“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
It seems like I am starting this travel blogging affair backwards. I have just returned from Tanzania (well 4 days, 12 hours 30 minutes ago to be exact) and am finally putting my travel experiences to good use. I knew there was a deeper purpose for the rigorous diary writing that passed the hours of darkness during lengthy African power cuts, stimulating my over-tired mind on the long haul flight home and the daily AM scribblings on a guesthouse balcony with a breathtaking view of Mount Kilimanjaro. I had read my fair share of travel blogs before my own journey 4,500 miles across the globe as well as a fair share whilst in Africa and was fascinated at bloggers ability to frequently write whilst on the road. Not that it is in any way impossible, I am sure I could have done the same if I had set the time aside and magically found patience in dealing with unlimited power cuts and dodgy wifi connections. Yet, being able to reflect, take my time to write and extract the best and worst bits from my trusty diary upon my return, I feel like I am better equipped to tackle this blogging thang head on!
Above is a tiny snapshot of what I left behind in Tanzania. A large group of amazing, beautiful, talented and inspiring individuals who have changed my life for the better, in ways that only I, and those who volunteered alongside me, can understand. Those aspects are personal, and quite frankly, not the sole purpose of my travel musings that will proceed. However, what I am feeling at the moment is a good place to start. The strike of reverse culture shock is something many fellow travelers will understand and what I have decided to attempt to highlight in this post.
1. You’re new ‘familiar’ doesn’t resonate back home.
I may have only been away for two months, but that sure is enough to experience the change. Other travelers to Tanzania will understand this: When you finally adjust to greeting everybody you pass on your daily journey with a ‘mambo’ – ‘poa’ recital and a smile, being back on UK soil hits you with awkward eye contact dodges and sidestepping individuals who are too busy rushing to get from A to B to even acknowledge your existence. You soon miss the friendliness of the African community and the sometimes forced smile through a sweaty and tired demeanour.
2. Its bloody freezing in England!
I knew it was awaiting me. The cold miserable weather greeted me smack in the face at the airport doors. You don’t think to pack that extra jumper or wooly hat amongst the factor 50 suncream and the lightweight clothing that heavily bulks out your bag. However, I soon appreciated the trade in of humid clouds of dust to crisp fresh air.
3. Friends, family and new acquaintances soon lose interest in your stories.
Everyone asks the same question: How was your trip? Was it amazing? What did you do? You end up repeating the same generic answers. Well yes my trip was amazing, I did X,Y and Z and how were your two months when I was away? The usual responses of ‘ oh I just worked, went to the pub, saw my friends, you know the usual stuff’ spark guilt in your bragging and new found love for life that you stop in your tracks and retreat to your own thoughts. I have found myself avidly messaging fellow travelers, desperately reminiscing on all the amazing memories we’ve shared and flicking through hundreds of photographs to temporarily relive the moments.
4. You begin to desperately plan your next trip away.
It hasn’t even been 24 hours and you already feel the travel bug surfacing. You had a taste of pure freedom and bliss and you now desperately want that feeling to return. The pure joy of exploring a foreign place, meeting people from all walks of life and learning new languages and the ins and outs of an alien culture.
5. You realize just how trivial ‘first world problems’ truly are.
I have started to notice all of the things I once took for granted. I soon realized that too much choice isn’t necessarily a luxury. Getting dressed in the morning with too many clothes to choose from has become a real challenge. Western food really can be boring and unadventurous. No WiFi or 3G on your phone really isn’t the end of the world. Your own company becomes bearable and silence suddenly seems desirable. TV really is overrated and full of pointless and mind-numbing shows that I would much rather switch off. It becomes so crystal clear that wealth, the latest electronic gadgets and a highly paid or highly respected job isn’t the key to happiness or the ultimate goal in life either. Nor is spending hundreds of pounds on gifts for Christmas (It’s only 3 weeks away!). Being surrounded by family and friends is really the most important Christmas present I could ask for.
I am hoping that the Reverse Culture Shock eases in the next week or so. I dread to think how bad it gets the longer you spend away from home. I am adjusting, slowly, and writing this post has been therapeutic if not time passing.