Feeling Lost at Home and at Home on the Road

It’s a strange thing to admit to yourself: that you can feel at home on the road and just kind of lost in the familiar place that you know as home.

It’s a feeling that I’ve only just come to realise since travelling home to the UK from Nicaragua a couple of weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like being at home because I do really miss my family when I’m away and I do appreciate the comfortable feeling that comes with being home. It’s just that I never made my home here.

I never got that job commuting into London, I never moved into that first time flat, and I never decided that it was time to settle. When I graduated from university, I moved abroad with Luke almost right away. We spent a year teaching in Taiwan, and sure we worked full-time and lived in an apartment like most people do, but we also travelled a lot.

The more we travelled, the more we wanted to travel. We became freelance writers and house sitters so that we could travel long-term. I started to feel at home on the road. I got used to that constant sense of movement and temporality. Throwing my backpack on just became part of my morning routine. I got my fix of ‘home comforts’ and time to unwind through house sitting too.

Being on the road also means that Luke and I can live together all the time. In the UK, our family homes are five hours apart, and there’s absolutely no way we could even dream of renting a place together on our income. And, after managing to sustain a life on the road, it’s hard to see why we’d want to do that. Our set-up might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for us.

This time round though, the transition from long-term travel to being at home has been even harder. I left Nicaragua pretty abruptly after receiving some bad news from home. I wanted to be with my family right away, but this also meant leaving Luke behind. We’d already committed to a house sit in Guatemala, and not wanting to let the homeowners down, he’s staying on in Central America until the end of the sit in April.

Flying out of Nicaragua

When I arrived home, I stopped doing my Sunday evening photo update about what I’d been up to over the weekend on my Facebook page. I’d stopped because I thought sharing photos of being home in the UK was kind of dull, but this week one of my followers said that they missed my “weekend in photos” update, and I realised I was wrong.

While coming home naturally feels strange for any traveller, it’s important not to think of it as a time when your life is on hold but instead as a moment to reflect on the experiences you’ve had and to enjoy local life and local travel. Being at home isn’t a reason to stop travelling, and it shouldn’t be seen that way. Just because somewhere is overly familiar to me doesn’t mean that it isn’t interesting to someone else. Not to mention that there is so much of the UK that I haven’t seen yet, it’s unreal. During my time at home after Taiwan, I discovered some incredible new places that I hadn’t even known existed, and I know there are so many more waiting to be discovered.

For now, I’m content walking in the countryside around my house, scouting out the local vegetarian and vegan cafes, and spending time with my family. I look back on my past ten months with nothing but happiness, and I look forward to my future travels with Luke too, wherever they may be.

How do you deal with long stints at home? And what do you like about them?

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

19 thoughts on “Feeling Lost at Home and at Home on the Road

  1. I think I know how you feel being back home is such a mix of conflicting emotions for me. While I obviously enjoy being with my family I soon start to feel the pressure of sedentary life, its routine and the worse are the ‘rules’ that society has imposed. It is sometimes frustrating to see others ‘stuck’ in a linear way of thinking and hear them explain to you ‘this is the way to do things, that’s how it is…’ it reminds me of the most beautiful part of travelling: the sense of freedom I get from it. If I have to stay long back ‘home’ I inevitably start dreaming of the day i”m gonna leave. On the good side being home after a very long time abroad can feel like travelling to a new country. You get to rediscover familiar places with new eyes and this is pretty awesome.
    jameela deen recently posted…On the Move Again – Part 4/4My Profile

    1. Hey Jameela – I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only who experiences such a conflicting array of emotions! I agree on the sedentary life side of things and certainly really quickly end up back in my old habits of lazing around and not being motivated to get up early and go. I try not to dream too much about leaving home, though in some ways it helps you to enjoy being at home for that period of time, knowing that there’s a temporary element to it too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      Charlie on Travel recently posted…Feeling Lost at Home and at Home on the RoadMy Profile

  2. Oh, I feel you. How I feel you. Luckily I had some level of control when leaving, but it was still rather a shock when everything fell apart and we decided to get out of Russia. I absolutely know the feeling of ‘now what should I do? my life’s so boring if it’s not exotic’… I hope that you can either work out those feelings or be on your next great adventure soon enough.
    Polly recently posted…[giveaway] Welcome to #girlandVAMy Profile

    1. Hey Polly – you know though, I was feeling so in the dumps about the way I was feeling about home a week or so ago and reading your post about loving local really picked me! It made me think about how I can make the most of being home, without having to completely ignore how I was really feeling about it. Thanks for your support! :) I hope that home for you two also goes well.
      Charlie on Travel recently posted…Feeling Lost at Home and at Home on the RoadMy Profile

  3. I relate to this in so many ways. I’ve been home from Taiwan for 3 years now and it doesn’t get any easier for me. I have good days and bad days, but when I go for a long stretch where I can’t take the trip I want to take or I’m just ‘home’ I find myself writing less, taking less photos (I don’t even know where my camera is right now), and feeling a general longing. It is a daily struggle. At the same time, it’s frustrating to know that if I was away, I’d be feeling sentimental about my home. I do try to imagine that I can step outside myself and view my home from the perspective of an outsider, to find that same fiery curiosity in my surroundings. I’m afraid that when I do attempt it, it can’t be authentic. I did take a quick jaunt to California last weekend and it was refreshing but not quite enough for an unquenchable need. :)
    Stefanie recently posted…The Evolution of My Husband’s EnglishMy Profile

    1. Hi Stefanie – Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experiences with this! It really helps to know that other travellers also have these conflicting feelings about ‘home.’ I also know exactly what you mean about writing/taking photos less, I try really hard not to let that happen despite feeling like I just don’t have as much to say/photograph. And yes, I really relate to that feeling of sentimentality about being home when you’re away, even though you feel conflicting emotions about being home when you’re there too! I always feel so silly about that, but I think it’s just natural for that to be the case. I try to just think of what other people might be interested to read about if they didn’t know my area and the things that I enjoy doing.
      Charlie on Travel recently posted…Feeling Lost at Home and at Home on the RoadMy Profile

  4. Sad to hear you had to return due to the family issues. It’s that dreadful feeling when your phone rings in an odd hour and you know it won’t be something good. Last winter I had to fly back home as well for personal reasons.

    But hey, I hope everything settles and you will have awesome times exploring the UK! I look forward to your hometravel pictures too :) Besides, I’m pretty sure Luke and you will figure out how to make things work soon. You got the right attitude, loads of experience and a great housesitting portfolio after all :) Don’t let the blues beat you!
    Elena@Elena’s Travelgram recently posted…5 Amazing Road Trips I Dream Of In The UKMy Profile

    1. Hi Elena! Aw yes, but I try to just say c’est la vie. Life has it’s ups and downs and I feel fortunate enough to be in a position where I can drop everything and run home to be with my family, you know. I’m so sorry to hear that you went through a similar situation last year.

      Yes, I’m looking forward to a little bit more UK time! You’re very sweet, and thanks for all your encouragement!
      Charlie on Travel recently posted…Feeling Lost at Home and at Home on the RoadMy Profile

  5. That is an all too familiar feeling. Being back home in Sydney or being on one place in general has been a hard adjustment. As much as I love being home, I have a love/hate relationship with it too.

    It’s good that you’re thinking about exploring your backyard a bit more. Looking forward to reading more about your beautiful country.
    Ailene recently posted…When Routine & An Incurable Wanderlust CollideMy Profile

    1. Hey Ailene – I am 100% understanding what you’re saying here! Are you at home in Sydney now? Lusting over other travel destinations? Sydney sounds pretty exotic to me, you know! And thank you for the support, it’s much appreciated :)

  6. I’m sorry you had to come home that way, but it’s great that you’re trying to carry on travelling now you’re home. It’s great on sunny days- I have been exploring around Exeter too whenever I can, but the South of England can be pretty tricky to access when you don’t have a car. Wilts and Dorset buses are phenomenally expensive! Have you spent much time in Dorset before? Try Durdle Door, Kimmeridge, Ringstead for interesting beaches. Sorry if I’m stating the obvious, but get in touch if you want any other suggestions. I’ve been meaning to write a post about Dorset as I lived there 18 years, but havnt quite got around to it yet!

    1. Hey Katie! C’est la vie. Well, that’s what I always try and tell myself anyway! Yes, got to wait for those sunny days to travel in the UK and boy am I glad that Spring is finally on it’s way after the dismal tail-end of February that I was here for haha. Oh very cool! I went to Exeter University, so I know the area pretty well. My mum has just relocated to Dorset (while I was away) but we used to holiday here when I was young so I’m pretty familiar with the area, though lots of great places around that I’m yet to explore. I’ve been to Durdle Door and Kimmeridge, but not Ringstead! And not at all! I love recommendations from other travellers :D Would love to hear more about Dorset actually, especially hiking related or any heritage type sites. I shall await your post on Dorset eagerly!!

  7. Hi Charlie – I’m so sorry to hear of the news that brought you home unexpectedly. I hope that is going okay… I understand entirely the feelings you’re experiencing. After nearly 11 months on the road last year, my boyfriend and I went home for 6 weeks (and went home in the dead of freezing cold winter). It was so awesome seeing my friends and family for the first few weeks, taking advantages of the comforts of home and enjoying the holidays. Then reality really sunk in and I did have my days of loneliness. I missed the road and constant sense of adventure. I missed meeting new people and learning about new cultures. We soon bought another one way ticket. But now that I’m back on the road, I’m already tired of lugging my backpack around and want to feel more settled. I’m craving routine and structure… So now I’m trying to manage these emotions and trying to understand where they are coming from. I hope you can get back on the road again soon… stay present, breath in the good moments back in the UK. <3

    1. Hi Anne – Lovely to hear from you, and yes, all is going okay. Oh yes, going home in winter is so tough! It’s comforting to hear that other travellers also feel the same way as I do; I miss all of those things very much. I think that when I’m on the road, because Luke and I house sit, those periods of house sitting are very similar to the routine and structure of home which makes us miss it much less. If I was in hostels every day though, I would definitely miss home comforts much, much more. I hope that you can work through your emotions too, and keep enjoying the moment wherever you are. x

  8. I feel you Charlie. I was home in Italy for Christmas for the first time after a very long time, and even if I liked sharing time with the people I love, I soon felt the urge to live again. Even if it was for a very limited time, my feet were hitching again and I realized how much I missed the travelling life, no matter how hard it can be at times.
    I’m sorry you had to live Luke and return to the UK, but I’m also pleased to read you are taking ‘advantage’ of it by making the most of your time at home, great attitude Charlie! :)
    Franca recently posted…Tofu ‘n’ Chips – Our Search for Vegan Restaurants in BrightonMy Profile

    1. That’s good to know, Franca! It’s comforting to know that other travellers experience the same kind of emotions when they’re visiting home, and it really is a very difficult topic to discuss. As a traveller you’re always stuck with that catch 22 of missing your family when you’re away, but missing the road when you’re home. Trying my best!

  9. Mixed emotions are very normal and understandable. Feeling torn between those you love and your lifestyle choice is never easy. I think that mostly, you sound like you are getting it right. Making a decision, making the most of that moment in time and making plans to move on again ………….

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