When I came to Chile last February, my original plan had been to stay abroad for a year. However, that idea got busted before I even left, because my sister got pregnant with her first baby, and there was never any doubt in my mind that I would come home to meet my niece once she was born. Thus, I rescheduled my travel plans and opted for a visit home after my first three months in South America. Then, I would continue my travels after I got my fix of baby and family time. What I did not expect, was how being home affected me in both good and bad ways, and changed my perspective on returning to a life on the road.
The obvious advantages of a visit home
Before I actually arrived back in Hamburg, I had looked upon it as a nice opportunity to assess my travels so far and make any necessary changes. I could repack my bag, figure out if there was anything else I needed or anything I had carried around for three months that proved unnecessary. I could restock on anything that I found lacking and just generally treat those first three months as a kind of test run with the chance to learn from it and go better prepared for the second, longer leg of my travels.
Because of that, I was generally was much more relaxed about packing and preparing this second time. I had a clearer idea of what I would need and not need. However, what came as a surprise was the emotional impact staying home had on me. While before I had I purely looked forward to seeing my friends and family and meeting its newest member, it quickly turned out things would be a lot more complicated than I had anticipated.
Time is such a fleeting thing
It already started right upon my first days at home. I hadn’t booked the return flight to Chile yet but knew I had to do that soon. Originally, I had intended to stay home for about a month. I quickly extended that to seven weeks and might have stayed even longer if flight prices had not suddenly skyrocketed at the end of June. I basically put my return to Chile off for as long as I could without having to pay an extra thousand Euros just for a few days more. A month had sounded like a lot when I was still abroad, but like nothing once I was actually home.
I spent as much time as I could with my family. I also attempted to catch up with as many of my friends as I could possibly manage in those few weeks. It got to the point where I was completely exhausted just from hanging out with people I love all day. The introverts among you will know what I’m talking about. Still, I wasn’t going to slow down, because I knew once I left again, it would be a long time before I’ll see any of them.
Why leaving is harder the second time around
Leaving for a long-term trip is always hard. Every time I do it I have those moments, especially during the last days before setting off, when I almost wish I could just stay home and abandon my travels. This time, it was worse than ever. I couldn’t even blame it on nerves, because unlike in February, I now had a pretty clear idea on what to expect. After all, I was going back to Santiago, a place I’d spent enough time in before to make it feel familiar. My doubts this time weren’t nerves. They were sadness at leaving.
Being home was great in so many ways, but it also served to remind me of everything I’ll be missing when I’m away. And there’s a lot. My niece was certainly one factor. There are so many things happening in her life in the next months that I won’t be there to witness. Like her first attempts at walking. My sister kept saying she might be able to run into my arms when I return. I’m only hoping she won’t have completely forgotten who I am by then so that she’ll want to come into my arms at all.
However, it’s more than just my niece, adorable as she is. Last time I left, I knew I’d be back after three months. Now, it will be much longer. Also, this is the first time ever I’m leaving Germany without a return ticket in my pocket. So far, every long-term trip I took had a fixed end date. I knew what day my flight home was, and how long exactly I’d have to wait until I could see my loved ones again. Now I don’t. And it’s scary.
Making the impossible choice between home and abroad
Of course, I chose this life. And I don’t regret it. At least, not for more than a few moments, until I remember that staying home and ignoring my wanderlust wouldn’t make me happy in the long term either. But I do wish there was a way you could travel this much and still be home at the same time. Can’t someone just invent instant transportation already?
I don’t regret having been home, how could I? But it did make continuing my travels harder than I thought it would. I needed a few days in Santiago before I started to feel excited again about being here. While I do tend to always struggle a bit getting used to a new place, this time it was entirely caused by homesickness and serious doubts whether I’ve made the right decision. It took some time and positive encounters with other travellers to remind me why I do indeed want this. Even now. Even when it means missing my niece’s first steps.
I’ll be back to see her when she can walk. Until then, I’m just grateful I’m living in times of internet and video calls.
Have you ever interrupted a trip to visit home? How did it make you feel? Do you think it’s a good idea to do this? Is the travelling life worth it? Share in the comments!