December 8, 2015

The Alice in Wonderland Effect: On Coming Home after Traveling.

alice in wonderland

There is something exciting about buying a one-way ticket to somewhere in the world and not knowing when you’ll come back.

Some kind of freedom of choice in choosing for ourselves when we’ve had enough of traveling, or when we’ve decided to drop our luggage somewhere.

Some may decide to build homes somewhere new, and others have homes that await them. Like a break in a relationship, we simply needed some time apart to be better for the future.

At last, when that clock strikes the time for us to come back, we may realize as we land back in our old town that nothing is as it was. And there can be a certain frustration that grows within us, which we find hard to explain to those who haven’t lived what we’ve lived.

It’s not only that we change; it’s that the things around us haven’t grown with us. The feeling we have is much like when Alice in Wonderland drank the magic potion and her body grew too big for her own house, too big for her own good. And it almost made her regret she drinking the potion in the first place.

“It’s much pleasanter at home, when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole.”  ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Having lived days, if not months, of travel and complete freedom—free to be and do what we please, free of material things, free to eat at whatever time, free to go wherever we want to go—, returning to a world that dictates how we should be is hard. Especially if our friends seem to be oblivious to it.

Coming back, we may be looking for the same freedom and authenticity we lived across the globe—because we gave ourselves the freedom of it. But on our return, we may have grown too big for our old house. We may feel lost and unable to understand the differences between ourselves and the others. And we may want, little by little, to start distancing ourselves from those who don’t understand what we have lived and grown into.

When coming back, we may notice we have changed because others haven’t.

And some might even call us on it and say, “You’ve changed…”

And we may be left with a bitter taste of having to accept it if we don’t want to end up alone.

How ironic it seems that we probably fought with loneliness during our travels, accepted it and finally conquered it only to come back to the world we left behind and have to battle with it again.

But the truth is, it is up to the person coming home to make a choice—that of choosing our new home wisely and also accepting where we came from.

Yes, moving is exhausting. We’ll have to clean up, arrange, sort and possibly throw away certain things. But this is when we need to remind ourselves, perhaps, that it is rarely the move in itself which is stressful; it is the stress of being stressed that drains us.

So maybe you are reading this while waiting for your plane to bring you back home. Or maybe you are traveling or have moved abroad and are thinking about heading back home.

If so, then this is what I can tell you to expect:

If you’ve gone to travel to have fun, you will most likely have no new choices to make. But if you have gone traveling to grow (or have noticed that you have), then you are bound to have to make that choice—that of making a new home and welcoming people in it regardless of how different they are from you.

The old you has been left behind to leave place for the new you. And it will be a new you that your new friends will admire, that your old friends will struggle to understand and that your true friends will learn to embrace.



5 Ways that Travelling Helps us to Win at Life.


Author: Lauren Klarfeld

Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll/Editor: Caroline Beaton 

Photo: Wikipedia/Lewis Caroll

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