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

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5. Roots Don’t Seem As Important Anymore

Coming back home felt like putting on a favorite sweater that shrunk in the wash. It just didn’t fit right anymore. I’ve had the same squad since Kindergarten, swapping PB&J sandwiches with the same people for two decades now. I thought what I needed to be happy was stability, and that history is what kept me firmly rooted in my neighborhood, venturing out only when vacation days became available.

But those roots don’t seem as important anymore. I’ve learned those who want to keep you around will wait. Feelings won’t change, your past won’t be wiped away. You don’t have to stick around just to preserve that. Leaving doesn’t mean choosing. So now I’m looking for my next ticket out because home is no longer this zip code or these people that I’ve been kicking it with my whole life. Home is an unfamiliar bed in a country where I fumble over the world “hello,” and where a map is always stuck in my back pocket. And I feel homesick.

6. You’re Selfish Now

Taking the leap to leave everything familiar behind is a selfish thing, and the experience rubs off on you. You’ve missed birthdays and road trips, ignored phone calls and pushed deadlines, smiled at “I miss you” messages while knowing you’d keep them feeling that way a little longer.

And the decision settled you. That feeling is hard to shake. So you’re now ready to be selfish with your time. You stay home on Saturday nights eating donuts if that’s what you want, or you wind up in a whiskey bar during a school night. You cross the street in order to avoid talking to somebody and say the word “no” without the need to explain why. You love those you love, and feel OK if the feelings leave. You don’t wait anymore for people to give you permission to live. You’ll drive two hours for the ocean, and you’ll take a long train just to go sit in a small park in the city. You could have your shit together or you could not, but in the end you know it’s your choice. And you don’t feel guilty about it anymore.

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