Flashback: A Work & Traveler’s Experience

By Jennifer, Cultural Embrace Work in Australia Participant

Stateside and definitely currently plotting my next escape…

August 19, 2010

How’s it goin’ Cultural Embracers?
I’ve officially been back home in The States for what feels like FOREVER… a month if we’re being literal. Having been used to thirty day fly-bys packed with explorations through a new city or country, trying to find a job that both rationalizes my overpriced education and will allow my passions to flourish is making time run extremely slowly, and me a bit frustrated.
It IS still maddening being in a less-adventurous routine again, trying to figure out my next moves, jobs, potential career paths, and generally attempting to get my footing back in the city I grew up in, but it’s also wonderful and exciting in that absolutely anything and everything is possible. One concept I’ve taken from traveling is there is so much to do, see and experience and it’s really just about choosing a direction and going for it. The trick now will be actually choosing that one direction to take off in.
I’ve been following my own advice to the extreme and have been in constant contact with my “found family” and others from my travels who keep me inspired and amused, and it’s definitely helping keep my mind and eyes open. The problem might be that all this rousing-connecting may be feeding my growing collection of must-follow passions instead of prompting me to choose and conquer. I swear I’ve been a lightening rod for bazaar and seemingly non-lucrative occupational ideas.
But back to my back-at-home situation… it is tough to keep up the excitement for life and all its possibilities when you’re experiencing déjà vu more often than you are rejuvenation. So I’ve been doing things everyday to remind myself that I’m writing my story, and I need to be constantly be making steps towards writing the one I want to live. Before I came home I knew I’d be crashing at my mom’s house for the most part until I got my footing again. (And as you can imagine or even relate, living at home after having your own place and space can be a bit draining on your enthusiasm for life.) So, while I’m home I’ve decided to tend my mother’s garden, and as cheesy as it sounds, watching it grow and bloom under my care has kept me motivated to continue building great things for myself and has kept me in touch with the daily and big picture I’m striving for. Quoting Aristotle, “The soul never thinks without a picture,” and honestly, holding my picture at the forefront of my every day has been an excellent recent life choice.
So I encourage those of you who are just returning from your travels to find something that stimulates the part of you that drives your passions and experience it everyday. I also encourage you to continue to recognize the changes in yourself you’re probably noticing having thrust yourself back into a familiar and probably unchanged environment. The same old familiar routine may not be as satisfying anymore- which is both a jolting and wonderful realization – so continue to explore your surroundings and find new outlets. I suppose The North Face says it best… just simply, “Never Stop Exploring.”
Thanks so much once again for reading my blog, and continue to feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I’ll be back on here shortly with my final blog- an all-encompassing representation of the Questions & Answers exchanged between you guys and myself from the last year about Cultural Embrace’s Work and Travel Australia program.
Live Fully,
Jennifer C Campbell
August 2, 2010
Hello Cultural Embracers, coming to you stateside and finally de-jet lagged.
Anyone who has ever traveled to a destination that truly speaks to him, or has tasted a particularly spectacular way of living can warn you that returning home or to a less-than-adventurous lifestyle can be a difficult transition. However, I’m finding out no amount of shared peer experiences or strategies for smoothly reacquainting yourself with the world you’ve temporarily left can fully prepare you for the reintroduction, for culture shock from your own home base, for the personal separations you’re enduring… but a few tips on readjusting certainly have helped. It sounds pretty dramatic but it’s a common reality, and I promise I’m not just “being a chick” as I’ve been rightly accused in the past. But as these struggles exist even as I write this, the lingering feeling of first hugs from family and friends I hadn’t seen in eight+ months helps me to remember where my heart has always been, even if I’ve invested pieces of it in places and people overseas.
So, as far as my goodbyes went…
The reality: My last thirty-six hours abroad were more emotional than I could have anticipated, and no amount of “its understandable” from family over the phone soothed my semi-panic state. Let’s be honest here, I cried my entire over-night flight from Bali to Melbourne, probably making everyone around me extremely uncomfortable, and picked up the tears again upon my connecting flight landing back in Sydney. I was a mess. I’d been scheduled for a few weeks by then to depart from my Aussie travels back to The States from Sydney the day after returning from Bali, and although the departure was expected and I predicted mixed emotions from saying bye to friends, heading back to “reality” and excitement in getting to hug my family for the first time in forever, I didn’t account for the major blow: leaving the actual life itself I’d built and lived behind! Missing my new friends, my found family- a reality shared by most backpackers who’ve stayed in one place for long enough to form strong bonds, however long that may be- was just part of what I was facing. These people, this family, were a part of the life I’d built for myself while abroad- a major part of the beautiful whole- and I was about to leave it, knowing it would never be the same perfect again. Devo.
But as I should have expected, upon my arrival back into Sydney this amazing found family of mine refused to let me dwell on my leaving, and prompted a new brilliant light I remind myself of everyday: the next chapter I’m moving on to write has every potential to be just as beautiful in its own way, and although we’ll all be moving on soon, we can use this chapter as a leaping stone (way better than a stepping stone) for the next.
I spent my last day in Sydney tying loose ends with taxes and bank accounts and my last evening soaking in the good people I was saying my “see ya laters” to in a matter of hours. The farewell shenanigans were perfect, but I did burst into tears all over the place at least once, which a girlfriend immediately followed with “Jennifer, am I going to have to slap you?”…. Sometimes you just need it. Quite a balanced closure I’d say. J
But now I’m home, and thus I begin my next adventure. It’s a time of reminiscing, taking in family and other ties to home, following advice and continuing to live my “new self.”
I’ve only just made it home, but a few tips I can give so far to help better balance the arrival process:
1.Take advantage of every support source you have access to! 1. Your family and friends can be a wonderful comfort and a constant reminder of the best parts of the life you’re returning to 2. Cultural Embrace and its past participants who have been where you are, and 3. the people you’ve just said your see-ya-laters to, a number of them have probably endured this process before.
2.Gorge wisely. Common longings Americans in Australia share are for Mexican food, orange cheese, Goldfish and any other treat with fructose corn syrup (because fructose corn syrup is mostly absent in Australia and surrounding countries, making some foods a little less flavour-full to a pallet used to it), and home cooking. Having been away from all of these foods and eating mostly oatmeal, beans and rice for eight+ months, my stomach took a brutal beating to my initial face-stuffing. Incorporate slowly!
3.Remind yourself through photos, keeping in touch with people from your travels and other treasures from your journey of your amazing experience and the courage it took to step out of the ordinary and into something unpredictable. You’ve just experienced something most people only longingly consider. Bask in knowing that you did it, and you’re capable of accomplishing and overcoming anything, even culture shock in your own city.
4.Throw yourself out there, notice the changes in yourself and embrace them. Friends and family keep telling me nothing’s changed, but still, everything seems different. I’ve grown a lot in my travels, and am proud of the transformations it’s provoked in me. Explore these changes in yourself and in your interests and the doors it may open, and begin to shape your next moves from there. Maybe you’ll end up finding a whole other side of your city or sides of friends or family you didn’t know before- sides you can further grow from.
I’ll admit, I’m definitely currently plotting my next escape into uncharted territory, but being back home is proving to be quite a journey of it’s own. And I’m anxious to see where this one will lead me.
I’ll be in touch to fill you in on any useful tactics and how the life of a returned Australian Work and Traveler is faring. And please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments!
Live Fully,
Jennifer C Campbell


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