It’s been more than half a year since I finished my 777-day trip around the world. How does it feel to settle down after such a long time on the road?
Hello everyone, it’s been a while!
During my 2-year trip around the world, I enjoyed describing the psychological aspect of travel. As I loved writing those blog posts – and many of you have seemed to enjoy them as well – I wanted follow those posts with a fitting epilogue. However, instead of sharing my thoughts right away, I decided to wait until I could give you thorough answers.
Well, I’ve been back in Finland for seven months now, so I think it’s time for me to finally break the silence.
For a summary of my trip around the world, see: I Traveled Around the World in 777 Days
The First Months Back Home
My trip around the world finished on July 1st, 2019. Although I called it the end of my trip, that wasn’t completely true. I did return to Finland, but I still spent a month crashing with friends and family before finally moving to a shared apartment. And after that, I still had a month for other stuff before I returned to my psychology studies at my university.
To put it short, I gave myself a very soft landing on a more stable life – and it worked. Instead of a huge culture shock all at once, the aftershocks came in small doses. Many Finnish stores had changed their logos and there were several new vegan foods to try, but otherwise relatively few things had changed in Finland.
Although many things remained unchanged, I experienced some friction here and there. After the warm embraces in so many other countries, Finnish communication did feel a bit cold and confusing. Am I supposed to hug my old friends after two years away or not? When it comes to greetings, it feels like Finland doesn’t have as clear norms as many other countries.
Still, my return home was mainly very positive. It was great to reconnect with people after such a long time, and the lack of language barrier made everything much easier. Besides, it was quite relieving to finally know where I’d be sleeping next week (and next month). When I no longer had to arrange the logistics of traveling, I felt like I gained lots of free energy for other stuff.
During my 2 years of traveling and experiencing life from a new perspective, there was one thing I kept wondering: How much of all of this will remain once I stop traveling? Will I simply revert to my old identity when it all ends?
The short answer would be no. No, not everything will be the same. Sometimes you’ll fall back into old routines, but some things will remain different – and discovering what has changed and what hasn’t is a very interesting process.
Once I settled down again, I decided to re-evaluate my thoughts about my identity. I was no longer a full-time traveller, so who was I? I explored how I reacted in different situations with a beginner’s mind, not clinging onto too many fixed ideas. And that led to many interesting discoveries.
For example, I noticed I was much less shy and introvert than I used to be. While I still have my fair share of anxieties, I discovered I was able to do things that seemed to be out of question a few years ago. I don’t what happened to my stress, but something definitely changed.
Balancing Between Identities
While some changes remain, others don’t. Once I stopped traveling, I felt like I started to lose a connection with another world. A part of me was gone, and most people around me in Finland couldn’t understand what I had been through.
A lot of people acted as if I was never gone. Others have tried to understand, yet it can be difficult. While a lot of my friends have wanted to know about my travel life, finding the right questions can be a challenge.
And it’s not just the questions that fall flat – when I’ve been given a chance to properly explain what I’ve been through, my answers don’t seem to capture that elusive something.
(As a side note, it’s really difficult to explain the magic of travel when you’re native language doesn’t even have a word for awe.)
More importantly, I felt like I was losing connection to a tribe of like-minded people. I’m friends with some (ex-)travellers in Finland, but most people I know here have never experienced – or even wanted to experience – a nomad lifestyle.
I’m not claiming that nomad lifestyle is any better, though. It’s just nice to be understood, that’s all. On times like those, it’s been great to be in touch with some of the friends I’ve made on the road. However, those contacts have become less frequent as I’ve spent more time settling down.
And here’s a crucial point. The longer I’ve been settled, the less I’ve thought about my travels. Although I first wished I could remain in touch with lots of people I met on the road, I’m now much more focused on my surroundings and the people around me.
Memories keep popping up every now and then, but I don’t really miss traveling. Traveling was a core part of my identity for a long time, so it’s been almost disconcerting how easily I’ve been able to let it go.
Staying Still vs. Traveling
How does staying still compare to life on the road? While both have their benefits, I currently enjoy not traveling much more.
As traveling pushes you out of your comfort zone, it can profoundly change your life for the better. Places abroad can offer you experiences you could never feel without leaving home. Long-term travel gives you more freedom and the lack of responsibilites makes life a lot less stressful.
Yet at the same time, I think that settling down feels more enjoyable and meaningful. Most importantly, it has made feel more connected.
Now that I’ve been living in one place for more than six months, I’ve felt like I’ve found a community where I somehow fit in. I don’t need to feel the sadness of constant farewells, and I can trust that some of these old and new friends will still be around in years to come.
Building deep relationships has its pros and cons. While I was gone, I rarely had to experience any arguments – or any other difficult social situations, for that matter. After such an easy period, it was a bit disappointing to get back to Finland and be reminded of some unsettled argument from, say, five or ten years ago.
Still, I feel that these kind of connections with other people are the most important thing in life. Of course, such relationships can also be formed with a nomad lifestyle. I’ve just personally found it much easier to upkeep my relationships when I’m rooted in one place.
My Current Thoughts about Traveling
When I told people why I was traveling for two years, I often said I planned to travel for so long that I would get tired of traveling. That, in turn, would make settling down afterwards a lot easier. Although I was (half-)joking, I believe that my plan worked.
Right now, I don’t have a strong urge to travel. I want to finish my university studies and keep on living in Finland. Of course there would always be more places to see and things to experience, but I’m not sure if visiting yet another wonder or learning yet another language would mean that much to me. For now, I’ve had enough of long journeys.
Of course one doesn’t need to stop traveling completely. Instead of another 2-year journey, I could just fly away for a week or two. However, that’s where my worries about the environment kick in.
The more I traveled, the more I became worried about the state of the Earth. The planet is already in a pretty dismal condition. If I kept flying long distances, I’d feel like I was putting my personal enjoyment above the environment.
So, what happens with this blog? After all, it is a bit weird to keep a travel blog when you’re not really traveling.
Instead of abandoning Arimo Travels completely, I’ll change the focus of this blog. From now on, I’ll be focusing on providing information on environmentally sustainable travel. I know that my impact will be miniscule on the larger scale of things, but I still want to do my part.
I hope I’ll see you around as this new phase begins!
Have you done any long trips yourself? How did your homecoming feel like? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!