When Home Is Lonely

Feb 1, 2015 by


New Friends? – Jaipur, India



When you go away, when you travel, you will not be alone, unless you choose to be. You will meet people, boys, girls, all ages, sizes, colours and orientations. They will be weird and beautiful and interesting and intense and funny and challenging and completely wonderful. You will love some of them. Inevitably, you will hate some of them. Some will become best friends for life, others for the best 2 weeks of your life, never to be seen again. Here and there, you may fall in love. Maybe you’ll wish you hadn’t, but no doubt, your life will be full when travelling. There is no shortage of anything – new friends, new foods, new sights, new smells and sounds and cultural dances and bonfires on the beach and skinny dipping in the sea.

But what happens when you go home?

Some travellers are permanent nomads, true vagabonds. Home has no meaning for these people. For the rest of us, even long-term travellers, we still maintain some connection to somewhere (or someone) called Home.

Go home, and the air stops moving. The bed each night is the same. The dinner table is predictably set at the same time. Work starts, work stops. The seconds pass, and suddenly remembering what you did 2 nights ago is a challenge. On the road, every moment is burned onto the very folds of your cortex. It’s hard to make things matter at home like they matter out there, when everything is new. Still, we try. We know we must try. We do our best. We always do our best.

We reach out to friends.

Suddenly, you find many of them are recently engaged, married, having babies. They are buying houses and planning time with their families at the cabin. Suddenly, the void you left them with when you went galavanting around the globe is filled with other things. Wife. Husband. Dog. Mortgage. New truck. Hoarded vacation days for that 1 week all-inclusive trip to Mexico. Suddenly, everyone has moved on.

You get together. You chat. You try to explain the things you experienced. You try to relate to their parenting woes. You sit silently on the couch and wait while baby is soothed. Thumbs twiddle. You wish you could help, you wish you could be needed, but you know there isn’t much you can do, not really. There is a disconnect, and you realize you aren’t surprised. Disappointed, sure, but this is the natural course of life, right? It’s just not your course. You just always danced to the twang of your own ukulele (on the white sandy beaches of Easter Island).

You remember how close you used to feel to these friends, the friends who have moved on. You are thankful for the wonderful memories you have together. Nothing, no one, can take those away. You remember when you called each other best friend, when you drank rum together until the wee hours of the morning, when you went to blues concerts and cried/celebrated together over breakups. You are eternally grateful for these memories; life without ever having had them would feel empty. Only now, the memories are just a shadow of what once was. No longer is it the hilarious glue that holds everything together but an echo of something that once was and will be no more.

Your friends have moved on.

You know in your heart you will always love these people. They probably have no idea how happy you are for them, how much you really love them, for travellers feel indescribably deeply, passionately. You understand this is not a comfortable level of emotion for a lot of people, particularly those who have never traveled or left home. You are happy to simmer that sentiment in silence, while the baby in the background screams. You excuse yourself, it’s time to go. You know the next time you see your friend will be weeks away, rather than days. Schedules are so tight now. When did that happen?

These are the good friends.

There are also the friends who never understood. Why travel, why leave for so long, what are you doing… This simple lack of comprehension was the initial wedge in the imperfectly formed contour of your bond. Each departure nudged the wedge in a little more, until one day, you come home, and you find you are no longer friends.

Good riddance, you should say, but it still hurts. You loved –  love – these friends. Saying a permanent goodbye to someone you once called best friend is earth-shattering. Yet you are forced to accept this with some kind of dignity.

Home has become lonely.

Your best friends are spread out across the world. They are from Brazil, Denmark, Mexico, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, England. They are waiting to host you the next time you travel. They invite you to take a trip specifically to go see them.

You wonder why you ever missed home in the first place, and why you’ve defined home the way you have. Yet, the concept of home persists. And loneliness persists. It’s not just the post-trip blues. This is pervasive.

Something needs to change.

You realize the only course of action is to start from scratch. New friends, new bonds, new chums for wasting time together. The more you think about it, the more you realize this is not as easy to accomplish as it might sound. Finding someone likeminded while traveling has always been fairly straightforward. If it weren’t, sharing your company with just the Taj Mahal, or just the Eiffel Tower or just Central Park is more than alright. At home, trying to find someone like you is, quite simply, daunting. Nerve-wracking. An insurmountable task. A frightening feat of vulnerability and high potential for rejection. But this is what has to happen.

You can fly to Brazil, India, the Middle East all by yourself. You can wander the streets of Madrid alone. You can get through all of Southeast Asia without being robbed. You can stumble through China without a lick of the language. You can eat all the creepy crawly and strange smelling things at the market, but make a friend at home???

I don’t know about you… but this one, I’m still trying to figure out.


Is “home” lonely for you? What are you doing to tackle the feeling? Let’s discuss!

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  1. I’ve never really done long term travelling but I have read a few really hoenst blog posts from others who it seems are going through quite similar thought processes to what you describe here, coming back to the place they called home and trying to settle back in but surrounded by people who have moved forward and have different issues in their minds. I hope you do manage to feel a bit more at ease and perhaps start anew and make some new connections 🙂

    • Colleen

      I know I’m definitely not alone in this transition. Awkward and lonely thought it is, I’m hopeful. Thanks for your well wishes.

  2. Mike

    I have never traveled internationally as you have but having done so most of my life domestically in North America (and Hawaii) up until 20 years ago. I sooooo get your happiness, drive and elation at the satisfaction of being out exploring, Colleen! I’ve been very blessed with having close friends still to this day that I have not seen in years or who have moved away or begun a family, etc. So, maybe my experience is the exception. I hope new, wonderful friendships at home are present in your life very soon, my friend 🙂

    • Colleen

      You are definitely lucky to have what sounds like an awesome group of friends and supporters. I have a couple very special such friends and for the interest of a concise post, I did not include them here, but maybe I should have?? I know I am beyond lucky to have them in my life. Where I struggle is the fact that all my best friends are so spread out all over the world, and the core group I once had at home are now dissipated. It’s the home love I’m not really feeling.

  3. So beautiful Colleen. I totally know what you’re feeling. I suppose it’s partly what keeps me on the move, searching for those connections, knowing that they don’t exist anymore at home. The older I get the further I feel myself getting from the path that most of my friends back home have followed. It’s tough to deal with. Good luck, I’m sure you’ll soon meet some like-minded people at “home”.

    • Colleen

      Thanks Laura, I’m really glad you can relate. I was hoping to connect with other travellers who understand. I also feel my disconnect with home is another motivator to keep moving… and maybe that’s a good thing; I’ll never get too stagnant.

  4. I think I will forever be connected to blogs and people like you Colleen because I share so many of the same sentiments. Being back, we’re in that awkward place of trying to adjust and people being used to us, so ‘everything is back and status quo’…right? hmmmm

    My hope is to have success at making friends now that we’re back. I’m doing so by trying to get out of my comfort zone with volunteering and classes. We’ll see how it goes – I’ll check back in 😉

    • Colleen

      It’s so hard to push yourself out of your comfort zone (I’m speaking you in general…) and also know and trust that the connections and interactions are meaningful. It sounds and looks (judging by your words here and your blog) that you are being very proactive and carrying on with a great positive attitude. I will try to channel some of that!

  5. this article really resonated with me. Coming home had felt kind of lonely.

  6. I wish I knew the answer, lady. I’m still thinking about business cards that say, “Be my friend?”

  7. You’ve expressed exactly what I feel when returning home. That ‘replaced’ feeling is pretty harsh, but as you say very natural. Sometimes I think some of them might have been hurt I’ve “abandoned” them.
    It’s difficult to have your friends spread out over the world!
    I have been lucky to make new friends at home that might not be like minded in terms of travel, but in terms of everything else. New friends that do care how I’m doing abroad and who have no difficulties keeping in touch regularly, which makes it so much easier to reconnect once we see each other again. But the more I live/travel abroad, the harder it becomes to make friends at home. I hope you find some new people back home you can connect with, I’m sure you will!

    • Colleen

      It’s both difficult and wonderful to have these diverse and spread out friends. What a gift to be able to travel in the name of seeing them! But… then there’s the time and distance in between visits, and that blows.
      I’m glad to hear you have a little positive energy going on in the friendship department. I’m hoping I can get there too one day soon! x

  8. Lovely post. When I returned home last time I remember getting up on the first morning, walking to the bathroom to brush my teeth and bursting into tears! I cried for two hours at how lonely I was. I have great friends at home but the bond you build when travelling with someone is indescribable. I lasted 7 months at home before I came away again!

    • Colleen

      Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that. But I can definitely relate. I’m glad you’re back out there doing your thing! I’m loving your blog 🙂

  9. I know exactly what you mean Colleen, I do feel the same every time I go back to my hometown to visit family and friends. I haven’t lived there since I was 18 and now that I travel full time my visits have became even more sporadic, I feel even more like a foreign at home and as yourself I’m still trying to figure that out!

    • Colleen

      I feel ya! It’s not easy, and the longer we spend away from home, the less it feels like home! At least we always have travel right?

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