Here’s What No One Tells You About Settling Down After Backpacking Abroad

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3. Which Leads You To Be Unsure If You Even Changed At All

David Mitchell said, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” I think the reason for that is when you leave your zip code, there’s no one around to report back on you. So you stop closing yourself off. You don’t want to be cool or indifferent anymore; you want to be honest. You become open and curious, brave in a way that sometimes baffles you and interested in who people are.

You’d cook dinners with strangers in your hostel, chopping garlic for sauce as you listened to what roads they took those past months to get them to that kitchen. In Barcelona, you’d go up to rooftops and drink wine with a friend you’ve known an hour but now have as a brother. In Hanoi, you’d sit on a curb with a stranger, learning how to roll cigarettes as your knees bump. In Bangkok you’d have a bucket of alcohol in one hand, a roasted cricket in the other, laughing as you walked beneath dizzying neon lights. You wanted to meet people, connect, exchange ideas. You wanted to push yourself, try scary things, see what you could accomplish on your own.

But when you’re back home, you feel the old you waiting. She’s sitting with criss-crossed legs on the bed, smirking. Like she already knows that after a handful of days you’ll go back to your self-conscious, hesitant, unsteady, no-new-friends self. And as you sit down next to her, you don’t know which version of you is right.

4. You Experience The Disappointment That Is Your Morning

On the road, you have these five seconds every morning just as you open your eyes — right before the need for coffee hits — where you think the following: Am I in Paris? No wait, Amsterdam. Or is it Sri Lanka? My shirt isn’t sticking to my chest, so — oh yeah, it’s Brussels. Today is Brussels.

When you’re back at home, for the first couple of days you’ll have that same wonderful disorientation, and when the realization hits that it’s your own room, in your now-seemingly dust bowl of a town, you’ll put the pillow over your head and do your most impressive internal scream.

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