Stepping out of your comfort zone, returning home from a big trip and finding your place again. Why is it all so hard?
My homecoming experience
After being on the road for so long – and I know most people who have travelled long-term have also experienced this – the biggest challenge is to find your place again. Coming home to Holland is always strange to me. Like a love and hate relationship with the structured and hard working country with sometimes a little too much comfort, I’d say. The majority of the people are nice and friendly and know how to crack a joke and have a laugh. Also I love how direct and mostly honest this culture is. Not holding a blind eye to challenging things like drug use, prostitution, and crime, which hardly is a real life threat compared to many other places in the world. Also corruption levels are low compared to most places. You know, it’s safe. Really safe. Though, there’s no other place I’ve been with so much structure and it sometimes feels like it sucks the life and spirit out of things. There isn’t a lot of room for dreams, for adventure and for radical self-expression. Having safety works great, because you don’t have to worry about, you know, your safety. You’ll always be looked after. But I feel like it also sucks you into the comfort of being safe.
What do I mean by that?
It’s like a big comfort zone that feels safe and, you know, comfortable, which makes it an extra big step to get out of the comfortable lifestyle. Why would you want to break out of the comfort zone? Because often that’s where the things lie that you’re afraid of, but simultaneously they’re the most exciting fantasies and your biggest dreams. Breaking out of your comfort zone means to explore, to try something new, to adventure, to express, to open your mind to new things, talking to strangers, following your dreams, get a weird haircut or just to do something different. It’s all so scary because you have to be vulnerable. And those things are often not encouraged in our society. Perhaps you’ll be judged for it or catch a weird eye.
Structure brings safety, but is it really alive? That’s what I’m questioning.
Stepping out of your comfort zone
Anyways, I’m glad you’re asking, or not, but I gladly get into it: why do people change when they travel? I’ve wrapped my head around it many times and here’s my theory.
I can say from my own experience that my self expression, my values and beliefs started to change, or maybe develop is a better way to describe it. When you travel you’re in a really safe environment to experiment with who you are, who you want to be, what your interests are and even what you want to wear or look like. And It feels extremely liberating knowing that no one’s watching you and talking behind your back about the things you’re trying, doing and experimenting with. So you could say in that sense it’s a really safe environment to explore into what you’ve always been interested in, but that you’ve held yourself back from because of the rules of society and the people you care about.
Now, when you travel and explore and find out that you feel happier with traditional yoga pants and flowers in your hair, then you want to keep rocking that. Or you might feel happier because you’re overcoming your fears, supported by encouraging people and you want to do more of that in your life. Or you find out you’re really digging a certain activity that’s not supported by the social community in your home country, then the same thing goes for that. You want to be doing that for as long as it sparks your interest. Maybe you changed your choices around food because you realise you don’t want to be eating animals anymore for either health, environmental or ethical reasons. If it makes you feel happier and more vibrant you want to keep that habit. The list goes on and on.
But here’s the challenge: coming home. You can imagine it can be a stick in the butt to come back to a place where people don’t acknowledging you for that or even discourage you to do all the things that you loved. “Why aren’t you building a career?” Is what people are more worries about. Often the encouragement is to settle back into the ‘safe’ and ‘normal’ environment. Like: “It’s time to stop dreaming yo, c’mon when do you start a real life?” “hey, don’t wear your hair like that, people might be looking at you” or “you are so weird for not eating that tasty hamburger with bacon, wtf’s going on with you”. But to top it off, I feel like jealousy plays a big role here, because in other words: “you’re doing the things I want to be doing, but hold myself back from.”
One misconception is that travelling is like a big holiday. It wouldn’t be the first time I hear someone saying: “yeh, but you can’t be travelling for the rest of your life!” (limiting belief) No? Can you not? I’ve met heaps of people that are doing it. And they’re happy, too. “But you can’t make a career.” (another limiting belief) Well, there’s internet, teaching, selling art, again, the list goes on. “But you can’t be happy like that..” (another limiting belief) And that statement is where it goes wrong – people projecting their reality on someone else’s life. Not actually trying to step into the shoes of someone else, trying to understand the other person. Projecting is looking through someone else’s eyes, but you’re still wearing you own glasses/lens. Meaning: the way you see the world is through your own experiences, beliefs and state of being – that’s your lens. It’s your filter. Your perception of the reality. We can’t understand someone else when we’re not trying to take those glasses off. What a lot of people do instead is the following: here look through my lenses, and you’ll see that it isn’t not possible. You’ll see why it’s stupid. Thank you, but no thank you.
No one’s to blame here though, it’s just 2 different worlds not understanding each other. Because our brain is designed to be safe, and to scan out all the strange things that might be dangerous, but it also scans out values, beliefs and behaviour that’s not supported by the ‘community’. Fear is what ultimately limits our ability to grow and to expand.
Side note: I want to make clear that I’m not talking about escaping reality or running away from it, even though some people might perceive travelling that way. That totally depends upon the situation itself. I’m talking about tapping into a part of yourself that sparks your interest and joy and not being understood by others.
Another side note: this doesn’t just merely go for travelling. Though, when coming home from a big trip the change is so radical that it’s often obvious to experience something like this. But the same really goes for day to day life, or making decisions and choices in your life that other people (in your circle) don’t support.
Last side note, I promise: don’t take it personal. It is not personal. It’s someone else’s projection. Don’t take discouragement or –even better – anything other people say personal. Ever. When you take it personal and you agree to what other people say, then you take on a new belief. That belief, if it’s limiting, will hold you back from becoming who you really need/want to be.
When I came home from my first big trip I took a fat sip of that good ‘ol sour juice I was just talking about. Especially because I was really excited to come home, you know, coming home, like no other place in the world! But to my surprise it turned out to be a big ass downer. I felt so disconnected and I was missing “my other life”. I felt so disconnected and blamed the whole world for it. It sucked me down deeper and deeper and I didn’t understand how to cope with it. I didn’t understand that I had to take responsibility for trying to understand first. You know?
So home coming is always interesting, but it gets easier. In my experience there’s a part of the people thinking that I’m just a nutter “He went on some trip and now probably hugs trees rather than thinking about his future.” and they’re actually fucking right! The first time I came home I struggled a lot with ‘friends’ that I felt judged by or the disconnection that I felt. I tried to connect and to listen and ask questions and show interest, but for some reason that spark wasn’t there anymore. The biggest challenge for me was that I felt no sense, like nada, of interest of a bunch of people around me that I used to hang out with. Which is the biggest downer, because as we all know, as being human, we want to share our story with our peeps!
The second time I came home it was a lot easier, because I knew what was waiting for me and I kinda stopped trying when I knew that spark was gone. I also didn’t have the same expectations anymore, and an expectation is the beginning of a disappointment. It actually unfolded really well that time.
The third time I realised a simple thing. When you and the people around you don’t share the same ideas of what is important in life it can be a struggle to make a connection. The more you try, the more energy you waste.
Finding your place
When it comes to travelling there’s no way around meeting people from all different cultures, backgrounds, religions and beliefs. There is no right or wrong apart from one thing. And that thing, I believe, is your heart. Your heart knows what is the right thing to do, which is love, good vibes, connection, joy, play, contribution, dreams, purpose. But in western society it’s really easy to lose that mind-body connection. What do I mean by that? It’s hearing and listening to what your intuitive voice has to say, in other words, your heart. We often don’t connect enough with nature, with people and also with ourself and our body. It makes total sense because we have all these flashy distractions around us screaming for attention and a society that’s always striving for more, bigger, better and stronger: the competitive “survival of the fittest” mindset. What being disconnected from yourself really means is that we get caught up in our head too much, not being in the present moment and the intuitive wisdom of our heart is basically stamped out, or ignored.
Some people understand this really well and seem to live a really fulfilling life(style). That doesn’t mean they don’t face struggle or obstacles, but they fully embrace life in its whole spectrum, the positive as well as the negative.
When you travel, when you switch career, when you move to another place, or any other big move in your life which makes you stand on your own feet for some time it helps you to revaluate your values and beliefs, consciously or subconsciously. “What’s important in my life?” You now have to think for yourself, explore by yourself, experiment by yourself. And you’ll most likely change a bit when you’re forced to make different choices, because you’re off the auto-pilot. That’s when you broaden your vision, open your mind. You start to question whether what you believe is really what you believe or are they your friends’ or parents’ beliefs?
I think of it this way: a banker thinks the life of a fisher is stupid because he has no money, a fisher thinks the life of a banker is stupid because he only has money. A farmer thinks a life of a traveller is stupid because he has no home and a traveller thinks a the life of a farmer is stupid because he only has one place to call home. Who is right and who is wrong? I think none of them are, yet they might be. The farmer who wanted to be a farmer for all of his life has fulfilled his mission and is now serving the world with his fresh produce. But the farmer who’s always wanted to travel the world, but never did, has maybe settled for less than what would really fulfil his heart.
Taking it that way I think it’s not too complicated.
Thanks for reading! Here’s a question: “what is your limiting belief?”
Love, and happy – safe – home staying (thanks to COVID).