The Biggest Challenge You’ll Face When You Travel


We travel to challenge ourselves. We jump off ledges, push our limits and test our strengths every day. But what is the biggest challenge of all? Coming home.

Returning home after a long trip can be one of the most exciting days. Reuniting with your family, friends and loved ones…. but it can also be the most underestimated challenge of your entire journey.

First, a disclaimer. I am every bit a family man. I love my family unconditionally and I know they’d never question that. My friends are among the some of the greatest you could wish to have. I wouldn’t be me, without them. 

Ok, that’s said, so I’ll continue…..

I’m Coming Home

When we touched down in London, Heathrow I was like a kid a Christmas. I’d been gone longer than ever before (as I didn’t go down the university route) and oh man, was I excited to see everyone. I was arriving back in the UK with two mates I had been travelling with and my friend’s mum would be driving us all home.

I knew exactly what my folks would be doing. They’d be waiting by the window that offered a view down the hill we lived on awaiting our arrival…. so I got my mates mum to drive down from the top of the hill, dropping me off 2 doors away.

Walking down the drive and up the steps to the front door was so memorable, even to this day. As I knocked on the door I could hear my folks the other side say in unison, ‘Oh for god sake, who the hell is this!’ As they opened the door, I was greeted with the biggest, ‘Arghh!’ I have ever heard.

There were tears, laughter and hugs that cut off circulation to the brain. It was one of the best moments of my life…. I was home.

24 Hours On

My first 24 hours back home were perfect. I shared lots of stories and photos, came clean about an accident I had in Australia but not told them (they’d only have worried) and most importantly of all, I’d eaten my body weight in mum’s home cooking. Oh yes, I was a happy man.

As many of you will have experienced when coming home, it is hard falling back into the right time zone when you’ve been away so long. Your first nights sleep isn’t often as perfect as you may have wished. This can also be said for the next 24 hours…

Lost At Home

On day two I woke to an empty house. Mum and dad were at work and I would have the day to do well, whatever I wanted. There were so many options. I had a bathroom that wasn’t shared with a whole hostel dorm. A kitchen (fully stocked). A wardrobe full of clothes and entertainment galore; TV, DVD’s, games and computer (with a good internet connection)… the options were endless.

Despite this, I found myself, within an hour, completely and utterly lost. Everything was so easy. It was all there right in front of me.

It wasn’t a case of not knowing what to do first, it was simply not knowing what to do.

It’s not like I’d been gone years and years but all these home comforts were suddenly alien to me.

After getting showered and dressed, I decided to head out for a walk, get some air and see what had changed whilst I’d been gone. With my faithful iPod at hand, I ended up walking much further than planned. I was ‘lost in the music’ (without sounding too corny). I’d had my iPod on throughout many  journeys over the last year. Suddenly songs that before my trip had no significant meaning, now told a story, becoming the theme tune to different chapters of my travels. (Still to this day I have a playlist that’s all songs reminding me of places I have been or things I experienced – note to self, must share these in a post!)

Anyway, I extended my walk and ended up heading for my local town a few miles away. I popped into the supermarket, picked up some weetabix and headed back home.

This was the last thing I thought I’d crave. My mates and I were very particularly low on funds towards the last month of our travels. Our 3 meals a day consisted of a bowl of Weetabix with sugar and milk. Filling, affordable and a easy to cram into your backpack. Before coming home, I was adamant I would never want to see a Weetabix ever again, but here I was, sat in the kitchen having a full bowl, not 48 hours after returning home. I was as baffled as you probably are.

Needless to say, the day wasn’t turning out how I expected. But that evening, I’d be seeing my mates. I couldn’t wait to catch up and see their ugly mugs!

Friends Reunited

Coming home to friends

A pub, a pint and your mates. I was back with the guys. Having a right laugh and sharing stories from the adventures I’d been having across the other side of the world.

After an hour or so, we’d caught up on things back home…. but nothing had changed. Literally nothing! It was all eat, sleep, work, repeat. It was as if I’d been gone just 5 minutes. It was so pleased to be surrounded by my mates again but I was worried that I’d depress them if I rolled off a list of all the adventurous things I’d been up to.

I went from itching to share all my stories to holding back a bit.

I actually don’t think I have shared much about my travels with people, until now. I think it’s because so much of my time away is and will always be so special to me. I worry about people getting bored with a story that is such a big deal to myself but not to them. I don’t want to alienate them and I don’t want to frustrate myself, seeing their potential underwhelmed reaction…. The whole coming home thing was much harder than I thought it would be.

There’s No Place like….

Maybe I’m strange, but hopefully I’m not alone in what I’m about to admit. I have never had that feeling of ‘home’ when I come back to the UK. ‘Oh its nice going away but its lovely coming home‘, ‘there’s no place like home‘, ‘home is where the heart is‘.

As I said at the beginning, I love my friends and family but I’d love them wherever they or I were. The UK, for me, has just never felt homely and I’ve never felt comfortable. I’ve felt far more comfortable in foreign countries, which always makes it harder to leave.

‘What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? ‘…. Errrr

The dreaded, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ question was one of my most feared throughout school. I never really knew.

Sure I went through phases. I wanted to be an astronaut, an archeologist, a chef, a fireman, a stunt man and a racing driver  but none of these things ever stuck with me. I wasn’t one of these kids who knew from birth that they wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer…. I like to think I’m not alone and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (Luckily Gabby feels the same).

In ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Suncreen)’ by Baz Luhrmann, a verse’s lyrics read:


I like to think I will one day be one of these interesting people. An ideal vocation wasn’t on my radar earlier in life. All I knew was that I wanted to simply earn enough money to allow me to do the things I wanted to do. I then discovered those things were seeing the world, experiencing all its beauty and secrets.

After my first trip, it was confirmed. I think I’ve finally found my calling:

I’m meant to travel.

Not only my first trip but my coming home played a crucial part in working this out. When you are travelling it feels as if the clock has stopped however once you’re back in the swing of daily, home life, the clocks seem to speed up and time flashes by. Suddenly a year has passed, then 2, then 3.

Knowing I need to travel is one thing but I need to do so now before time passes me by and I’m still saying these words 10 years from now.

Tik Tok, Tik Tok

I have been constantly referring to time throughout this post. I feel very fortunate to have an awareness of time. Time can so often catch us out and take us by surprise.

I’m going to wrap this up with time in mind and with a little help from Anthony Hopkins. In one of my favorite films, Meet Joe Black, he makes a speech on his 60th birthday party. The last thing he says is this……

’60 years. Doesn’t it go by in a blink’. 


How did you find coming home? Was it what you expected or was it more of a struggle? 

  • Karla Ramos

    I can very much relate to this article, I am always happy to go back home,however it feels like the people we left stayed the same where as we, as travelers changed. Our perspective change and it feels like we’ve been touched by something and we can’t help but share everything we’ve learned in my travels, Sometimes, they don’t see it the way I do. Still, its nice to have a place called home.

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Thanks for checking out the post, Karla.
      Pleased I’m not alone and you could relate to this. You’re spot on. Its as if you get a super sensitive appreciation of every little thing.
      As travellers we definitely change. Working on a post just about this that I’ll publish soon 🙂


  • TheGlobeWanderers

    Thanks for checking out the post, Karla.
    Pleased I’m not alone and you could relate to this. You’re spot on. Its as if you get a super sensitive appreciation of every little thing.
    As travellers we definitely change. Working on a post just about this that I’ll publish soon 🙂


  • Abbi from Life in a rucksack ✈

    Absolutely love this post James – I identify with this so much. For me, coming home in October, after almost 3 years was a little different, as I didn’t really have a home to come home to. I slept in 14 different places in my first 3 months back (mostly spare rooms and people’s couches). Home for me will always be in Northern Ireland, but my heart will always be in the departure lounge of an airport. I am never more excited than at the smell of jet fuel in the morning!

    I don’t think you can every return to ‘normal’ when you’ve travelled so much and I don’t want to (even though I’ve just started into the World of the 9-5 working pattern again – I am determined to make the most of my days, weekends and annual leave!)

    I totally agree about the comment of not sharing as much when you return. You come back and think that everyone will listen for hours on end about your travels, but then you realise that your friends have had lives of their own, though you feel nothing has changed. Your mates are still in the same jobs, living the same town. Sure they may have got married, had kids, bought a house, and been on amazing holidays, but you think ‘I have done so much with my time away’. Your experiences and theirs over a period of time are greatly different, and they just don’t match up.

    I do still find myself slipping in, in various conversations about “that time I was in …. X country”. People tend to shut off and think ‘oh here she goes again, with one of her travelling stories’. 🙂

    Never lose the passion for travel. It is one of the greatest you can have.

    Thanks for sharing your reflections on this.

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Hi Abbi. Thanks for the feedback and so pleased you loved the post.
      Wow, your return home sounded pretty tough.
      Sound like you’re an expert wanderluster, with your heart at the departure lounge for your next adventure. Think lots of us can familiarise with that feeling.
      It’s so good to hear others feel the same way about not sharing as much as you think you may with mates etc. Keep telling them your travel stories though, regardless of eye rolls and shut off expressions. Feel free to share as many as you like with us! We’d always be more than happy to hear them 🙂
      Thanks again! Maybe we’ll see you in a departure lounge some day.


  • Marta Grilo

    That’s so true! It’s always good and sad to come home after traveling. When I was studying abroad I felt the same way as you did after your first trip: i’m meant to travel, and that’s exactly what I’m planing to do. Although I’m 20 and still a bachelor student, I can’t wait to do that for a living

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Thanks for your comment, Marta.
      It’s lovely discovering that you’re meant to do something isn’t it?
      Where was it you studied abroad?
      Hope you’re enjoying your course and sure you’ll be counting the days till you can take off once again 🙂


  • Gemma

    Weetabix? Weetabix? The chunky ones coated in sugar I could understand. My parents are coming over to see us on Wednesday, that’ll be four months on the road without seeing family so it’s kind of like a reverse to your experience. As a teacher, I’ve always returned to work so the feeling of ‘being home’ is fleeting, back to the daily grind!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Sad to say, Gemma but yes, Weetabix…and not the delicious sugar coated ones (they were far too glamorous and expensive on our travels ;))
      Oh I bet you’re so excited to see your family and they get a holiday coming to see you too…win win!
      Where are you currently?
      Teaching will definitely bring you back to reality/’the grind’. Do you try to travel on the half term breaks etc though?

      Thanks for checking the post out.


      • Gemma

        We are in BC, on The Sunshine Coast. In the past I have just done Summer stints, the beauty of being a teacher! But we’re currently on an 18 month career break which is really unreal when I say it out load. It’s our four month on the road anniversary today!

        • TheGlobeWanderers

          18 month career break sounds perfect and congratulations on the 4 month road-versary, hope you celebrated in style! Enjoy the next 14! 🙂

  • Love and Road

    You are not alone!

    Once you got bitten by travel bug the world becomes your home. You can try to go back to your old lifestyle but it will never be the same. Travelling is like opening a door to a new dimension and once you discover how is to live out there you can´t ignore…

    I lived for 2 years in Dublin, Ireland, it was my first experience abroad. When I got back home in Brazil I thought I was ready to settle down, get marriage and build my normal life… I was so wrong, a few years later I did get marriage but instead of “normal life” we became nomads, and that was the best decision ever…

    Travel is in our blood, we can’t deny!!

    Happy Journey!



    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Hi Nat,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Loved your description of the world becoming your home. Perfectly summed up! 🙂

      You can consider yourself added to me and Gabby’s ‘inspirational couples’ list. Thats exactly our plan. To enjoy a nomadic lifestyle together. Perfection!

      Hope you’re loving every day of it. Happy journey’s to you both also 🙂


  • TheGlobeWanderers

    Hi Nat,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Loved your description of the world becoming your home. Perfectly summed up! 🙂
    You can consider yourself added to me and Gabby’s ‘inspirational couples’ list. Thats exactly our plan. To enjoy a nomadic lifestyle together. Perfection!
    Hope you’re loving every day of it. Happy journey’s to you both also 🙂


  • Valerie

    Love this, of course! And I feel similarly — if I love everywhere I am and everywhere I go, it gets a lot harder to figure out where to be most happy!

    Thanks for sharing and making it feel slightly less unusual to feel this way!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Cheers, Valerie.
      Pleased this could help in showing there are many of us who feel a similar way when returning home.
      I agree with you completely. When you keep finding amazing places its tricky to stop and put down roots when the next place could be just as, if not more incredible. Solution? ….. constant nomad! 🙂


  • Drive on the Left

    I just went home for a few weeks (after living abroad for a couple years). I also experience that ‘everything is the same’ phenomenon. I struggle with feeling comforted by that. I mean, it’s nice to see my friends all living in the same houses and sharing the same gossip. But at the same time, it’s discomfiting. I feel like the one who has learned and grown and I don’t fit in to the old routines any longer. Thank goodness. So yea, totally with you on this and I love/hate it all the same!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Not fitting into old routines is a really good point. Its stuff like that which stand out a mile when you’re struggling with settling back into home life.
      It certainly is a love/hate scenario.
      Thanks so much for reading!


  • Runawaybabe

    Very touching post. I haven’t been away from long longer than a month and a half but I get those sensations you described every time I go back to my folks in Peru. For me, on this case, is backwards: I live in Switzerland and have pretty much my life here and all my adventures start from here. When I go back to Lima, after the cheers and laughs, I come to see myself in the mirror and I realize how much I have changed. The mirror, the house, the lightning etc is the same but the one reflected in the mirror isn’t. This make me think that any kind of coming back is an opportunity for self discovering and self-reflection. Some discover their passions (like you, you are so lucky!) others, like me, discover the “updated version” of themselves, version that seems to freeze in the peacefully Switzerland, where everything goes slower, calmer, etc.
    Wish you all the best!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Thank you for your comment, Rocio.

      Its a bizarre thing when you go home to where everything is the same but you have changed so much. Must be even more weird for you if its a few years at a time.
      Would love to visit Switzerland some day soon. Slower and calmer sounds like a nice pace of life 🙂


  • Chris Stevens

    I’ve headed home a couple of times now and within a couple weeks Ive ditched off jobs and bought plane tickets!hahaha!
    I think the biggest thing I realised is the fact the thing that has changed most is you – and that’s the hardest things to come to terms with, that you’ll never quite fit in the way you used to or feel as comfortable there either…

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Hey Chris,
      Ah good work on the job ditching and jetting off again. We like the sound of that 🙂
      Quite right. It is us that change. I guess why we feel so comfortable travelling is because we come across others who are like minded and therefore we feel at home whilst on the road.
      Thanks for checking out the post. Keep job ditching and buying those plane tickets!


  • Anne Apostol

    What a very personal and beautiful post, James! You really poured your heart out there, man! It’s true what they say, no? Travel changes you. The more places you go, the more “homes” you associate with. It’s like leaving a piece of yourself into every place you go and every person you meet along the road. It’s sad sometimes but isn’t it ironic that there lies the beauty of travelling? Happy travels, Gabby and James! 🙂

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Ah, thank you, Anne. Thats very kind.
      Absolutely. When people are so hospitable they make you feel at home. Each of those places becomes a home away from home. I guess the answer is travel more and have more experiences like this so really, you’re never away from ‘home’ because you end up having so many…. I hope that makes sense.
      Thanks again, Anne 🙂


  • Bethaney

    I find that every time I go home to New Zealand I realise that I don’t feel home there at all. I’m still searching for that place!

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Thanks for reading, Bethaney.
      I think Gabby and I will have to deal with this too. Hope you find that special place to make home someday soon.


  • Ana O’Reilly

    As an expat, I look forward to and dread at the same time the moment we move back home. It won’t be easy, I know that. Right now, I feel as if I don’t fully belong to either place.

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Hi Ana,
      Yeah thats a tricky one. Guess you’re a bit in limbo. Hope the decision of home or away becomes clear for you. Thanks for your comment.


  • Chris Nash

    What an interesting read! We still have at least 6 more months ahead of us, so I’m interested to see how life will feel back home after a year and a half abroad.

    My suspicion is it will be a remarkably similar experience…

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Cheers, Chris. Pleased you enjoyed the post.
      6 months to go? Lucky you! Where’s on the agenda?
      Hope the homecoming isn’t too testing when that day comes.


      • Chris Nash

        Okay, so I’ve only finally seen this!

        Not even sure where we were back then, but currently in Bosnia (sadly with 4 less of those 6 months…)

        Have to head back to Serbia next (to collect my new passport in Belgrade), then it’s Kosovo, Albania, FYR Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran… then home (via Turkey again).

        Bit sad when I think about it… all those places we didn’t get to!

  • Talia’s Travels

    I am feeling just the same, even though I’ve not even returned home yet! I have just accepted another job overseas, and without hesitation. The response every time I tell friends that I’ll be staying away for at least another year is “when are you coming home” and “so when are you going to stop travelling and start real life?” Every time I have to try and explain that I don’t really feel like I have a particular place I call home, any more than the bed I’ll be spending the night with, and that my life could very well be never-ending travel, in fact that is really the ultimate dream! Who says that this isn’t real life? I have some friends who take it as offensive that I can’t wait to come home, and to come back to them! Have you experienced this at all?

    • TheGlobeWanderers

      Thanks Talia.
      Wow. You’re certainly living the dream in our minds.
      Yeah, its must be hard when your mates miss you and want you home but to us, you are living a ‘real life’. In fact you’re probably living for each day more than those in the grind of their own reality.
      Its a tricky one but I think when people take offense about this kind of stuff its just due to their lack of understanding. Maybe they haven’t travelled themselves or maybe the ‘bug’ just didn’t bite them.
      I haven’t experienced this in terms of coming home but I have in terms of going. Two close friends of mine didn’t (and I still think, don’t) understand my reasons for going and took it personally, feeling neglected. I think they thought my plans were all hot air and I’d never actually go…… Proved them wrong 🙂
      Keep travelling, Talia. Enjoy every second!

      • Talia’s Travels

        Thanks! I feel like I’m living the dream, and cannot wait for it to continue…
        Speaking of the travel bug, I sometimes wish that whoever it is that I talk to has been ‘bitten’ at least once by it… Then they might have a clue! I always have so many family and friends saying “oh you’re so lucky” and “I wish I was you!” It kills me that I can’t just yell “why don’t you try it!” and drag them half way across the world to show them, to make them try it! Oh wow the stresses of being a traveller… 😛
        Thank you so much for the lovely reply, I’ve never had another blogger respond so extensively to one of my comments, thank you!

        • TheGlobeWanderers

          Pleasure 🙂 Ah, thats nice to hear I’m the first.

          Haha, maybe we need to create a travel bug epidemic. That way there won’t be any misunderstanding us globe trotters.

          ‘You’re so lucky’ I’ve had that from friends and family too. As if they never had or will ever get the opportunity themselves.
          Some do discover they can do it but later on in life…. guess we just have to consider ourselves lucky in that respect.

          We’ll look forward to seeing where you head next, Talia and be sure to follow your adventures 🙂

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