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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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Sunday 6th of September 2020

"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.

Alyson for World Travel Family

Monday 7th of September 2020

Ah, "stuff". The battle is real.


Monday 11th of February 2019

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!

Alyson Long

Tuesday 12th of February 2019

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.

jessica tebow

Thursday 10th of January 2019

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.

Alyson Long

Thursday 10th of January 2019

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.

Tamara Kidd

Sunday 30th of December 2018

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.

Alyson Long

Sunday 30th of December 2018

I think we're probably far more boring than you. Catch you soon!


Friday 28th of December 2018

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)

Alyson Long

Friday 28th of December 2018

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.

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