How am I supposed to return to real life?

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“I just returned from a life-altering summer trip and have no clue how I’ supposed to go back to ‘normal life.'”

Let me just go ahead and confess that I am trying to figure this out myself.  I returned last week from a 2-week trip in eastern Europe. I’ve traveled overseas at least a dozen times, from 10-day trips to 3-month stays.  Sometimes they’ve been missions-based, sometimes just travel adventures, but they always change my perspective on life.  Maybe your life-altering summer experience was a 2-week camp in Pennsylvania. It doesn’t really matter where you’ve been or how long it was, does it?  It’s simply experiencing something that changes the way you view life enough that it makes it difficult to go “back to real life.”

So what do we do?

1. Identify 3 people that you can tell the whole story to. 

Three people that you know will gladly sit across from you and listen to you ramble on and on until you’ve told them everything you can think to share.

2. As you share your stories, remember that no one will be able to fully understand what you experienced. 

It’s okay.  Try to think of 1 or 2 really meaningful, pivotal, short (key word being SHORT) stories that capture your experience.  If you craft those 2 stories and tell them in a concise and powerful way, you’ll be able to give other people a great snapshot of what you experienced.

3. Write down everything you can remember.

OK, I hate journaling. Hate it. (A journal-fairy just died somewhere. I don’t care. Some of you just cried a little.  But I know some of you GET ME. Journaling is the worst.) BUT when I get home from a trip, I have to open my laptop and try to download everything I can possibly think to type out in a word document.  Works better than paying $150 for an hour with a licensed therapist.

4. Process these questions.

I go through these every time I come home from a life-changing trip:

What are 3 words that define my trip/experience?

What are 2-3 lessons that I learned while on my trip? (about myself, about others, about God)

How do those 2-3 lessons affect the way I live my daily life?  (Or how can they?) *I know this is can be the hardest question ever. Take time to really figure this out. It will help you immensely.

Is there someone that played a major part in my experience on my trip?  Have I told them and thanked them? (*Do it.)

If you have a blog and decide to answer these, let me know! I’d love to read them. What are other things you do or questions you process to help you transition back to “real life”?  I’m all ears!

1 thought on “How am I supposed to return to real life?”

  1. I studied abroad in Vienna, Austria this past semester and was away for 3 months! It was honestly the best time of my life, but it changed my whole life around when I got back. The transition was excruciating and I spent my first two weeks crying almost every night. At the time I just couldn’t picture living “real” life again. Looking back, I remember meeting a good friend and she just kept telling me (in a nice way) that I had been selfish in the way I was acting. I was focusing so much on myself and how I felt that I hadn’t realized that I was showing my family that they weren’t good enough and that I didn’t want to spend time with them anymore. I learned a lot from that hard time, but I still feel sad about my trip ending. I think the best advice that I can give about returning from abroad is to prepare yourself before you return. Stay in touch with family, think about the good things at home, and remember that life can be just as exciting at home if you make it that way. I did not even think about what life would be like when I got back and I was just thrown into it without really thinking about it.

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