Returning Home after Living Abroad

After roughly three years abroad – 2 years in Barcelona and 9 months in South East Asia – coming back home wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. I think both expats and digital nomads alike who return to their home country after living abroad will be familiar with the phenomenon I describe in this post.

Adapting to a way of life that is vaguely familiar, yet distant in many ways, because you’ve changed quite a bit since leaving, feels very strange.

It’s like you’ve been uprooted like a plant and then, after some time away, planted back in familiar soil: your roots will need to grow back into the soil, but some of your roots might never grow back.

The abstract concept of “Home”

Of course, “home” for me is a somewhat complex concept. I was born in the Netherlands, but when I was a couple of months old I moved to Germany. And after roughly 7 years in Germany, I moved to Belgium. So sometimes I wonder: where is home for me?

I’ve lived the longest in Belgium, but I wouldn’t call it my home country; I do have a Dutch passport. But then again, I don’t consider myself truly Dutch either. In fact, I feel most comfortable in international environments, where I can interact with people from various cultures and preferably with multinational backgrounds. Whenever I’m surrounded by just Dutch people (excluding my family though ;)) I somehow always feel out of place.

So there you have it: I don’t really think that I have a home country. Of course, wherever my family is, I feel home. Wherever it is easy to find like-minded people, I can feel at home.

Returning to my “home” country

Amsterdam canals

When I was studying in the Netherlands, it did feel quite like it was home to me, but I longed for an “international experience”; whatever that may be.
So, when I got a job offer to work in Barcelona I did not hesitate and I took it. And I’m so very glad that I did! Then, after living for two years in Barcelona, I felt the need to discover Asia, and so I went on an unforgettable trip with Andrea, my boyfriend, to South East Asia. After that trip, I decided to take a job in Amsterdam, which meant that I needed to return home.

After living abroad, you come to understand what ‘broadening your horizons’ actually means. When you return home, you realize that you’ve evolved into a new person than the one you were when you left. The same things that you liked back then might be totally different. It might even be difficult to reconnect with your old friends that you knew, because of course, not only did you change a lot, they might have changed as well. Finding that common ground and close friendship that you might have had back then, may be more difficult. In fact, nowadays, I often find that I can relate better with people who have also lived abroad for a while because somehow, there is a similar mindset that you share.

Fitting back in can be challenging, and I often yearn to be back in Spain or Asia, or even a totally different country that I can explore. Somehow, I have made both Barcelona and parts of South East Asia my home, and a part of me will always consider those places my home. 

Then again, if I would leave The Netherlands again, I would most certainly miss it as well. So will I ever be completely satisfied?

There is always the wanderlust that resides within me, longing to discover the world.

Find comfort in the things that you missed while you were abroad

I guess I should somehow find a way to make peace with the fact that I made multiple locations my “home” and when I’m back in my “original” home, I should find comfort in the things that I missed while I was away, like my parents and my dog, who I can visit any time now, or my friends that I missed. Even small things like speaking the local language can be a comfort!

I will try to find solace in the memories that I made during my time abroad, the people that I met, the countries that I explored, and learning about their customs and cultures. The beautiful landscapes that I’ve seen, the bustling cities I discovered, the exotic flavors I tasted and the lovely locals I met. They will always be right here in my heart.

Asia will always be in my heart

When you’re traveling, every day is exciting because every day is a new experience, meeting new people, seeing things you’ve never seen before, discovering a foreign and different land. When you’re back home, you might miss this excitement at some point, and the days might seem boring compared to the days when you were traveling. However, I’ve found that having a routine can be very satisfying as well, after all, we are creatures of habit.

So, let me for now enjoy being back, because this place is the closest thing I ever had to having a ” home”.

That being said, being a nomad is a part of me and I know that I might someday soon fly away again, to make some other beautiful place my ” home”.

I do really hope that you’ve found this blog post interesting and maybe even helpful! Are you also a fellow nomad returning home? What are your experiences with adapting to a life back home? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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