Last updated on May 3rd, 2021 at 09:23 am
My name is Candice and I returned home to the USA a few months ago after having spent the last 3 years working and living in Thailand. I worked for a nonprofit organization that aims to end child sex trafficking through prevention. My role within that organization was to oversee all Vocational Training efforts for our children that are not going on to higher education.
I have been dreading the time where I would sit down and unpack all of my thoughts and emotions from the last few months of being “home”. Simply because when it comes to transition, I am surviving it one day at a time, not really knowing if I’m doing it right. Is there even a ‘right’ way to leave a life behind and start a new one in a familiar yet foreign place? Not sure, but what I can do is share what has been most helpful for me.
Leaving is a PROCESS- not an event.
I started leaving Thailand the moment I even considered the idea of returning to America. My mind started to create distance from the country and the people there before I arrived at my final decision and leave date. Everything I did leading up to boarding my flight ( purchasing the plane ticket, coffee with friends, getting rid of my belongings, etc.) was a part of an extremely long and sometimes arduous process of leaving.
Force yourself to enjoy even the hard parts.
Because it will be a distant memory before you can even put words to your feelings.
Make a plan for leaving
Don’t be naive and think you can push all of this off until the last moments. You will regret it if you do. I read a blog post by Jerry Jones that sums this up well. Build a RAFT.
Reconciliation: Strained or broken relationships don’t go away when you do. Make it right.
Affirmation: People are dense. Don’t assume they know how much impact they have had on your life. Say it well.
Farewell: Different people need different goodbyes. Think beyond people (places, pets and possessions too).
Think Destination: Even if you’re going “home”, much has changed. Brace yourself. Think forward.
Don’t be afraid of the tears.. Or the lack of.
Embracing my full range of emotions when they came was one of the best decisions I made before I left Thailand. It allowed me to fully experience the painful truth of my situation, which is that I love this place and this life that I have but I know something better for me is waiting on the other side.
Even today, I am still grieving the loss of certain aspects of my past life. But I can do so knowing that while I was there, I didn’t take for granted the relationships I cultivated and nurtured for so long. I truly lived every day with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love for the opportunity to experience life overseas.
I will be honest and say that towards the end, I was so ready to leave and exhausted from all the goodbyes that I couldn’t conjure up a single tear when the time actually came for me to get on the plane. I thought it was strange at first but then I remembered that everyone processes grief differently.
Don’t feel guilty about not being emotional…or for weeping like a baby every 10 minutes.
Give yourself grace
I can’t say this enough. Even when you think you’ve got it all under control and then find yourself angry at everyone and everything. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Transition is a journey. We will always be in a state of transition, whether that be physically, mentally, or emotionally. Change is a part of life. Be patient with yourself. Love yourself through it all. And give yourself loads of grace!
Plan the homecoming
It will be a whirlwind once you get back home. Brace yourself. The sudden shock of having hundreds of goodbyes and tears to then receiving thousands of hellos and hugs can be jarring. Something you can do beforehand to lessen the jolt is plan out your first few weeks home. Maybe that’s one big homecoming party to get it all out of the way. Or setting up small group meetings with close family/friends once a month.
Again, give yourself grace with trying to connect with everyone. Don’t feel bad about turning down someone’s invitation out to spend time with yourself. They will have to be patient and understanding.
Create safe places for rest/reprieve from all the happy welcomers
THIS IS CRITICAL! In order to be mentally healthy and not burn out, you HAVE to be intentional about checking in with yourself.
It can be easy to jump right back into the ‘rat race’ of American living, but don’t give in.
Try your best to incorporate things from your previous daily routine into your new one at home. For me, every morning while living in Thailand I would have a cup of tea and do some sort of yoga or stretching. I have adopted this into my American routine. It helps bring back a bit of normalcy to the new chaos.
Pace yourself/Know yourself
This has been extremely applicable to me in terms of food and money. Just because you now have access to good cheeseburgers, wine, and Chick-Fil-A doesn’t mean you need them all at once. Take your time reintroducing your body to these things; you’ll thank me later.
It’s OK for your heart to be in multiple places.
Don’t feel guilty when you feel homesick at home. Just because you made the decision to leave doesn’t mean you love that country any less. It is the beautiful part of traveling the world. You end up leaving pieces of yourself along the way and picking up new ones that you never knew existed before.