up, repainted, the garden back to beautiful and then either sell or rent on the luxury market. Also, we’re still waiting on the outcome of Brexit before we can proceed with anything. Doesn’t it say that in the post? Also FNQ is a pretty neat travel destination. Lots of stuff needs addind to the site and updating.

  6. Took the words right out of my mouth Alysun. So glad you are settling in. Us too. Now that I have wiped my snotty face and put my big girl knicks on I can see a brighter future.

    Just because we are back in our house doesn’t mean that Brian will go back to work for 60 hours a week and I will become a human taxi with no voice.
    It will never be that way again.
    Not now I have tasted what freedom feels like.
    Hopefully you will stay in OZ for a while and I can come and visit you from NZ. And have wine. Xxx

    • Both yours and Alyson.s feelings about coming home is an interesting contrast to mine.

      We just returned from a year of travel as well. Our kids are much older (17,16 and 11)). I truly thought we’d travel for years. Though I was the only one in our family of five who actually wanted to be perpetual. I planned for years and made early retirement happen. Towards the end of the first year, I was looking forward to getting home.

      It was wonderful. Amazing. I wouldn’t change a thing. But long term travel is hard too. And we didn’t have to be digital nomads along the way. I can imagine juggling that as well. We had a hard enough time just writing posts about our day to day travels.

      All that said, we’ve all got the bug again. It doesn’t stay away for long. We’re heading out again in a few months. But we’re leaving our oldest here for University. We made it back in time for grade 12. Out middle child has great plans for her last year of high school. So we’re heading out with just one kid this time. The other two will meet up with us at points along the way. And home will always be here for us.

  7. Dear Alyson,
    I have been following your blog for a few months now. I have been inspired by you so much, that we are planning a family gap year with our four kiddos at the moment. It was so cool to learn you lived in Romania, as I was born in Moldova myself. And then I came across you forest school post, as I was starting up a forest schoo groupl here in Virginia. Fun coincidences. Thank you for your honest posts, describing the challenges as they are. Thank you for touching upon sustainability issues, avoiding plastic while traveling, etc. You are such an inspiration! Wishing you easy settling back! Please keep on posting!

    • No way I’m stopping Anastasia. And thank you! There’s plenty of travel to cover in Queensland and lots more big trips coming up. Plus I stll have more to do on Tibet and Nepal and all of the countries we’ve visited. I could go on writing forever just based on what we’ve done so far. Best of luck.

  8. Wow you guys are back in Port. Have been following your journey for awhile, but missed this latest development.
    Great welcome back with all this crazy weather. You are brave coming back at the hottest time of the year.
    I live in Cairns, and it sure is humid at the moment.
    Tenants never look after the garden the same, we have a rental property and it is always sad to see the state of the garden when I had spent so many hours in it keeping it lovely when we lived there. Just the way it is.
    I guess it will take a period of adjustment to settle back in to life here again.
    One thing I find after travels is how quickly we accumulate stuff. It’s amazing what you can live without though.
    Hope all goes well for your latest chapter.

    • Thanks Claire! It sure is nice and warm up here! We’re in Cairns almost every day at the moment buying furniture and other essentials…you’re not wrong about the stuff! Did you follow us on Instagram? I’m planning to get some awesome Cairns / Port coverage out ASAP.

  9. It’s good to read that you’re settling ok! I am desperate to get away from our current life to one with more adventure, even though we do still travel several times a year…. watch this space!

    • Hayley I don’t think it’s so much about the place, it’s about the freedom. We need to focus on getting more of that in our lives. Conventional jobs, school timetables, obligations and bills suck joy.

      • In total agreement and wonderful post. I’m over cooking, cleaning, worrying about bills, working for other people SUCKS and I’m not doing it anymore one I’m officially nomadic. Time to get my things in order because I cannot live this way. My kids would kill me if I ever sent them back to school so no worries there.

        • I can handle cooking sometimes, but doing it 3 x per day, every day, with all the clean up, prep and washing up is a full time job in itself.When am I supposed to work and spend time with the kids? Who needs that shiz?? And I love food, trying new dishes, when you have to cook for yourself it’s just…no. Give me a $1 pho or mi quang from a street stall any day. I’m here if you need and online income help.

  10. We too are home after 8 years of being nomads. Thank you for putting into words what we have been going though. I completely agree with not regretting selling anything and feeling as if we could have even sold more. Such a bundle of mixed feelings. Welcome home.

  11. We go back to NZ end of Jan after 10 months of traveling. Thanks for sharing, appreciate your honesty. Glad to hear the dread is worse than reality. We are spending Christmas in a narrow boat in the UK.

  12. Lovely to read it is not as bad as you had thought and you are enjoying many things about being home.

    We are in an Air B&B for Christmas (only around 12 days or so) and within 24 hours Mrs Nomadic Dad found herself drinking tea back in our motorhome not wanting to leave it 🙂

    I think it’s going to be hard when we get back to the UK in April but we will follow your advice and most importantly don’t fall back into bad old habits and routines.

    Have a great Christmas


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