I’ve just returned from my third, and last for a while, Big Trip and I’m easing into Real Life. My Real Life tasks feel pretty daunting right now: find a job, apartment, and get a new life. I’m ending a period of two years where I’ve traveled on Big Trips and worked in between with consulting jobs to pay for each one. All the trips were like children, wonderful in their own way and I love them equally the same. And each time I’ve returned I’ve had to start over with a place to live, a job, and a new dream trip to envision and make a reality.
Photo by chefranden on Flickr
You’d think my to do list on returning home this and other times was monumental and incredibly overwhelming and you’d be right if I’d bother to make one. The list I am making is ongoing and aware that now that I’m done with the Big Trip, I’m going into a Big Transition, I need to be very gentle with myself. So I’ve made one list so far and it’s focused on completing the Big Trip and beginning anew with my Big Transition. Here’s five things I recommend doing when returning from a Big Trip. The amount of time you need may depend on any obligations you made upon returning home (hopefully you didn’t make many).
Get Over Jet Lag
I’ve heard that it takes as many days as hours difference to get over jet lag. I’ve experienced this after a trip to China and it was murder to get over because I had to work the day after returning. With my Big Trips, it’s take a little less – the most was about three days because of my technique: I stay awake until bed time and sleep as late as possible. Right now I’m going to bed at about 9:30 and waking up at four. Luckily I’m able to fall back asleep until 7 or 8 with some deep breathing (in and I’m sleeping, out and I’m sleeping). I’m not perfect though, my friend Robin tells the story when I was staying with her and she came home at 5:30 and I was already in bed.
Satisfy Food Cravings, Gently
While traveling (and, admittedly sometimes a little hungover) I craved a Bloody Mary and a big burger more than once. Again, my friend Robin hosted me upon returning from this trip with access to her washing machine and a huge dinner of blue cheese burgers covered with bacon and carmelized onions. Served with it – dirty martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives and cupcakes for desert. When I got home, my sister said, “Bloody Mary?” and we left for the bar for a welcome home Bloody. All these rich treats caused some stomach discomfort (read: trips to the bathroom), but it was totally worth it.
Reunite with Friends and Family, Slowly
I want to share everything about my trips with all friends and family, especially those who’ve kept up with me over my blog and Facebook. But, very thankfully, the list is big and I can’t get overwhelmed or skimp on critical friend time. So I’m selective and stick mostly with my immediate family. The next step is a great way to get back in touch with everyone by…
Go Through Pictures and Organize/Publish Them
I think this task is the easiest to feel productive and feel through the memories of the trip and, it’s a great conduit to get in touch with friends and family. A simple email to my circle with a link to the pictures produces a couple of great responses and reconnections, some that have lead to future consulting jobs. I also like to tackle this task as a way of closing up the Big Trip because once I get started on the Big Transition tasks, I forget all about my pictures and they seem more like a chore. One thing I do is make a DVD with a soundtrack using my iDVD software, I bring it when visiting friends and they aren’t bored to tears because I’ve edited to tell the story of my trip and put some snappy tunes to the visuals.
Check the Mail and Deal with It
I left before my taxes were filed, relied on my accountant to file (which she did) and came home to a letter from the IRS saying that I’d underpaid and owed almost $3000. This almost sent me to the computer to book a new plane ticket back to India, but I read through the letter and realized that the IRS had gotten my state tax check and vice versa. Of course, these agencies cashed both checks addressed to the other one. I have an extension on my state taxes and made a phone call to my accountant to sort out. She’s going to get back to me and it will all be okay. I hope. Inshnallah. Either way, it’s something I have to deal with and I’m going to get it started before getting going on the Big Transition.
Unpack and Put Away the Travel Stuff
I looked around my room at my clothes on the floor, coats on the chair, and souveniers on the dresser. My room was a mess and it inspired this list as a desire to put closer on my Big Trip as a way to ease into the Big Transition. I spent the morning putting away all my clothes, going through my souveniers, and really just ending the trip in my head. Once my room was back to normal, I really felt like I was home.
I also sat down on my newly cleared bed and cried a little as some sadness rode through my body on undulating waves. It was the end. I was done with my Trip. I let myself feel some pity, but then I stopped. I felt better to have let the sadness flow through instead of busying myself with everything on this list. I realized that a lot of this trip didn’t work out like my other Big Trips with heart break and swindles and the loss of my travel mojo. And then I wrote this blog entry and felt a lot better.
Then… after all this is done and I’ve closed up the last Big Trip I’ll make another to do list, how to get to my next vision. I remember returning from India the first time and making a giant to do list involving learning how to write a book because I wanted to publish my blog and taking a photography class – all this on top of finding a job to pay for my next trip and travel again. I called a trusted friend and advisor and shared all my fears of not being able to do this all. Her advice: pick one thing and move towards that. Writing and photography went on the backburner and I focused all my energy on finding a consulting job to fund my next trip to the Middle East. And then it happened and I went on my second Big Trip.
Find a Travel Support Group
Update: Now that I’ve settled in San Francisco and have adjusted to real life again, I have found that being around other travelers makes all the difference. It’s about being with people who “get me” and want to hear all the travel stories. We love to get together, drink beer, and ask “where you been?” and “where you going next.”
A couple in the Bay Area: