To those of you who left America this summer…
Know that the hardest part about leaving will be returning;
know that the reverse-culture shock will often hit you harder than the initial culture shock of a new country;
know that your thoughts might be irrational and offensive to others as you process your trip; have grace for yourself;
know that peoples’ comments might be irrational and offensive to you regarding your trip, “Welcome back to civilization!” have grace for others;
know that while you have been humbled more than ever by your travels, people will often feel a sense of inferiority or timidity to talk because they didn’t leave;
know that you’re going to answer the same questions you’ve already answered over and over, “What was your favorite…?”;
know that when most people ask you about your trip, they will only want to hear, “It was good. How was your summer?”‘
know that there are people who generally care, they just might not know how to show it;
know that you aren’t alone and there are other people feeling the same struggle of re-entry as you;
know that while the first stage of re-entry sucks, it does get better;
know that sometimes you have to seek out people to listen to you instead of waiting for them to come to you;
know that the more engaging and relatable your stories are, the more people will be willing to listen;
know that your trip wasn’t just an experience that stayed in the country you left but is something that you can carry with you for the rest of your life and continue to let change you.
To those of you who stayed in America this summer and are watching people return from traveling…
Know that they don’t think they’re better than you for having the chance to travel;
know that they genuinely care about your life and want to hear how your summer went as well;
know that any feelings of inferiority because you didn’t travel is a lie straight from the pit of hell;
know that the person who left is coming back a new person even if you can’t see it visibly;
know that the best questions to help them process their trip are not “What was your favorite…” questions;
know that thought-provoking questions are better help than questions they’ve staged answers for, “What parts of the culture were you surprised by? What were the people like? What were some of the hardships you experienced?”;
know that the best question to ask is, “How can I help you process your trip?”
know that the best thing you can do is simply listen to them word-vomit on you;
know that those who left might say irrational, politically incorrect, slightly misspoken words at first;
know that while some of what those who left say might be wrong, they don’t need your correction at this time but simply your willingness to listen;
know that the one who left is still reliving their trip in their mind even if their outward appearance looks normal and seems to have moved on.
I write this not to guilt anyone, but out of a genuine desire that people would understand others’ mindsets better. To some of you, this blog was utterly unrelatable and I’m honestly surprised you’ve read this far. But for others, whether you’ve travelled or know someone well who has, I hope these simple points can encourage you to help those returning process their trip or prepare yourself for your own return.
Whether you’re returning from a trip overseas or talking with someone who has, we can all be edified and encouraged if we approach conversations about these experiences with the right perspective. To those who left, let’s re-enter well; to those who stayed, let’s help others return well.