Here’s the thing about returning home after traveling or living abroad – there is much more noise! There is not noise in the literal sense of the word, like the noise in India, this is a different kind of noise I’m talking about. This is the noise of technology, the noise of expectation that you are now supposed to have it all figured out, and the noise of friends and family who think, because you are the same person you were before you went on your journey, that everything will go back to how it was. You will go back to how you were.
But you don’t and you can’t!
Perhaps the biggest lesson about transporting yourself to a place whose language, culture, and rhythm you have never experienced, is the lesson of letting it be, finding your center, and relying on you and you only to trust your instincts. Sitting in silence for hours a day on your own, observing, seeking, growing, expanding, widening, and conquering fears changes a person profoundly. In fact, there is no way a person can’t be changed.
There are few technologies and distractions to escape in, there are few expectations other than the expectation that you are surrendering to whatever it is that is happening at that moment, and there are few responsibilities or routines other than that of caring for yourself and listening to your needs. One becomes very well acquainted with “me”. It is all about “me” time!
When we return to our birthplaces or where we have grown up, there is what some term reverse culture shock, which is often more severe than culture shock itself. The interesting thing about returning to one’s homeland, is being able to maintain that interest, that curiosity, that outsiders perspective to what may have once been familiar.
I have taken this curiosity to my own country and try to view it with the same wonder and intrigue as I do any other place I am visiting, without judgment. I ride the streetcar and observe that everyone is either speaking on the phone or has headphones on, this is with exception to two people – one mother holding her crying baby, and one obese woman eating her extra large submarine. I observe that there is everything available – food, amenities, riches galore – yet there is a type of disconnect from nature and the earth, with what one needs and what is already available. I observe that there are all kinds of unique people and there is a place for each of them, there is a rhythm to life, maybe it’s not one I profoundly connect with, but it’s one I can get to know.
I have learned that the “me” time I take when in a new country, is just as, if not more, important somewhere familiar. The lessons we learn when giving up our phones and attachments, when in silence, when disconnecting from what we know, leads us to a truth that can only be discovered inside. “Me” time might be misunderstood, might be considered selfish or isolating or self-indulgent, but whether it’s for an hour, a day or much longer, getting away from the noise is what lights the spark of life, it is survival!
There is a magic to returning to the places that may have previously felt stagnant. Because they are new to a you who is new. And though loved ones may try to place us into a role that we no longer fit, into a person that we no longer fit, we can know that we have expanded beyond their understanding and that that was the journey – a journey beyond all the noise.
Any similar sentiments? Any experiences with reverse culture shock? What do you think about “me” time?