Thursday, December 12, 2013


Five tips to travelers back home

You've lived abroad!

Whether it be through teaching, studying, or just traveling you had the chance to get out of your country and travel a bit! Awesome right?!

Here's some advice from someone who has been there before on how to successfully reintegrate yourself back home.

This one time I was snorkeling in Egypt...
1. Don't start every conversation with, "This one time in _______."

You don't mean to, but you come off as snobby. I did it all the time, "At this bar in Singapore." "This one time in Bangkok" "Oh my God, so my friend Ashley and were in Cambodia and...."
It is GREAT that you have traveled, but  unless the country is KEY to the story just stick to the basics, "A friend and I were at this restaurant," "My ex boyfriend and I were hanging out at a bar," "I was in class and..." if they ask for details go ahead and tell them, but by not name dropping you'll avoid shoving your experiences in their faces.

2. Don't be a know it all, "Actually in _______ they don't do that."

Actually all tigers are attracted to bright colors
Friend, "I wish they had chopsticks I hate eating Pad Thai with forks"
You, "Actually in Thailand they don't use chopsticks"
Other Friend, "That's weird my friend is Thai and he always has chopsticks"
You, "I've been to Thailand, so I think I know what I am talking about."
Oh good, now you look ridiculous. Instead of pretending that your year in Thailand (or week) has made you an expert, acknowledge that there are other perspectives.

Friend, "I wish they had chopsticks I hate eating Pad Thai with forks"
You, "Actually in Thailand they don't use chopsticks"
Other Friend, "That's weird my friend is Thai and he always has chopsticks"
You, "Huh, that is weird. I guess it must vary from region to region or on the meal. When I was there my tour guide told me they didn't, but that may be an over generalization"

For the record usually it is just the noodle dishes that use chopsticks (and that varies).

3. Explore your country
This is from a California road trip
When I live abroad I go site seeing almost every week. I see local villages, learn about he culture and food, and discover hidden gems of history. Then I return home and realize I know nothing about my home town.

Make an effort to make some day trips to see what is near your city. Do some digging on local history. Eat out in places that are rated well. Be a tourist and join a walking tour. Just because you're back home doesn't mean you have to go back to your old routine. Plus, now that you've seen some of the world you'll appreciate some things more. The Spanish architecture in San Diego really does look like Spain!

Find out what's so great about your city and embrace that. Avoid comparing it to where you've been though. I miss living in the Netherlands with great Belgian beer available all the time, but San Diego has a great local beer breweries and I've learned to appreciate waiting for the seasonal beers down here in Mexico.

4. Stay in touch

Jamie, Carissa, and Ashley at the Lantern Festival
Facebook has made this easier, but don't get lazy with it. Keep in touch with the friends you made abroad. Especially with those who speak other languages. You'll want to keep writing and reading in that language so you don't lose it.

Even those that speak English with you can be great contacts down the road. The picture on the left is my Singapore roommate and our good friend Ashley. Ashley and I met in Singapore in 2004. We kept in touch and met up again in 2007 when we backpacked through Europe and parts of Africa together. Oh...and again when I met her in Paris in 2009. The basic gist being, if you meet people who travel a lot, your paths will cross.

Also, finding someone you travel well with, is like finding someone you can be in a relationship with. I would not want to travel with all of my friends, so the friends that I can travel with I make sure to keep in touch with.  

5. Help others out

We met in Korea, then the Netherlands, then Spain!
Give a review of the program you studied with. Let your University know that you are willing to e-mail students who are considering going abroad. Join a Facebook group for au-pairs in the country you lived in. You lived there. You survived. You have something to tell. 
Did you realize that shampoo was crazy expensive in Spain? Let people know. Was the visa process in the Netherlands way easier than you thought? Let people know. Did you find an AMAZING hostel in Salamanca? Let people know.
You have all this knowledge to share and I am sure you appreciated getting a tip from someone else.
For example, to my right is my friend Lauren. She and I met in Korea, then ended up in the Netherlands at the same time. After that, I went to Spain. I told her about my Masters and she was interested. After answering a few more questions and sending her towards the admissions department she ended up applying and studying in Spain the next year! You never know how you can help someone.
Here's the problem though, you always seem to get these e-mails from people who haven't done ANY research on their own...and you're busy! No problem. Make up a form e-mail now that answers most questions or suggests your favorite secrets. Send this out with a quick note, "Hey I am sorry this is so fast, I am grading hundred of papers right now (no joke!). Read through this for some ideas and check out this travel forum for more. If you have any more questions get back to me and I'll help you out. This way you haven't wasted your time, but you've given them a serious nudge in the right direction.

There are my five tips to people returning home after they've lived abroad, but I know there are more! What do you think is the most important thing?


  1. Hi carissa,
    I would have spelled travelling & travellers with double 'l'. Now, is that a common mistake or what?

    1. Not a mistake at all! Both are correct :) I believe two Ls is British and one is American :)

  2. Hi carissa,
    I would have spelled travelling & travellers with double 'l'. Now, is that a common mistake or what?

  3. I love this article and can relate to it :).
    I think before going abroad, make sure you know your country/people/cultures very well. When I told people i am from Malaysia, questions about multi-racials & mixed cultures always pop-up. I am not proud to say that i have met people abroad who have been to the islands in my country, every year and spend a few months there each time and i have never step foot on any of the islands ;-)



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