Expat Magazine

Homecoming: Our First Trip Home After More Than a Year Abroad

By Zach Zine @Int_In_Debt
The sun rises in the East...

The sun rises in the East…


386.  Three hundred eighty-six.  That is the amount of days we will have been gone when we travel to the airport to make our trip to visit home.  That is the amount of days we have lived in Taiwan.  That is the amount of days that we have not seen most of our friends and family in the flesh. That is the amount of days we have gone hearing mostly Chinese and being surrounded by people who, almost entirely, look nothing like us.  That is the amount of days, so far, that we have called Taipei home.

Obviously, then, going home is exciting.  Anyone could tell you that.  But, what other emotions are there?  What other feelings are there?

There is really only one that we have a hard time explaining.  It is a feeling deep in the pit of your stomach, almost like an energy source that sends waves from the center of your body outward.  It’s nervousness and not nervousness.  It is like fear, but not fear at all.  It is anxiety, but not entirely anxious.  We are puzzled by this because obviously we are excited to go home.  This is the first time we will be home after living abroad for so long.  We are going to be able to eat the food we have missed so much – hello Mexican food and Chicago-style pizza!  We are going to see friends and family.  At the same time, though, there is a nervous energy building up as the day draws closer.  Like a pre-reverse culture shock before any reverse culture shock actually takes place.

Could it be that not seeing those people that for so long were the constants in our lives has made the prospect of seeing them again after so long scary?  Maybe.  Maybe it is that we fear that we have changed in the past year, because we have.  We are different people, we think for the better, after living abroad for the past year.  We have learned more about ourselves, our world, our culture, other cultures, etc.  The list could go on.  Perhaps we fear that those people we most want to see will see something that is new in us and not like it.  In a similar vein, maybe we are nervous that we will look at people in a different light and not like some of the new things we may see.

Could it be that after being abroad so long and changing like we have that we are nervous and/or anxious that the world, the place, and the people we left have changed?  Possibly.  As anyone who has lived abroad can attest to, it changes your perception of the world.  Being abroad is the greatest mirror into yourself and your culture that there is in the world, at least in our opinion.  If you look into the mirror correctly, it allows you to see yourself and your culture through the eyes of and in contrast to another.  It allows you to see all that is bullshit in yourself and your culture.  It also allows you to see all that is truly great in yourself and your culture.  That is something that is amazingly beneficial.  But, at the same time, now that we are going back, could it make going home a completely different experience?  That prospect is one that is intimidating.  There is a certain nostalgia connected to the idea, and that is all that it is until we touch ground there, of going home.  Maybe we are scared that that nostalgia will be crushed.

On a lighter note, could it be that going to a place where we understand everything being said around us is going to be a sensory overload?  One of the things that many people who have been abroad in a country with an entirely different language may attest to is the fact that you can completely tune out of conversations and dialogues around you.  Now that we are learning Chinese (check out these posts for more on that: Chinese: A Long But Worthwhile Journey and Choking vs. Panicking: Chinese Style) we can understand a bit if we listen, but we have to make a conscious effort and focus entirely on that endeavor.  No focus, no understanding.  People can be blatantly talking about us, or sex, or anything else and we can just block it out as if nothing is happening.  Literally, you can completely BLOCK OUT EVERYTHING.  Thus, the one thing that really throws us when we are on the train or walking down the street is when we hear people speaking English.  It forces us to immediately look up and search for the speaker.  Beyond that, if we are near the speaker it is difficult to break ourselves away from listening to their conversation, however mundane or boring.  If that is what it is like now, what will it be like when we are at home and we understand everything, more or less?  Sensory OVERLOAD!

Homecoming: Our First Trip Home After More Than a Year Abroad

Could it be that we have missed so much being away for over a year that we will be complete out of touch and not fit in?  This seems to almost be a guarantee.  We have certainly missed a lot in our friends and family’s lives, in pop culture, in music, etc.  We are going to be a bit awkward.  We are going to say things like, for example, “Ai you!” (a common expression of exasperation in Taiwan) that make absolutely no sense where we come from.  That is going to happen.

In the end, the day approaches and, let there be no mistake, we are very excited.  It will be amazing to be at home and see the people we have missed and eat the food we have missed and relax in a place we have missed.  But, at the same time, there is that unmistakable emotion that sits in our guts and is seemingly inexplicable.  Some of the reasons above, certainly the first couple more than the last, are possibly the source.  Or, it could be some other unforeseen force that guides such an odd emotion/feeling.  Maybe we won’t know until we are there.  Maybe we won’t understand until we are back here in Taipei and reflecting upon our time at home.  We’ll have to see about all that later.  For now, we will just sit back and enjoy the ride.

...and sets in the West.

…and sets in the West.


Do you have any insights on what this feeling/emotion might be?  Have you felt something similar?  Are we weird?  Please, tell us below!

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