Homesickness and Reverse Culture Shock
After living abroad for 8 months there is a lot to be said about traveling back home. You would think it would be no big deal right? For some it’s not that easy. Traveling abroad takes a lot more out of us than we may think. Take away the jet lag, time change and you’re left with culture shock, new potential dangers, and feeling anxious, excited or confused. For those who haven’t traveled much, it is really difficult to handle these emotions. The surprising part is when you go back home, and home starts to feel foreign to you. Then what?
The first time I ever experienced reverse culture shock was when I went to Vietnam. I was 22 years old and had never experienced anything like Vietnam. It was chaotic, loud and everything I thought I knew was, well, different. Even crossing the street seemed too difficult of a task to undertake. Motorbikes flying all around you, your heart pumping out of your chest as you look dead ahead of the safety of the sidewalk, and that sense that this could be your last moment on earth. You don’t think that when you travel you will forget how to cross the street. Another thing that blew me away was how people shopped for food. You see, grocery stores don’t exist, only markets. If you want chicken, you buy a chicken.
Reverse culture shock hit me about a week after coming home to Southern California after being in Vietnam for 2 months. My mom and I were walking around a grocery store and bam! In the middle of the frozen foods isle I felt as though I was sleep walking. Why is everything so clean? So organized? So bright and perfect? It just felt unnatural after everything I had experienced in Vietnam. Luckily, I had talked to a friend a few days before who was going through the same thing and was able to compose myself and make it home. Life back in America just felt different.
“Luckily, I had talked to a friend a few days before who was going through the same thing and was able to compose myself and make it home. Life back in America just felt different.”
Travel has a huge impact on us and everyone reacts to it differently. For me it brought me back down to Earth. You quickly realize what you have and what you need or don’t need. After coming home from traveling I typically don’t want to drive, get anxious about human contact (ordering food at a restaurant knowing they speak English when small talk is expected), and clean out and donate a large portion of things I own.
This year I have been living in Thailand for 8 months. Mind you I have never lived outside of southern California, not even for college, so living overseas this long has been an eye opening experience. Jeff and I are loving our lives living in paradise, but even that can be lonesome. Before we made the move, Jeff and I were living 80 miles apart. Jeff in Los Angeles, and myself in Ventura, about 80 miles north. Our day to day lifestyle was much different. We both worked 40 or 50 hour weeks. I worked in a cubical in an office building with 10 co workers, and Jeff worked in a backyard office working on an independent documentary pretty much by himself. Weekends were the only time we got together. Now, eight months later, we are living together, co workers, best friends, partners and our only support system. The dynamic has changed drastically and while we are pushing our relationship to a new level it has definitely taken its toll.
In September, six months into our new lives, a new emotion I had never experienced snuck up on me and took us both by surprise. Homesickness. I never really thought about being homesick before. Why would I think about home when we’re living on a beautiful island living in paradise? It’s not that I miss home, it’s that I miss the relationships I had back home; my friends, my family, my co workers. I missed the social interaction you don’t get living in a place like Phuket. Here we are perceived tourists and most people go on holiday for some time alone or to get away. We’ve found that it’s much more difficult to make friends and find social interaction. With all these emotions swirling inside me I decided it was time for a trip home. I flew home in September and spent a month visiting friends and family and although I loved being home and missed so many people, it reminded me of what I have and how thankful I am for it.
I love traveling and look forward to what the future holds. Right now I’m not ready to settle down, there’s too much left in the world to see! But we all forget that whether we are nomads trotting the globe or living a more structured western lifestyle with a white picket fence we all have strong emotions that effect our day to day life. For me, its needing to go home to be grounded every now and then and for others is going on vacation, to well, Phuket.
As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world.
Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more.