The Travelling Fine Art Photographer

Reverse Culture Shock


Have you ever had that feeling where you’ve just returned from a long trip, a trip that changed you in ways you can’t imagine, a trip with the most incredible experiences and memories you feel you can’t beat? Then you arrive home, and after the excitement, everyone feels to have you back. The recounting of stories, the catching up with friends. You start to feel a little down, something you can’t quite describe, everything seems normal, everyone is as they always were. But there’s one problem;

you aren’t.

It’s called reverse culture shock. Or at least that’s what I named it. Culture shock is what you get in a country that you weren’t quite prepared for. Perhaps you didn’t fully expect the vast differences in the way of life you now perceive, or little things affect you that never even crossed your mind. The air is somehow different, the people don’t speak your language. You were ready for adventure but it’s still out of your comfort zone. You still crave a sense of familiarity. But you’re here and this is where you wanted to be! To travel this place, to experience the differences in culture, to immerse yourself into the lifestyle of this new land and to lay your hat in your new home for a while.

You stay a while and the little things become smaller and smaller until eventually they disappear, you finally feel at home here. The weird things become commonplace, the air now suits your lungs, your favourite food is from the street Market around the corner. You have adapted to your surroundings and now you are thriving in your new life. It’s something that happens to most of us that travel and lives in a new country. At first, we miss our home comforts and our friends, but we set out on this journey to challenge ourselves and we soon become settled. We meet new and amazing people, we try new things, think new thoughts and share our stories with those we meet and cherish. Then comes the next hurdle;

returning home.

And this is where the panic starts, the real struggle in the story. Not the fear of adapting, but the fear you will never feel at home again. You’re home and yet it’s not your home any more. Everyone’s here, they’re still the same and yet not. Friends may have built new relationships, reached social milestones and your family may have expanded exponentially. You’re deliriously happy for them, but there’s something you just can’t grasp. You’ve become a different soul, they can’t quite understand the change. You left and now you’re back, the old you is still at the forefront of their minds but the thoughts you hoard inside are entirely different and how do you possibly express them?

Reverse culture shock, it’s something I’m still dealing with, it exasperated two years of emotional turmoil when I first returned home after a year in Japan. I was lost in a world I knew everything about. Every corner, every person, every thought, and yet all I looked for was a doorway. An escape out into the unknown. Some of us crave change, sometimes we aren’t even aware of it. I could have had my mind on a goal for months, but when I finally reach that goal a new one suddenly materialises and I’m no longer happy, that feeling of accomplishment is so fleeting. It’s suffering and yet a blessing, it drives me to want more, to see more, to do more, to go everywhere.

The fear of reverse culture shock will keep us learning

I believe It’s something ingrained in us as travellers, hard to deal with and yet endlessly satisfying. The fear of reverse culture shock will keep us learning. Keep us discovering. Keep burning the fire in our hearts. Home is wherever I am, home is wherever I love, home is wherever I seek. Wherever in the world that may be.

I recorded a podcast on this exact subject. If it’s something that resonates, have a listen! You’re not alone. 

Travelling Inside Out - Episode 62 - Becky - Storyteller

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