So you’ve just returned home from your travels, had a home-cooked meal, and one night in your own familiar bed. Things seem alright, then, it happens: you get the home-bound blues. It suddenly dawns on you that you’re no longer living a life of enlightenment and wonder, carrying nothing but a rucksack and creating a life for yourself full of spontaneity, mystery, and adventure. To make matters worse, your parents have started asking you when you’re planning on getting a job. When will you get out of your overdraft? When will you move out? When will you start acting as a real grown up? Fact of the matter is, only a select few can get away with travelling their whole lives, living the nomadic dream. The rest of us, apparently, must return to the real world—and typically with a bump, to say in the least.
I was lucky enough to take a gap year after graduating from university, though most do it the year before starting school. I first spent three months working in rural Southern India on a water and sanitation project with Raleigh International, then went for the polar opposite of that and traversed the USA, partying along the way for two months with my best friend. Both experiences have been vital to my growth as a person, and to my awareness of the world around me. I think travelling should be compulsory for young people as it definitely broadens the mind and opens you up to different cultures, which, incidentally, has helped me a massive amount in various job interviews. A well-rounded background and a handful of life experience goes a long way in helping you stand out from a crowd.
Despite the benefit of traveling, and all the reasons to do it, coming home from those trips can be hard for all young travellers. For me, it was even to the extent that the Raleigh doctors from my volunteer project gave all participants a note for their general practitioner at home explaining the predicted “Raleigh Blues.” This onset illness hits once you get home, sit in your room and suddenly think, “now what?” whilst sadly sifting through an array of junk emails you’ve decidedly ignored until now. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, you are not alone.
First things first, you’ve got to beat those coming-home blues. Call up some familiar friends, get out the house, go for a walk. It can be really tough without a “next stage” to aim for, especially if you don’t start uni for another 7 months or if you’ve graduated like I had. I had to set myself daily goals, which gave me a reason to get out of bed before noon. It doesn’t have to be anything overly exciting or expensive (indeed, you’ve just been traveling and the bank is likely looking a little wilted), but a sprinkling of fun and useful things to do will distract you from your post-travelling funk. Picnics and other outdoor activities can get you outside and feeling less cooped-up. Helping out around the house is productive and will keep your parents off your back a little as you look for the next step—be it job, or school. Sadly, I took a while to figure out that keeping on good terms with the parents is paramount to your happiness and to settling back into balanced home life.
Whilst we’re on the subject of goals, it’s a good idea to set some longer term personal ones—especially if they reflect the amazing experiences you just had while away. Write these goals down and stick them on your wall so you can see them and stay focused, not get suckered into watching Netflix for 7 hours a day, slumped in bed. They can be anything that you consider to be worthwhile, but it’s important that these goals are achievable and will make you feel positive. Successfully doing 20 shots of Jäger without throwing up is not a good example of a personal goal, but things like learning how to cook a roast, reading a book a week, or running for 5 miles will give you something to strive for. For me, it was going to the gym 3 times a week, writing daily and practicing the ukulele.
Once you’re settled and you’ve got a healthy routine in place (or at least the start of one), it might also be a good idea to seek some advice. This could be from a parent, a teacher, or even just friends, but it’s always good to bounce some ideas around and get some people who could help you in getting a job or achieving some of your previously chosen goals. Initially, you might just want someone to check over your CV, but you can also have them help you decide what to apply for, proofread cover letters and generally just give you a little support. If you don’t want to go to people close to you, there are careers services with mentors and advisors who can help you out.
The most important thing in this process is to stay positive and to treat applying for jobs and overcoming post-travel slump like a job itself. Apply yourself and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to ask for more details on the position you’re applying for, especially as being able to put a voice to the CV will often work in your favour. I frequently and persistently called various offices to find out whether they had shortlisted people for interviews yet, and they were always impressed with my keen, yet polite follow-up. Aim to complete between five and ten applications a day, in amongst seeing your friends, keeping healthy and remaining in your parents’ good books. Unfortunately, most jobs you go for may think you’re suitable for the position and may not even reply, but remember that it only takes one fish to bite before it’s onto the interview.
During your interview, body language and an air of confidence is almost as important as the words that come out of your mouth. Be prepared, friendly and open, but retain an air of professionalism. You’ve just had some life-altering experiences to add to your qualifications—don’t forget to take advantage of that! Likewise, you won’t give a good impression if you know nothing about the company or the position that they’ve advertised; spend some of your “now-back-at-home” time to do some research in preparation. Reflect on the positive energy you had prior to this returned-home period of transition and allow it to guide you in your interview. Be honest about your achievements, what you feel your strengths are and your capabilities, as extreme modesty have no place in an interview. Remember that despite how difficult returning home has been, you have had an experience few others may have had the opportunity to—reveal in it and let it work in your favour!
Stay happy, have fun and be positive! Good Luck!
Elizabeth Finney is a blogger from London who is focused on fashion, culture, and the experiences of being newly graduated. Asides writing, she plays the ukulele, sings, parties, and is already planning her next globetrotting experience.