The end –how it feels to return home from a long journey

With about 30 minutes delay I touched down in Zurich, Switzerland at 8:45AM on a Sunday morning end of April 2018. My best friend picked me up and it felt so absolutely great to see him again. Since I had sub rented my apartment I had to put my personal stuff somewhere and most of it ended up in his cellar. Also my giant plush tiger Kumal got shelter at his place and he even was allowed in his living room so that he won’t smell like cellar after one year. When we got to the car, I had the first surprise of the day: Kumal was already waiting for me on the back seat. So cute! The second surprise waited for me in my apartment: he had already put all the moving boxes from his cellar to my place and also put a few things in the fridge (in Switzerland shops are closed on Sundays). He is such a sweetheart! I almost had to cry.

It was a beautiful sunny spring day and I was not in the mood to spend that day alone in my apartment unpacking. So I joined Stephan and a few friends in the park for a BBQ.

It was a really nice welcome back home.

In the evening and the next couple of days the reality hit me though, sitting alone between boxes in a flat that doesn’t smell or feel like home.

Returning to a foreign country (I am German living in Switzerland) there is a lot of bureaucracy involved, additional to the normal stuff like getting internet and phone, power, healthcare and all that stuff. I had quit everything before leaving to have no running costs while traveling. And of course I also spend a lot of time trying to turn the flat into a place I could feel at home again. Already in the first 5 days I had spent more money on registrations /certifications/confirmations, IDs, passes for the public transport, insurances and shit than the amount I had used within 3-4 months of my recent life. And all that without any income. I had quit my job to be able to life my dream and still had to find a new one. I often felt alone (all my friends were working during the day) and a bit overwhelmed with this throw back in a normal life and the pressure to quickly get my stuff sorted and find a job. Life in Switzerland is so very different to Southeast Asia or pretty much anywhere I had been in during the last year. I also was not really sure what I wanted to do, like what kind of job I wanted to look for – the same kind of work I did before or try something different, if I wanted to stay in Switzerland or leave the country. I had spent a lot of time thinking about that during my last weeks of the trip, to an extend that really stressed me since I somehow had the feeling I need to know when I return. With the help of a friend over the phone I at least managed to take a bit of that pressure off me while still in Vietnam and getting to the conclusion that it doesn’t help to stress me now. So I decided to first come back and then see how it would go and take my time to decide. Before I started this trip I was so fed up with Switzerland that I was rather sure I would only return to get my stuff sorted like giving away or selling my furniture, dealing with financial stuff, prepare my applications like taking a proper picture, writing my CV and so on and then only stay until I found a job somewhere else. But I was too affraid to just completely risk everything. So I had applied at the immigration office to keep the status of my visa (C permit) for a year, usually it would expire after 6 months outside the country. It is not always easy as a German in Switzerland. Zurich – the city itself – is a great place, but people here can be really hard to live with. Firstly there is quite a lot of hatred of foreigners, plus most Swiss people are very uncommunicative, closed-up and it is very hard to make friends. It is all about money, status and the job. There are other countries where the way of life and the attitude of people reflect more my own for sure, but every single country has its pros and cons. Wherever I would go I would need to start from scratch again, even in Germany. My family is spread over several cities, so are my friends. Thus, I don’t have a city in Germany where I can return to, saying here I have a base with family and friends. Here in Switzerland I had built up a life during the 9 years I had been living there. Plus after one year of travelling I somehow longed for some consistency – at least for a while. All these thoughts led to my decision to stay here for a year or so and see what comes next.

There were a few things that kept me going during the first weeks back in the chaos of looking for a new job and getting my things sorted again, like seeing all my friends,

IMG-20180617-WA0012 (FILEminimizer)
watching the soccer worldmasters

visiting my family

IMG_20180518_192902 (FILEminimizer)
rainbow hitting the street while catching a ride to my parent’s place

and friends in Germany,

a dance festival in Zürich on my first weekend back which was mainly for free,

getting back to dancing Zouk and the great weather which allowed me to do a lot of sports outside like hiking,

paddling,

running,… I realized how much I had missed my friends and family during the trip and that I really like Zurich.

37239770_10214335932726785_8543531176923496448_o
city center – the Limmat and the Grossmünster
IMG_20180506_114233 (FILEminimizer)
area around Hardbrücke
IMG_20180506_164549 (FILEminimizer)
city center
IMG_20180815_210610 (FILEminimizer)
Zurich lake in the evening
IMG_20180505_145407 (FILEminimizer)
Landesmuseum

I tried to make the most of the free time I had next to applying and everything.

When people hear about my year off and traveling I experience a lot of envy and many people who think I am so lucky to be able to do that. I have to tell you, it has not much to do with luck rather determination! I didn’t win the lottery nor had parents who paid for me! I wanted to do that and did everything it took to achieve that goal! I had to make a lot of sacrifices for that and take risks. First of all I had to quit a good job in a good company, not knowing if I would find a job again when I returned. I had to safe up a lot of money in order to survive a year of traveling plus the time I needed to find a job afterwards. So for example I never owned a car, I didn’t buy clothes and shoes all the time but wore my stuff until you really couldn’t fix it anymore, I didn’t buy a new phone/computer/tablet every other year just because there was a new model out, I didn’t go out every weekend spending all my money on booze and partying, my furniture were all either second hand or from IKEA,… I had always been rather economical and saved up for traveling. And I worked my ass of for many years. Going on a trip like this is like a passion. You have to set priorities. Other people prefer to buy a house or flat or they want to have a family when they are still young, they want to make their career, always have the latest gadget/car/whatever… There is nothing wrong about any of that, it is just a different priority in life. I had been dreaming of a trip like that for so many years and really wanted to do it. So I took all the courage I could master, did everything that was necessary, stepped out of my comfort zone and lived my dream. Also during the trip priorities play a big role. If you want to spend a luxury holiday, you need a lot more money. If you travel like a backpacker and lead a simple life sleeping in dorms, couchsurfing and such, you need less. The nights where I had a room to myself you can count out on the fingers of my two hands during the whole year. In countries were possible I mainly ate on the street instead of fancy,expensive restaurants or cooked myself in the western world. I was afraid of losing friends when I would be away for so long, I was afraid of getting lonely, running into problems in countries I couldn’t speak the language with no one to help me, having problems traveling as a woman alone, getting sick and many other things. My greatest fear was actually about returning in general and also about not finding a job. I would be changed whereas for everybody else life had just continued as usual. That is also why it took me so long to finally do it. Too old to be able to do work and travel. But so what? That only meant I had to safe up more money upfront, no excuse! I would say every single person – in the western world at least -has the opportunity to do such a trip. The younger you are, the easier, since you can do work and travel in a lot of countries and don’t need to safe up so much. It is only a question of courage, determination and priorities not luck!

It took me about 3 months until I started a new job, after I had returned. Before I got that one, I did occasional jobs to keep me going. It was not an easy time and especially getting back to work after 15 months without, was not easy, I can tell you! But it was so definitely worth it. It is almost 11 months ago now that I returned from my dreamtour – 372 days of travelling. I had driven 14’623 kilometers in rental cars, had 36 flights (on 31 routes), did 11 multi-day group tours (3 paddling, 4 trekking, 3 by truck/car and 1 by boat), travelled by bus 26 times, by ferry 8 times and by train 5 times, got to know a lot of great people and also some foul ones, had to say goodbye like a million times, learned to be alone with myself, made friends, shared stories, enjoyed life and went through difficult phases. I had visited 12 countries in total. I got to know myself, changed, and see the world through different eyes now. It was by far not always easy, but I don’t regret it a bit! It was the best decision of my life and I am so glad that I found the courage to give up most of what I had and just go. Returning to Switzerland as a foreigner without a job is also not easy, but absolutely worth in exchange for this world trip!
Everybody can do it, no matter if male or female, old or young! It is just a question of priorities and courage!!! If you dream of doing a worldtrip don’t let anything hold you back. Fight your fears and other obstacles, step out of your comfort zone and do it. You won’t regret it!!!

Some passport memories of this trip:

travel-as-much-as-you-can-as-far-as-you-7290699

 

 

5 Comments

      1. Meike, it was great to meet you in the Vancouver hostel, about 1.5 years ago!!! Your attitudes and all your traveling will be an inspiration to me for years to come!! I’m twice as old as you but i would love to travel as far as you did. “Erick’s Tours” with you in Vancouver, taught me how to get a lot of sightseeing done with very little money. I still cannot believe how far you traveled!!! I have driven about 60,000 miles in North America since I met you. That is a huge record for me. From the Canadian “Sunshine Coast” (north of Vancouver) camping all the way down to Seattle, WA. Portland,OR. San Francisco, CA. San Diego, CA. Then driving even further south into Baja, Mexico. As far as you can drive to Cabo San Lucas!!(a big resort town) I had almost as much fun as you, but i only flew twice, and drove everywhere else. My next driving marathon maybe going up to Alaska in the Yukon, where you kayaked for 2 weeks, right before we met. Keep inspiring yourself and many many other people!!!
        Im RETIRED, so Let me know if you want to do any more traveling in North America, and maybe i could buy u another Kentucky Fried Chicken!!
        Keep in touch, if you can!!
        “Bob the Traveler”
        rpsmith2000@yahoo.com

        Like

      2. Hi Bob,
        I am very happy to inspire you and hopefully also a few other people! Wow, you did a lot of driving there! I bet you saw and experienced a lot. Thumbs up!!! The Yukon is absolutely beautiful, I can definitely recommend going there.
        For the moment I haven’t planned anything in North America. Unfortunately can’t afford longer trips, neither time nor money wise atm. But time for that will come again as well. Europe also has many nice places though!
        Who knows when and where we will meet again one day! Keep on traveling and keep in touch! If you like you can check out my instagram profile as well.
        Cheers,
        Meike

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s