The harsh reality of going home after years of traveling the world: you are a completely different person

I was electrocuted by the warm hug from my sister who was there the moment I landed Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines on a rainy day on October 17, 2015.

She did not change much and I was overwhelmed when she was there holding a banner with my name (+ blog name), jumping up and down. 

“I can’t believe you’re here!!!” She was almost crying but I avoided to do the same because I felt light. I did not feel like I was gone for a long time.

The airport frightened me already — it’s a completely different place. Traffic in the capital is ten times worse. It took us three hours to get to Quezon City from the airport which normally takes just an hour or 45 minutes, based on distance.

Billboards are bigger and there are new celebrities in the ads that I don’t recognise. The transportation system is still disorganised from when I left but this doesn’t bother me much.

I believe this is the unique image of my country’s capital and makes an outsider’s experience different. It is still very comfortable — chilly comfortable.

Despite the comfort and the familiarity, there was a whirlwind of emotions involved. 

I’m so excited to see my parents! I want to hug my mom so badly! What if my friends and I don’t find an appealing subject to talk about? I mean something interesting to all of us? Wait, what do I want for lunch? Flaming Wings? Mister Kebab? Ababu? Or maybe Jollibee? 

I was thinking of a lot of things — from choosing where to eat to what to say to my parents once I arrive home. 

Will a simple “hi” suffice? Is “hello” enough? Maybe a very tight hug will be okay? Should I even say something? I was surrounded by love, excitement and contentment that it made me feel paralysed.

My first conversation was with my sister, followed by our best friends and relatives who surprised me with a lunch/dinner. It was a day-long affair of food, conversations and drinks.

They were not interested to hear every detail of my traveling life but that’s okay — my life is already public because of this blog.

So I listened to their life updates mixed with things that have changed in TV, celebrities and of course, gossip — a part of my culture that is very hard to eradicate.

I felt my stomach turning upside down for every gossip that was thrown at me. I felt like my spirit was being shaken by a strong quake.

I tried to change the topic every now and then but I am not coming out clean — I was also having fun because it felt like ‘the old times’.

Though I didn’t want to admit it, it was like gossiping is the only way I can re-connect to my family and friends again. It drained the hell out of me but I carried on.

I wanted to know about their lives. Not about other people’s. Why is it easier for the majority of us to talk about other people’s lives than ours?

The #AlDub fever was easy to digest. It’s about a couple who is currently making the whole country feel an inexplicable joy because of their public romance on the longest running noon time show in the Philippines.

To date, I believe they have already broken the record of 26 million daily Filipino viewers because their show is a total hit.

I do not have anything against that because I also grew up with variety shows and the so called jologs (tacky) television show culture.

I am not sure if I am going to follow #AlDub though. Ever since I travelled Latin America, I learned how to live a life without a television because of the different lifestyle on that side of the world.

I sat down, amidst the people chattering around me. I felt like I was wool gathering and my mind was flying somewhere else. At that moment, I asked myself: “What’s on your mind?” 

I am a completely different person. I used to do this. I used to be one of the people who start the chismisan (gossiping) because it was a part of our everyday life. 

Did I do this in Latin America? No, I didn’t. It was also the type of culture that LatAm has however, I was surrounded by people from all parts of the world that’s why we made our own culture — a culture that is shared and is mixed from each of our own’s; a culture that only us can understand.

“Ang payat mo!” (You are so thin!) was the famous line. I never heard the words ‘healthy’ or ‘good’, which I believe are most important.

That sentence can also be seen in all my Facebook/Instagram photos and most of my foreigner friends ask “why do I keep seeing the word payat in all the comments?”

I explained to them it’s the Filipino word for thin. “And so? You eat like a horse! You even eat more than the rest of us here! You are fine! Don’t listen to them,” they said.

I am totally fine — I am 118 lbs, have not eaten any fast food (aka garbage) for the past three years because I cooked my own food when I was traveling. It was cheaper and healthier.

Plus, I couldn’t afford to go to restaurants — it is too expensive to eat out. This also led me to learn how to cook. Believe me, I didn’t know how to cook and my mother was really shocked when I did it last weekend.

Before I left, I couldn’t imagine myself not eating McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks or Jollibee but I survived 3 years of life without it.

Of course, I don’t need to explain that to every person who said I am thin because it will take me forever. With this, I want to take this opportunity to tell everyone who thinks I am starving myself just to be thin:

Stop eating junk, exercise daily and cook your own food. Those are the keys toward a healthy lifestyle. And also drinking wine everyday — I’m not kidding.

When I’ve had enough of the weight remarks, I told my Aunt Ameth it’s sad that our society’s image of being beautiful is being thin.

A lot of my countrymen admire people who are thin which leads many young people to have eating disorders, like that of the United States. 

Aunt Ameth said it is a part of our culture so I just have to deal with it. I thought she was right for a second. But for another second, I also thought that this imagery of beauty should change.

I felt a feeling of hollowness — everything is the way it is as I left it. Nothing has changed. I was frightened ten times more: What would my life be if I did not leave? Nothing crossed my mind but what I thought about was the reason why I left.

I feel unchallenged. I feel like I have to move again. I feel like I won’t have the opportunity to grow here.

My aunt Kaye said as we grow older, we will also outgrow people and will eventually erase them in our lives. I received messages from people whom I haven’t seen for almost 10 years who still wanted to go out and have a drink, including those people who wronged me.

Are we suddenly friends again? I said to myself. You hurt me, I left the country, picked myself up, became successful with what I am doing and now we are friends again?

I have already forgiven these people and I don’t have anything against them but you can’t just waltz in and out of people’s lives when you want to.

Now I understood what Aunt Kaye said about outgrowing people, even if they were your best friends since kindergarten. It’s funny that it’s only now that I learned who my real friends are because when I got home, I didn’t feel the connection to some people anymore.

I don’t want to oblige myself to have coffee or go out just because I want to be polite. I want to be honest and I will never again force myself in a circle where I am not accepted for who I am; where I am just trying to fit in just because I want shitloads of sets of friends.

Everyone I love is here and I know they will never ever judge me for being different. I am a very vocal person — always writing raw and honest thoughts but I am frightened I won’t be able to connect 100% because of what changed in me.

“Maybe they won’t like me because I am only hitch hiking on their gossiping affairs and not driving the wheel anymore?” I thought.

However, I don’t care about that. I am really happy to see everyone most especially my family. The energy of my aunts gave me a quick jumpstart! They are really funny and I think you should meet them.

I am here because I need to recharge and reboot. I need to be surrounded by family. I need to be in my hometown and feel how it’s like to be a child again; to remember how it was when I first started dreaming of traveling the world.

All of the times I am on the road, my mind was set that staying is the coward option and leaving is the brave one.

Though I have the urge to run away again because I feel like I don’t belong, I will fight this battle without compromising who I am now.

People change and while I accepted how others did, I believe I have the right to be my new self and I will never adjust to make other people comfortable with who I am. I will be me no matter what it takes. And I will be here.

Leaving is actually the easiest thing in the world. The hard part is wanting to stay.

Are you also a traveller who went away for a long time? How does it feel when you came back home?

Similar Posts


  1. Great post! After 3 months travelling south america, saw a lot of changes in myself and felt i had grown up in many ways i wouldn’t have if i hadn’t left. When travelling, you face situations that you could have possibly never faced at home, which is why i believe you can learn even more out of your comfort zone. But back home, everything was the same, and i found myself lost in my own place: how was my new self going to fit in this old place? After what is called the post travel depression, slowly started to get used to stay in the same place, though still hard. Now i just know what i want for my life: being on the road, at least for a few more years.

  2. Wow trish! I have been following you for almost a year now. And as Always I’m awestruck at how you live your life. I wanted the same. I wanted to leave too.

    When I saw your post that you we’re back in the Philippines I was excited too, like I’m a sort of a friend of yours or something. (that sounds creepy, even to me, I’ll stop now…)

    But most of the things you said here. I get it. The feeling of hollowness even if you’re with friends and family, the lack of heart-pounding adventure, and the simplest fact of outgrowing the people that was once mean so much to you. I get it.

    Keep travelling, Don’t stop. Keep writing. ^_^

  3. You are a brave person for trying to stay and fight your own battle. Very honest post. But wish you could organize a one day event on anything travel e.g. coaching instead of just doing via skype.Im sure your followers will love it, including me:-)

  4. I feel you. People around me can never understand why I don’t like being back in the PH. They think I don’t like my country, that’s why I want to leave. I can never explain the true reason enough.

  5. I’ve lived outside the country for 15 years and felt completely different when I came back. Reading your post made me realized I was not alone. That it was normal to feel what I have been feeling all along. Thank you!

  6. I definitely can relate although you do get used to being home after a while. It’s hard because you feel like you’ve changed and everyone else stayed the same. But family is so important and I didn’t want to sacrifice my relationship with them so I could live overseas for my whole life.

  7. Your words speak my mind.. I’m planning going home in January. By that time I’ve been away for a year (also in Latin America). I go back for the same reason as you write: to recharge and reboot. But every time when I’m at the point to buy a ticket home I don’t do it. I’m procrastinating. Your last sentence made me understand why. Something in me probably knows it’s going to be hard going back. Thank you for your post and this realization. Xx

  8. Great post Trish. I moved cities 20 years ago and only go home once or twice a year. For some reason my weight and what I’m either not eating or eating too much of is a source of constant fascination to my family and friends – it’s the one constant……sadly my husband doesn’t get the same narrative……

  9. You in the country feels like having a friend who has come home.
    Traveling gives you a sense of fulfillment and soul.
    It’s nice to reboot and recharge around family because they give a certain strength and happiness that cannot be found anywhere else.
    Welcome Home 🙂

  10. Perfect timing for us to be reading this.

    We booked flights home yesterday (for a few months time) and the act of hitting the confirmation made us both feel sick…

    I can’t wait to hear more on how you dealt with it and the emotions still to come.

  11. You can’t help but change when you have the kinds of experiences you have had, and that might cause you to grow away from old friends, etc. But never forsake your family. They are everything, and even if they do not understand what you have experienced, they will always love you no matter what. Be grateful for the kindnesses shown to you when you return and plan carefully your next step. But it is your life, and you must decide how you will live it. (By the way, one of your friends has beautiful hand-writing!)

  12. You have no idea how I can relate to that. Maybe not exactly the same situation but similar at least.
    Ive been living in the Unites States for the last 11 years. It has become my home but Poland is still where I am from… and when I go there I have literally the same thoughts and problems.
    They gossip, they create drama, not much really changed. Over there they comment on my weight gain in a very open way (“Wow, its you? You gain a shit load of weight in THAT America of yours”)… I was so happy to leave… Its good to visit but staying is a problem.

    I will follow the rest of your adventures from home. And remember – stay who you are. If you love yourself now and you feel your personality and attitude changing because of where you are…it may be time to leave.

    Take care,


  13. I left a comfortable job and life in Canada to live and work in Nepal and Cambodia in 2013-2014 for just under one year. Returning home after such time was pretty hard as some old habits I thought I had kicked returned back into my life without me even noticing it. Traveling changes us, and hopefully some of those changes aren’t just temporary.

    Welcome back home and take all the time you need 🙂

  14. i have not traveled as much as you did and for such a long time as you have (19 days were the longest i was away from home and family and i was only traveling in our country. except when i lived in the States for a year) but for some reason, being a travel junkie myself, i kinda of understand what you are saying, trish. i have been urging young professionals and everyone else to give traveling a try and see for themselves how it will totally change them for the better. of course, many of them always have all sorts of excuses not to. and i realized, traveling (esp. long term) is not really for everybody.
    so glad to see you back, trish…i hope to see you one of these days before you hit the road again…oh! how about backpacking the philippines? 😉

  15. I totally get this! Wrote a post on it myself a while back. I was at a complete loss. Had everything at arms reach suddenly but didn’t know what to do.
    It’s such a weird thing and the hardest part of travelling for me.
    Pleased to see there are others who had it similar. Really enjoyed reading this Trisha. Another great post as always 🙂

  16. I just returned home a week ago also, after being gone for three years. It’s kind of crazy how, despite the fact that you’re from a completely different culture, I can agree with almost the entirety of your post.

    Being home is great, but I’m ready to be on the go once again.

  17. Thank you so much for articulating everything I’ve been going through for the past 11 months since I arrived back in the Philippines. I’m quite lucky though that my family especially my sisters aren’t gossipy. But the entire culture is. I’ve changed so much and I couldn’t even explain. I’ve been feeling groundless. The way you described your set of friends from all over the world is the same as the set of friends I had when I was away. And it was different. Being back here, I couldn’t feel as sense of belonging… I try to explain this but no one would understand. But yes, that last sentence is such a perfect ending to the entire article. That is the challenge. Good luck and keep on!

  18. Trisha, I understand what you’re going through. When I returned home after 4 years of studying abroad in the UK, everyone had to add their two cents about how much I had changed. Some were surprised that I didn’t have a British accent. Others remarked that my complexion had grown darker when the norm was to get paler after spending so much time abroad. Of course, they didn’t know that I had gone to Egypt just before returning home. I just grimaced and said nothing. Then the weight comments started. Everyone remarked about how thin I had got and if I ate healthy, they would ask whether I was on a diet. I got really tired of their comments and became more assertive which lost me a lot of friends and relatives. I also got tired of the gossip and back biting that is so pervasive in the Caribbean. So girl, I totally get where you’re coming from!

  19. THIS is exactly what I’m trying to prepare myself for when I go home for a visit this December. I’ve been living in the Philippines for 6 years and haven’t been back since then. Everyone I know is either already starting a family, or still doing the same things (parties?) they were when I left. Either way, I feel like it’ll be a lot harder to connect to them not because I think I’m better, but simply because…I’ve changed.

  20. For many people, “Home” will always be “home.” However, it truly is amazing how the feelings associated w/ that word can change. While Omaha will forever be my “Home” the people in it have moved on and, as you mentioned, I have outgrown many of them. I don’t think this makes me a bad person, we all just have to grow in our own ways. For some of us, it is staying in the same town our whole lives w/ a progressing career and family, for others, it is seeing the world.

  21. I was also born and raised in the Philippines! Honest and raw…you will stay, despite the unease and you will still travel, despite the urge to stay!

  22. Wow Trisha great post! I have been traveling the last 2 years very slowly after years of more nomadic movement but we’ve been thinking we need to go “home” soon. I feel worried about everything you discussed (minus the you are so thin part, pretty sure I won’t be getting that lecture, lol) the gossip, the inability to feel like we belong even with family and friends and so much more. I agree that leaving is easy, staying or returning is TOUGH!

    Our idea of permanence has completely changed. We can never really feel permanent anywhere when we know that if we don’t like something we’ll move on easily, that lack of permanence amid so many choices seems to be really tricky for us!

  23. Beautiful post Trisha, it made me smile and cry at the same time. I have lived overseas for 10 years and I have changed so much in that time that I felt reverse cultural shock when I got back. I still feel it at times. Things that are important to me, don’t matter to the rest of the people around me. Gossip and talk of how thin I am are constant and I am also tired of having to justify what I eat. Besides, I do eat like a horse too (except when I am in Indonesia and sick!). And yes girl, you do eat like a horse, I am witness to that!

    Espero nos encontramos pronto, linda! Ya te hecho de menos!

  24. This must have been a little bit difficult to write. I love your honesty. I’m sure this story has a very familiar ring to so many of us who have left home for an extended period.

  25. Trish, you will find what works for you. There is a book you might enjoy, written a long time ago . . . You can’t go home again by Thomas Wolfe. Novel on a similar life experience. There’s a bit of wisdom in it.

  26. It happens to me every time I go home, which is usually once a year only. My friend’s lives haven’t change much. They all got married a while back and the only change is a nee pregnancy of newborn. One every year. Other than that, we just catch up on gossip, talk about life in general and stay on the surface. their lives dont change dramatically, there aren’t large important thins to talk about. Mine changes completely every week. And they are not interested in my blog or my job or what I do, when we are together, it is like we are still trapped 20years ago

  27. This is a lovely article, so well written as well.

    I’ve been on the move since I was 18 in one way or another, I’ve only recently (I’m 26) started to really appreciate going home to recharge and reboot, I definitely couldn’t ever move back though, not once I’ve tasted the freedom of travel!

  28. I just started my long-term travel and I fear I will feel the same too, when I go back to the Philippines. How can I stay there now that I know what it feels to be always on the road? -Oh well, I´ll just cross that bridge when I get there. As everyone´s saying here, welcome “home.” 😀

  29. Hi Trish, I can totally related to what you feel. When I am going home from abroad and reconnect with my family and friends, I do not feel I have too much to talk about with them to be honest. They care about me but the only two topics we discuss the most i my personal issues as “when I am getting married” and my professional career, or just gossip around. I feel trapped too and that is one of the reasons I continue weathering up around North America on my own. Later on I realize that living abroad is kinda a point of no return to some expats, and that the moment we broad the flight to the other countries/continents, the ocean forever set my family/friends and I apart. I still love them, but I know I have to move on with my adventure.

  30. My husband and I are currently on a year-long round-the-world trip. And while leaving was hard (we have young nieces and nephews as well), I imagine going back will be just as challenging. Thank you for sharing your experience. It will be interesting to see how things change. I think the hardest part for me won’t necessarily be people and ‘home’ changing, but rather wanting to be back out on the road exploring… we’ll see when we actually go back… if we go back!

  31. Lovely post! I’m afraid the same thing will happen to me when I return home (USA) to live one day. I’ve gone back for visits a few times in the past 4.5 years but I know going back to live will be very different. That’s why next adventure (grad school!) will be taking place in England and not the US. A similar culture but hopefully different enough to keep things interesting! and definitely very different from Spain where I’ve been living.

  32. I can feel you. Been travelling a lot lately and when I get back home, I feel that I’m the only one who changed. It seems that they are still the same when I left while I’ve been to different places already and been exploring to different stuff. Giving me more learning that I can at least share with them 🙂

  33. OMG, I can really see myself in this article. I was on my first year journey overseas and when I can home, it was so weirddd, I changed a looot in different ways. I’m the person who likes to sit an expensive coffee shop of spend my money shopping, or taking cab most of the time. But boy, when I get home, I relax for a few days and catch up with friends. But then I found myself planning my next trip. I don’t mean I don’t enjoy being home, it’s just feel like, it’s not my home anymore. My home is out there. My home is the whole world, the road, the hostels, mountains big cities, relaxing rural areas. I loovve your post <3

  34. We have no TV either! I met with my best friend in Toronto a few weeks ago and it does feel strange starting conversations with ‘when we were in Peru…’ Life of a traveller is far different from those at home.

  35. I don’t know why I’m getting emotional while reading this post. Maybe because I read all your posts, maybe because you ignited the fire within me to be myself no matter what, maybe because this is what I also wan’t to do in my life. Now I’m feeling inspired and depressed at the same time because you’ve done it, and me? well, I’m still earning every ounce of courage to start it.

    I’m really happy for you. I keep on thinking, if your journey will become a movie, I’m sure it will be as inspiring as it is in words, here in your wonderful blog.

  36. Fascinating read, Trish. What a fulfilling and life altering journey you’ve been on. You are so inspiring.

    I write a blog for ChicagoNow called Talking to the World ( In it, I interview one person from every country of the world about their life and perspectives on the world. If you are currently back home in Manila, I would love to interview you for the blog.

    Thanks in advance and keep writing. Great stuff!

    Laura Vasilion
    Talking to the World

  37. I can so relate on the part of running away from home because you feel you don’t belong, and on the part of adjusting to the place again without changing yourself. It is so hard to go home after so much traveling.
    I hope you enjoy your time with your family and friends though, and remain true to your true and new self 🙂 xx

  38. Kind of shaken after reading this. I’m not a traveller but I certainly feel the same about the gossip culture. It just suddenly stop being fun now that I basically live isolated from my closest relatives and friends.

    But yeah I do feel a lot more happy staying away from all those shenanigans for most of my time now.

  39. No matter how long or how far youve been, your home belongs to your family and your own country wala paring tatalo sa pinas. Welcome home!!

  40. “you can’t just waltz in and out of people’s lives when you want to” Yeah!!!! Thank you!

    I don’t know if it’s me or what but it’s really cool that we almost have the same surname. 🙂

  41. I love how you challenge the status quo. Most people are still boxed in conventional idealisms which is sad. Cant’ wait to read all your posts which means that you need to endure my annoying comments. haha. 🙂

  42. Love this post and your last sentence really hits home. Will be needing your coaching services, so I’ll be emailing you soon :).
    PS: You and Jeff Bullas are the reasons I was was most inspired to start my blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *