Thoughts on going back to school after traveling

Scenic views of Queen's west campus in the fall in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

As I peer out the balcony of my high-rise apartment located on the 11th floor, the football field below me is covered in a light dusting of snow.  Further off in the distance trees and homes merely two weeks ago sporting vibrant fall colors are now barren.  It is wintertime in Canada; I have replaced my heavy backpack full of travel gear for a much smaller one now consisting of textbooks, pens and notepads spending my days studying to become a professional teacher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

First snowfall in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

The transition of going from indefinite overseas adventures to the role of teacher candidate hasn’t been as seamless as one might expect.  When you’re on the road you get used to the constant stimulation of experiencing new cultures, new foods, new attractions and new people.  Yesterday is not like the day before and tomorrow will resemble nothing of the present moment.  When extended travel becomes your ‘normal’ day to day existence, coming back home to an odd world of schedules, deadlines, obligations and routines is a shock to the system.

For the first month and a half, I experienced mental anguish.  When the train passing through the outskirts of the city was in earshot I wished I was on it.  It didn’t matter where it was going.

Filled with doubt as to whether or not I made the right decision to go back to school, I found myself constantly fighting reality in a tug-o-war frenzy yearning to just pack up my backpack and bolt out of the door of my apartment without so much as a glance behind.

Audrey Bergner standing by the colorful leaves and ivy at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada

It is not that I didn’t appreciate the opportunity I currently have – as students at Queen’s University we’re taking an eight month after-degree program in Education with the end goal of becoming licensed teachers.

Why now?  This program is the last of its kind in Canada as Ontario is following the lead of other provinces and switching from eight months to two years.  There is no way under the sun I could hack two years of this.  No, sir.

Why are we even doing this?  This is our official backup plan in life; our ‘official’ attempt at being responsible and not pursuing careers in travel without something to potentially fall back on years down the road.  We met teaching English in South Korea, just over two years ago, and someday we may decide we’d like to settle down somewhere for a while to teach abroad at an International school.  By doing this now we’re giving ourselves that option.

Vibrant red leaves at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

About four weeks ago I experienced a shift in attitude.  During my first week of practicum at Kindergarten, I was floored with one of the worst colds I’ve experienced in years.  While the recovery process took nearly two weeks (I continued teaching the entire time) it was a reminder to me that I need to live in the present moment.

As I started to feel better physically I also came to peace with my decision to return to school.  After all, I am the one who decided to do this in the first place.  I started to realize I had a lot to be grateful for.  I’m extremely lucky both Audrey and I got into Queen’s University.  It is one of the top schools in Canada and apparently given the fierce competition for this final year of the program only 1 in 10 who applied was admitted.  Upon finishing this degree we’ll have professional teaching options available at our disposal the rest of our lives.

As I’m sitting down at my computer writing this now, I’m mere weeks away from finishing the first semester signifying the halfway point of this program.  We’re almost done and it seems just like yesterday that we got dropped off at our apartment building by Audrey’s parents.

Is this the end of our travels?  Absolutely not!  We intend to travel immediately upon completing this program at the end of April.  In fact, this experience has made us realize just how much we value our nomadic lifestyle.  I feel as though we have more clarity now than ever before:  travel is our passion and figuring out a way to do this indefinitely as our career is our top priority.  We’ve come up with more creative business ideas in the past few weeks than we have in over a year and a half.  Having something taken away ignites a passion in you not to take things for granted.

Have you ever experienced depression after extended travels?  Has it been challenging for you to adjust back to a ‘regular’ lifestyle after experiencing so many life changing events on the road?  Here are a few tips to deal with this situation.  Remember, you and I are both in the same boat right now 😉

Queen's University campus building located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

1)  Don’t stop traveling

No matter where you are currently living there are likely numerous interesting places you can visit nearby.  Travel doesn’t have to be in far off corners of the world in order to be meaningful.  Find out what is in your local area that you may have never experienced.  Maybe a fruit farm is nearby or an island you’ve never explored or a trail you’ve yet to set foot upon.  Take pleasure in fully immersing yourself in the area in which you currently reside.

2)  Surround yourself with like minded friends

One of the most depressing aspects of travel is the typical conversations you have with friends and family upon returning from a life changing journey.  Although you may have hours upon hours (or even days upon days) worth of stories to tell, you’ve likely encountered the experience where the person you are talking with may only have a 2 minute (or less) attention span to genuinely be interested in what you are saying before talk of relationship gossip, home improvement ideas or what is on television takes over the conversation.  If you’re facing this find a community of friends with travel as interest where you can swap tales, exchange ideas and plan out future travels.

3)  Live in the present moment

This one is the most key point in my opinion.  It took me getting sick to remember to value what I have in life.  If you’re living in the past or too focused on the future you’re not fully experiencing the here and now.  It is wonderful to relive travel memories and to plan new ones; however, not at the expense of not enjoying where you currently are.  Life is too short not to appreciate what you have going on right now.

4)  Have goals and a date set for your next trip

If taking that next big trip is a high priority start to make concrete plans to manifest it into reality.  This includes figuring out where you want to go and what exact date you have in mind as the end goal.  “I’d like to travel someday,” is an impotent goal and one that will not cause you to take immediate action towards making it happen.  Know when you want to go, how much money you’ll need to make it happen and then start thinking of all the ways you can earn and save as hard as you can to make it happen sooner rather than later.

5)  Remember that nothing is permanent.  You’re not stuck.

If you’re feeling stuck or in a mental rut remember that nothing is permanent.  Your situation will change over time.  You’ll be back on the road before you know it.  Keep this in mind when days seem like months and months seem like years.  When you really think about it, I’m sure you’ll realize that time is flying by.

How have you dealt with post-travel blues in your life?  Was it hard to readjust coming back home?  Please let me know in the comment section below:

 

92 Comments

  • Wonderful Post! Great article and great tips for dealing with the come down of returning home after travels.

  • I can describe myself only as a travel lover.Its really difficult to go on to your daily routine after a trip to beautiful places.I struggle with the same things that you have listed and that really irritates me alot. There is a saying which I always remember “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” And that really encourage me to travel more and more no matter how many difficulties I will have to face.

  • Victor says:

    Hola Sam! I just came across you and Audrey’s websites and vids via Rob @stop having a boring life. The advice you mentioned is very true. I am now planning on taking my TEFL/TESOL online/hybrid teaching practicum in Nicaragua; I am planning on staying and living there afterward. I have traveled to Ecuador, Peru, and Costa Rica with a small stop in Colombia. I had the depression after returning from my last trip in Ecuador (an independent study abroad/volunteer teaching English internship) last year (I basically made contacts and friends with the locals). When I came back it was very difficult to live in the present moment, because I was basically done with college (undergrad) and trying to figure the next. #1 do not give up on traveling and dreams that is one thing I learned this year. I am truly cherishing the time with my family and friends, because I know when I leave, I will be gone for a year, two, or longer (with breaks coming back to the States every so often! 😉 ). This article is very inspiring. Keep it up!!!

  • AneukCipuga says:

    Very beautiful scenery, if I go on vacation want to taste a long time in a cool place… 🙂

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  • Uptourist says:

    I am planning to go back to school next year. But that doesn’t mean that I will give up traveling. I just want to expand what I know and live a life of routine until I go back to traveling again.

  • Erika says:

    I think its a difficult decision now, but you’ll be happy you decided to have a fall-back plan in case you need it someday. I struggle with the same things often after spending significant time abroad–especially #2 on your list (finding like-minded friends). It is so often easy to meet people on the road with the same ideas of life/priorities, but back in school or in the “real world” people are often consumed with completely different sets of priorities.
    In any case, its true that nothing is permanent, and I’m sure you’ll go back to your nomadic lifestyle in no time!

    • Thanks Erika! We’re now transitioning back to life on the road which has also been a bit difficult in some regards. I think you’re definitely correct about nothing being permanent and that no matter what your situation is in life it’s always best to try and have a positive outlook.

  • I have faced this kind of situation. Coming to a halt after travelling so much can be a bit frustrating. But we always adept. As you said .. nothing is permanent.But you have so much to look forward to. A career as a professional teacher in such a great institution is no less fascinating.

  • noel says:

    It’s always good to have a plan for longer range and even then this is a great back up for that and hopefully continued travel….good luck!

  • Rentalic says:

    Thats very frustrating to go to the school after traveling

  • Juha says:

    One point for going back to school after travel: under any circumstances, do not stay in one place. Even if “travel” means visiting the local attractions, it is worth doing. There is a lot to see even if you are not travelling the world. After all – being a traveller is an attitude, no matter the distances. 🙂

  • Aaron says:

    Hi Sam,

    Great article, I am just about to start my travels so its interesting to read your article about adjusting post travelling. I like your attitude to travel and to life in general, keep it up!

  • Laura says:

    Great article and great tips for dealing with the come down of returning home after travels. Being semi-nomadic travellers ourselves, we are dealing with this regularly and finding it particularly hard right now as our world is shifting further away from our family and friends mindset and expectations about us so this is really helpful. We have also started planning the next trip which keeps us excited and driven for the future! Good luck with your studies!

  • Tito says:

    Hey Sam!

    I really admire your travel/food blog. It inspired me to start my blog as well. 🙂 Anyway, It was a hard decision but it is a good decision to pursue your studies. This will give you a bigger picture and opportunity to travel and work at the same time once you finished your studies. Hope you will still share your adventures and inspire us more to travel.
    Good luck and cheers!

  • pragati says:

    You said it! Nothing is permanent..but inertia is real..just as someone who hasn’t been out for a while feels they will never go anywhere, someone who is used to action can feel stifled. But I think you should enjoy the respite while you got it.

  • Jungle says:

    What do you do when you’ve already traveled much of the area? The problem I have when I go back to work after traveling for many months is even when my job changes location and I can explore (For instance I’ll be in Rochester, NY soon instead of Buffalo, NY) after a few weeks I end up seeing everything and I don’t know what to do with the rest of my day? I end up spending money at the bar or on food, even if I’m not too hungry, to fill a void because with travel I have constant stimulation and being stationary I don’t. Any suggestions would be appreciated other than the ones you mentioned in the post.

  • Jenna says:

    I think this was a very smart decision, one that a lot of full-time travelers might not take the time or have the foresight to do. Those 8 months will fly by. I have a teaching job here in California, but both my husband and I have degrees that would allow us to teach English just about anywhere abroad. I love having that option as something we can pursue later. And one thing that’s great about teaching…all the time off! 🙂

  • Zascha Friis says:

    I haven’t started my travels yet, so I wouldn’t know what you’re feeling
    but I still found it very interesting to read this blog post.
    I think it’s great that both of you are studying to keep your options open in the future.
    Good luck with everything 🙂

  • ‘Live In The Present Moment’

    ‘You will definitely regret what you did not do in life way more then you will the things that you did do.’
    -I heard this multiple times from elderly people in nursing homes. I think they are onto something!

  • Damon and Jo says:

    We totally understand what you mean though. After traveling for so long, we sometimes feel the urge to “settle down” for a little bit, however, the thought of going straight into a 9 to 5 corporate job in Manhattan completely disgusted us. Turns out, we settled for a hostel job and it turned out to be one of our favorite jobs yet!

    If you can’t travel, at least surround yourself with travel!

  • Boris says:

    It’s never easy to get back in rails after you are have been so free!

  • Nadine says:

    Thanks for this post. I am myself in a dilemma and often think about studying. I quit my studies when I had half of it done because I was not sure about the subject anymore (business administration – yawn…) and I went through a personal crisis. After quitting I recovered for half a year before me and my partner decided to quit our jobs and apartment as well and travel the world. We have been on the road for almost 10 months now. And I still think I should one day start studying again. Not because of social pressure, but because I love to learn. But I just still have no clue about the topic. There’s just too much choice, too many interesting subjects. Anyway, I hope I will figure it out one day and then have the courage to study it no matter what situation I’m in. Be it traveling, having a family or working…

    • Hey Nadine,

      Thanks for sharing your story. It honestly took me a lot of time to decide to go back to school. I got accepted into the same program 4.5 years ago (at a different school) but I ultimately decided to go on another backpacking trip and teach in Korea.

  • flip says:

    hey sam!

    It’s been awhile since I last visited your site. It’s good to know that you grab this opportunity to study to become a professional teacher. While I was reading this post I could relate on what you felt on your first few weeks back home. I also went home for awhile to take care of some stuff and every time I see a plane up in the sky, I wish I’m one of its passengers.

    The great side of your story is that you have a backup plan and this degree could still take you anywhere in the world. You could be a professor in any universities abroad if you want to. 🙂

    Goodluck on your studies!

    Regards to Audrey. 🙂

  • budget jan says:

    I love your No. 5 point. I quite often think of myself as stuck whereas in reality I am not permanently stuck. Thanks for reminding me Sam. 🙂 Congratulations on your marriage, I just found out about it from Audrey’s post!

  • Jack says:

    These are some sick photo’s. What is your photography rig?

  • Jack Johnson says:

    I think going to school makes traveling that much more rewarding and better.

    It’s like, you work your ass off and you know summer break is around the corner, or even a 1 week getaway for spring break…. it really does build up anticipation for your holidays!

  • Mihai says:

    No way to quit travelling. This is not an option. Getting back home is not a moment of leaving travelling behind but a start for planning the future journey.

  • Great post! Like you say, going back to school after travelling do not mean that you need to stop travelling. In holidays it is still possible. They are many and long in school. I think I travelled the most when I was travelling. The two years of my masters I was on the road all the time (as it was online). But also during normal school I used all holidays for travel. I wish you the best of luck on your travels this year 🙂

    • Thanks Hanne!

      That’s a great point about making the most of your holidays and time off to travel. We didn’t do that in our first semester – our bad. This term, we’re going to make up for it in a big time way with trips planned to Quebec City, Montreal, Las Vegas and Lima while we’re in school and South Africa (after we graduate).

  • Harrow Minicab says:

    hey..thanks for sharing your thoughts..

  • SANTANU PANIGRAHI says:

    Dear Samuel,
    I also love travelling. But unfortunately I have not yet visited USA though my son is studying in CSUEB, Haywards. Hope to visit by the end of 2016. I would like to invite you to visit my state Odisha in the eastern part of INDIA. You will stay in my house and I will show you HIRAKUD DAM the longest earthen Dam of the world, the leaning temple of HUMA and many more. Wish you and your family HAPPY NEW YEAR-2015.

  • Good luck with your course! It must have been such a strange transition for you guys – I think it’s great that you’re set on travelling again come April. I try and juggle my blog and travelling in between a busy life as a medic but I have to admit that if I’ve been away for a few weeks at a time, even I find it a challenge settling back into the routine so I can’t even imagine how much of a culture shock it must have been for you after being on the road for so long! Look forward to reading how things pan out over the next few months 🙂

  • This post really resonated with me, Sam! I think I’ve commented something similar on Audrey’s blog before, but I was in a similar situation to you guys- met my husband in Korea, travelled more, taught ESL more then went to the UK. I did my PGCE (the British equivalent of the course you guys are doing now) and I really struggled with being back! But, like you, I eventually found a new way to look at it and it was all worth it. I didn’t travel straight after my PGCE (though I think that’s a great idea!). I taught for 3 years in London and, to be honest, at times I was desperate to get my backpack out again! But I’m now 18 months into a 2 year contract at a great International School. Teaching at an international school, while hard and demanding, does have great rewards! You get great benefits so can spend all your money travelling in the holidays! There’s always another holiday round the corner! I’m glad you’re sticking with it and hope you do teach internationally at some point in the future.

    • Thanks Joella!

      Great to hear about your experience and it is fascinating how closely it aligns with ours. Indeed, if we do teach in the future it will be abroad as opposed to in Canada. We know that 100% for sure; however, our main goal upon graduation is to give it our best shot in the travel industry where our true passion lies.

  • Candace says:

    I have definitely felt the after-travel blues. When I returned from India in 2011, my first trip abroad, everything felt foreign to me when I returned home. Even now, seeing images or pictures of anything remotely related to India and I start to feel things pangs and urges telling me I need to go back or I need to travel more! So, in light of this…four years later, I am gathering the courage, money and resources (but mostly courage) to save for this next year to do my round the world trip! I am so siked! I am going to finish up school, get my TEFL Cert, save money and hit the road jack! I can’t wait to take on this massively beautiful world.

    • Wow! Such an incredible story Candace. Where there is a will to travel there is always a way. I feel the same way about India. I definitely have unfinished ‘travel’ business there 🙂

  • Brian Winners says:

    Hi love, you are never alone in the journey.
    Traveling is one heck of fun and trouble sometimes but while we at it, lets consider those things that matter much to our growth as well.

  • I am new here. Really, glad to read this article. I love to travel very much as well as I’m also a travel blogger from India. I think, Its has a important role to get relax from our boring daily lifestyle.

  • AJ Aerni says:

    I know EXACTLY how you’re feeling. After backpacking 27 countries in 6 months, I returned home to Ohio, USA and got a seasonal job for 6 months (which, might I add was MURDER sitting in one spot for so long) then decided to relocate to San Diego, CA for some warmer weather all year round and some west coast road trips. Christina and I are now preparing to fly back to Ohio and North Carolina for a week with family for the holidays before returning to SOCAL to finish getting ready for our next adventure. We’ve decided to buy a travel trailer, hook it to our Jeep, and road trip all 49 land-attached states and Canada while volunteering with different organizations along the way. Do you ever get the chance to meet and share a cup of coffee with other travel bloggers?

  • Stephen says:

    Transition is always hard, but sometimes it is good to switch things up and take a break from the road. Excited to see where this new opportunity takes you guys!

  • Victoria says:

    i didn’t realise you’d gone back to school too (as well as That backpacker!), thanks for the interesting read and perspective, especially the part about living in the present – always an important thing to remember.

  • Jodie Young says:

    I recently returned to school in the UK for similar reasons and a similar course (however mine is 3 years long, because I had not prior degree). Your tips are really helpful and like you said going back to school is a choice, you are not stuck. Good luck with the second half of your course 🙂

  • Ivana says:

    Definitely, the bigger picture gives it a different perspective. Take care, Sam and looking forward to see your other video posts from trips in Canada and from around the globe!

  • Ivana says:

    I have to say this was hard and very sad to read, Sam. But, despite all anxiety and sorrow you might feel, you already know how to stay sane and hey, it’s only a few months left and you travel again 🙂 Beside, the decision to go back to study was a wise one and hat off to both of you! A big hug and keep your head up!

    • Thanks Ivana! I really appreciate the kind comment. I think sometimes it is worth delaying gratification to look at the big picture. For us, having this degree options up a lot of future options, and this eight month break from our nomadic lifestyle has made us realize just how much we want it back once we’re done our program in late April.

  • Good luck with the program! I have to say it sounds very well designed for nomadic travellers. Too often you hear about travellers who just up and go and keep going non-stop without trying to have some kind of future plan. It’s all fun and games but one day you may wake up and realize you’re middle aged without any savings, any professional qualifications to fall back on and a very challenging future ahead. So it really helps to see fellow nomads who do mention how they are planning to have a backup plan and some form of future plan even though it can be very responsible (re: boring) to some.

    As a fellow working/ traveller, the biggest thing for me is to organize and optimize to help manage post travel blues in one location. You know how many weekends you would have, so you can plan for small trips during those times. You know when you can ‘work from home’ and maybe could extend the distance you cover for a long weekend. Travel as you mentioned doesnt necessarily have to be across an ocean, a desert and into the unknown. Staycations are just as cool, just as fun, and sometimes can really open up your eyes to the things you think you know about your own home.

    • Thanks!

      That’s exactly the realization we came to regarding our decision to go back to school. It’s going to give us full confidence moving forward with our travel projects because we will have something to fall back on if necessary. As somebody who worries a lot the peace of mind this will offer will be invaluable in my life 😉 We’re just 2 weeks away from being halfway done, so the end is just around the corner. We’ll be ecstatic to hit the road again this spring and I think we’ll appreciate it more than ever once we do 🙂

  • Andre says:

    good luck, my friends!

    hope to catch you up somewhere, sometime in the near future. 😀

  • Jeremy says:

    When I saw you a few months ago in NYC, I remember the moment you guys told me you were going to settle down in Canada. I didn’t say anything, but my immediate reaction was “Oh jeez. Does he even realize?”

    I’ve dealt with the same thing and, in many senses, am still dealing with it. I’ve been back in North America for almost a year now after living nomadically for four years straight. The transition to a more isolated and sedentary lifestyle is HARD, dude. It’s boring and feels drab. It’s tough to relate to a lot of people around you.

    But, a year in, I can also say that it’s grounding. It has reminded me of “normal” life in such a way that I am able to much more fully appreciate a traveling life. It has also allowed for growth in other sectors of my life and has given me a chance to reflect on just how big and awesome the rest of the world is 🙂

  • Jeremy says:

    When I saw you a few months ago in NYC, I remember the moment you guys told me you were going to settle down in Canada. I didn’t say anything, but my immediate reaction was “Oh jeez. He doesn’t even realize.”

    I’ve dealt with the same thing and, in many senses, am still dealing with it. I’ve been back in North America for almost a year now after living nomadically for four years straight. The transition to a more isolated and sedentary lifestyle is HARD, dude. It’s boring and feels drab. It’s tough to relate to a lot of people around you.

    But, a year in, I can also say that it’s grounding. It has reminded me of “normal” life in such a way that I am able to much more fully appreciate a traveling life. It has also allowed for growth in other sectors of my life and has given me a chance to reflect on just how big and awesome the rest of the world is 🙂

    • Thanks Jeremy!

      It sure is hard to deal with. Luckily for me, I’ve done this transition several times in the past and I know the days of being stuck in one spot are numbered. I think that is what gets me through the day 😉 It sounds like you’ve really made the most of this year and grown as a person with ample time to reflect. I think if anything once we hit the road again we’ll appreciate it even more.

      • Jeremy says:

        I guess that is lucky! It was my first time making the transition and it sure wasn’t easy! I’m looking forward to hitting the road again soon and seeing where it takes me. Good luck to you!

  • Great post with wonderful tips for those changing from a traveling lifestyle! I wish you both nothing but the best in this new adventure!

  • You know I’m biased, since I love being a professional teacher AND traveler AND blogger, but you are totally making the right decision. The “sedentary” months are awful at first, but then you can flow into the groove and it’s all good. Wise choice setting your sights on international schools, too. I’ve heard such wonderful things about the lifestyle they provide, and as a new mother, I have to advocate for the perks of having a base, too. Keep us posted! You two are great no matter where you are and what you’re doing!

    • Thanks Lillie! You’re a wonderful example of someone who manages to juggle both teaching and blogging with such passionate dedication. On top of that you’re a mother as well! I have no idea how you do it – truly amazing!

  • Have arrived home a week ago from a year and a half of traveling. But this is not even the most recent home, Amsterdam, where I lived as an expat for 9 years – no, this is the original home, where I was born, which I hadn’t visited in more than a decade. Readjusting has been a bit of a struggle (…and the Understatement of the Year award goes to…), but am taking it one step at a time. As you say, nothing is permanent. I actually find that comforting, which perhaps explains some of my wanderlust. Lovely post, thank you for sharing. Good luck with your studies 🙂

    • Thank you very much! Indeed, it is very much about readjusting and just getting used to your new set of circumstances. I’m finding it much easier now than just a month ago. I found the most difficult period from week 6 to week 10. Best wishes with your situation and hope to see you on the road again soon 🙂

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