When Coming Back Home After a Year Abroad Doesn’t Feel Weird At All

In my short 23 years, I’ve spent a decent amount of time abroad. There was the summer I spent in Ecuador at 15, the five, choripán-filled months studying in Argentina, the three blissful summers in college I spent au pairing in France, the many trips down to Chile to see my then-boyfriend. But no stay abroad was as long as my recent year-long stay in France. So naturally, I figured that coming home to the states would be different this time.

But I have a confession- it’s not weird being home. Like not weird at all. Maybe it’s because both France and the states feel like home at this point, or maybe it’s because I’m used to the cross-continent shuffle that has become my life.

But being home just feels like… well, being home. It’s the same leafy, oak-lined streets, the welcome-home meal of hummus with lamb tips, the lazy weeks spent reading in lounge chairs and taking sunset cruises at my lake-house. In short, coming home hasn’t been a shock. I slipped right back into my old life so easily it was almost as if I had never left. My time in Paris almost feels like a dream, a surreal, summery haze of sipping cider on the Seine and walking home past castles and linden trees.

Coming Back Home After a Year Abroad

 Is there anything better than sleeping in your own bed after a year away from home?

But there are a few differences this time, particularly in regard to my palate. I find that most food now tastes flavorless, but yet is too salty or two sweet. Even my favorite salsa now tastes way too sugary, and it makes me wonder about how much sugar is in even savory foods in the United States. After tasting a Ghiradelli brownie, a sweet treat I used to love, I found it cloyingly sugary. I wondered to myself, “Did I really used to like these?”

I’m also having trouble relaxing- after months of near-constant stimulation and staying up until seven a.m. on weekends, I’m struggling to enjoy my summer by the lake like I usually do. (Which is a shame because it is amazing here!) I also find many of my old bad habits are slowly come back- surfing the web idly on my phone or sneaking spoonfuls of peanut butter in the pantry. Even though I should be thrilled to be home, some days I feel listless and unhappy.

But despite a few setbacks, I’m trying to enjoy this time with my family and friends because it will be gone too soon. In two weeks I make my way to L.A., and a week after that I fly to a region I’ve been dreaming about for years- Asia.

What has surprised you about coming home after a long time away?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

39 thoughts on “When Coming Back Home After a Year Abroad Doesn’t Feel Weird At All”

  1. I feel this post so hard right now. Like every single sentence. I think there’s this thing that happens after you’ve lived abroad/traveled a few times where the world feels smaller…maybe it’s a knowing-yourself-better thing, I don’t really know where I’m going with this but coming home this time was very different from the last time

    • You’re so right- the world does seem smaller the more you see of it because of all the people you meet. The world also does seem larger in a way because you’re aware of how many ways there are to live in the world as well as how many stories are unfolding at the same time yours is.

  2. Firstly: SO excited to see what Asia has in store for you. You must be bursting with excitement right now, that’s awesome! Secondly: YES. Everything is so. sweet. in America. Before I went to Italy for a semester, I didn’t have any problems with ice cream. Now, I can’t eat it without wanting to ralph. I got spoiled! Oh, and the cheese. No comparison. I miss (real!) good food!

    • I know! God cheese… after France I have no idea how I’ll survive anywhere else. But I’m looking forward to trying the amazing food in Asia, and especially because it will be so inexpensive!

  3. I too am having trouble adjusting to food back home. I used to prefer sweet over savoury but now I can’t even eat more than about two pieces chocolate. Not what I signed up for when I decided to live abroad!

    On that note, if your Asia trip includes Vietnam – beware the food in southern Vietnam as they add sugar to almost everything! But they rarely eat genuinely sweet things like chocolate, cakes…

  4. It’s so good for you to be home, though. I’m sure friends and family miss you!!

    I think the secret ingredient in American foods isn’t the typical sucrose (table sugar), but instead artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Saccharin, Stevia, and Sucralose, which are many times sweeter than regular sugar. Corn syrup is also used A LOT and is sweeter than regular sugar too, so it gives a different type of sweetness to food.

    Boo American food :(

    • That’s so true about all those gross artificial sweeteners- they’re everywhere! I think American food can be really delicious, you just have to work harder to stay away from artificial sugars and processed foods- it makes me miss being in Europe where it’s so easy!

  5. So funny how we’re in the same place right now (figuratively). I just came home after ten months abroad and I thought it would be harder. Barring the jet-lag, the reverse culture shock isn’t nearly as bad as it was the first time I moved back home after living abroad.

    Have fun in LA – it’s my hometown. Let me know if you need any suggestions. Maybe we’ll cross paths in Asia :)

    • I think over the years it gets a lot easier- I remember coming home tired and dirt-smeared from my trip to Ecuador at 15 and I was so shocked to be home again. And it would definitely be fun to hang out in LA! I’ll email you before I get there :)

  6. When I came home this summer I felt exactly the same! I wanted to appreciate it so bad, but I also felt uneasy and unhappy and confused on how to fill my time.

    I’m finally content, clear headed and excited for my new adventure but for a period of time it was really confusing!

    • That’s great to hear I’m not alone! I think I was just incredibly overwhelmed when I got home because I stupidly only gave myself less than a month to unpack from France and prepare from Asia, as well as enjoy time at home with friends and family.

  7. I, too, just got home after a year teaching in Spain and feel exactly the same way—it was almost as if I had never left. I was a little uneasy about driving the car again after nine months of public transportation and carpooling but I picked it up just like riding a bike; you never forget! Looking forward to hearing about your SE Asian trip on your blog.

    • Oh god, I’m terrible at driving! I went to college in Chicago and so I haven’t regularly driven a car in about 5 years. You’re lucky you picked it right back up, I’ve been having to convince friends to come pick me up :)

  8. Oh no! Maybe American desserts aren’t as amazing as you once thought… ;)

    I’ll be really curious to see how coming home to North America after 1.5 years in Asia + 6 months in Europe feels. Everything we’ve been eating is so fresh and wholesome here that I imagine we’ll be cooking a lot for ourselves when we get back as restaurant food will probably be unpalatable. I’m already having nightmares about the insane portion sizes!

    • I’m starting to wonder if they are as good as I remembered… they really are quite sweet! And good luck on your coming home experience, two years abroad in a place as different as Asia would definitely be a big change. The food in Asia looks so fresh and delicious (I love your photos!) so I can’t wait to get there and try it myself :)

  9. It’s so refreshing to read a positive post about going home – all too often I read negative articles that seem to belittle the people and places left behind, and paint the idea of “home” in a negative sense – that returning is to be endured rather than enjoyed. My partner I are are flying home to England next month to visit family and friends after one year on the road, before heading back out again for year two. I am so excited that I have been counting down the days, and can’t wait to catch up with their lives, and share in their changes, as well as my own. Enjoy this time by the lake, and good luck for your adventures in Asia. I will be in Goa, India for six months from October, so if your travels take you that way let me know :)

    • Hi Hannah, thanks for commenting! I’ve been a big fan of your blog for a while now. I’ve been loving being home for the reason you said- being able to catch up with friends and family (and not on Skype!). And I will definitely let you know if I make it to India :)

  10. How creepy – I read this sitting in my childhood bed, feeling exactly the same way after returning home from a year abroad. Things just slipped back into place so naturally (well, after day one of being completely overwhelmed at machines, clean water, food I actually wanted to eat and so, so, so many cars and people)….makes me wonder if I actually have been gone so long? What surprised me most is how much people missed ME! I missed all of them, of course, but I was somewhere new doing something fun, and they were the ones here with a Rika-sized hole left behind in their every day life. I went to a friend’s wedding a couple days ago and she held it together for the whole wedding, and after the ceremony finally got to see me and burst into tears. So moving!

    • Aw, that’s great to know that your friendships stayed so strong! After college most of my friends spread out around the country and the world so I don’t have many left in my hometown. And wow, I’m so impressed by how much you roughed it in Roatan- I wouldn’t have lasted a month!

  11. I love being home after 11 months of travel because I can sleep in the same bed for a longer period of time. I don’t like the rut of everyday life sneaking up on me so soon. I’m doing my best to fight it.

  12. Home is always a weird thing for me. Glad it wasn’t so weird this time. But I totally know about your “tastes” changing, that is very common when I’m away for a long period of time. Things taste “different” and its for me to eat them again. I wish you the best of trips in asia and great blog also by the way.

  13. Wow, you have a four poster bed at home! That is amazing. It would be great to come home to something like that.

    I do agree with you. As a European myself I do find American food tends to be quite bland and either full of sugar, salt or even just lots of poor quality cheese.

    You’ve had quite an adventure in France and Asia will be a whole new experience. Where have you planned to visit in Asia?

  14. When do you come through LA? I would love to grab coffee or tea and pick your brain a bit. I’m 28…and have slaved away in an office for far to long. I’ve been reading through yours and others sites about traveling non-stop and have many questions. Any advice would be extremely appreciative. Thanks

  15. Wow! So many travels, I’m jealous :)
    I’m really close with my family and know I’ll miss them when I leave, but it’s so nice to know there’s always a place to return to.

  16. I read your entire blog today while sitting in rainy St Germain en Laye after my first week as an au pair. Can you give me some advice? How did you get to Paris so often? What ways did you take?

    Love the site!

    • That’s so great you’re working in Saint Germain! :) I got into Paris by taking the RER A, the commuter train. One good idea is to buy a Navigo which is a rechargeable metro pass but I always bought the carnets (a pack of 10 tickets for a reduced price.) If you want to come back late at night from Paris, after the metro and RER close then take the night bus or “le noctilien.” And in Saint-Germain definitely check out the Bitter End and O’Sullivan’s for bars as well as the restaurants on Rue Saint-Pierre. And most importantly have an amazing time!

  17. Wow! Travel is fun, isn’t it?
    It’s always good to be back home. I’m going back home after spending 2 yrs in NY. I feel a bit insecure inside. I know i’ll have a great time but then in these 2 years so many changes would’ve occurred which somehow makes me afraid if i could fit in again.

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