To say “you just had to be there” would cheapen the personal growth we experience in traveling.
By Rebecca Hennelly, Tulane University
People always ask, “Is it weird to be home?”
Planes land and photos are developed, I mean posted on timelines. Michael Kors watches turn back to home time zones, and the days continue.
Whether your trip was a weekend away with friends, or a longer love affair with a foreign country, we come home.
You go to these places. You see these things. Meet these people. Then row 8, seat c by the window. But there’s nothing like the smell of your home when you’ve been gone for a while. Growing up you can never notice it, but summer camp and family vacations slowly introduce you to the welcome home smell of your front door. It is only these moments of homecoming that you experience it yourself.
It’s sweet and it’s salty. Coming home.
Puppy dog greetings and ketchup that tastes like ketchup make coming home a little easier. Drinking tap water is underrated and the jury’s out on cell service with data plans. But how can you just go back? Sure it’s nice not to worry about cultural protocol and differences… but is it? Is familiarity really what you want? It’s hard to be caged in a place you never knew there were bars.
As frustrating as unpacking can be, being home allows you to share your stories. Through storytelling, your time away sinks in. You get a chance to reflect, to miss it… from the comforts of your own home.
I came home from my summer in South Africa to a million notifications on Facebook for my ‘South Africa’ album. Late nights in bars and empty alcohol bottles. Like. Skinny jeans, heels with platforms, and across the body bags. Like. Elephants and lions. Like. But what they didn’t see, what I didn’t “post” about were the children in the orphanages. They didn’t know what the clinics looked like. My “friends” (quotes used to refer to my Facebook community, not to be misinterpreted as a weird social commentary) think they understand my experience from multimedia and technological sympathy, virtually liking what I have shared. My days were stereotyped and minimized with their inability to have been there. That wasn’t their fault. I couldn’t be mad at them for not knowing about the conditions of townships. To say “you just had to be there” would cheapen the personal growth we experience in traveling.
Coming home is the colliding of your worlds, your tectonic plates of understanding shifting. Trying to take the “new you” who has had so many new experiences, to a place where “you” are already defined is tough! But this is no different than the ordinary struggle of growing up. An easy transition home could suggest a lack of growth. So to all my jet-setters, backpackers, and couch surfers, homecoming blues got nothing on you.
After all, there’s always the next adventure to look forward to.