Feeling Unsettled

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

It started a few months ago, although I don’t remember exactly when. It may have been while I was strolling through the streets of Tashkent or it might have happened as I tried to fall asleep on the brutally hot train through western Kazakhstan. By the time I reached Riga in mid-September, the refrain echoed in my head regularly.

I want my life back.

It continued the last couple weeks while I was in Chicago and it was still repeating itself as I sat in my parents’ home in Minnesota. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a case of reverse culture shock. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, nothing about immersing myself in American culture again has felt shocking to me.

I just want my life back.

It may seem odd. In fact, I know it will seem odd to those who have sold everything, quit their jobs and hit the road – perhaps at first as a career break, but later as a permanent way of life. It is amazing to think of how many of you I know now – when I first got my crazy idea to travel for a year I didn’t know any of you. Now, after meeting so many travel bloggers who are location-independent, digital nomads, I feel like I’m the odd one out who doesn’t want to lead that kind of life.

It’s not for me. Really, I’m not sure long-term travel was ever for me, but there was no way to know that until I tried. And oddly enough, I almost feel like I have to apologize for the fact that I didn’t love it. Like there is something wrong with me that ditching all of my possessions and quitting my job and spending a year overseas didn’t give me an enormous sense of freedom and infinite feeling of joy.

No, instead it left me longing for my old way of life. The life I had before I started to track every dime I spent. The life in which I took tennis lessons, played in volleyball leagues and enjoyed happy hour every Friday. The life in which I sometimes checked out cool, new restaurants or went to black-tie fundraisers. The life in which I could go shopping on a Saturday afternoon and not stress over how much that really cute sweater or purse cost.

I feel like my life is stuck on pause.

I returned to the United States on September 25 but I do not feel like I’m truly home yet. I just don’t feel settled because, well, I’m not settled. Sure, I unpacked all of my clothes at my parents’ house in Minnesota and spent some time sifting through some of the boxes there, trying to get re-organized. But then I headed back to Chicago where I was living out of a suitcase and staying with friends as I networked my butt off and enjoyed multiple job interviews (more on that in another post). And then I returned to Minnesota for a long weekend. And then I flew back to Chicago.  It’s been exhausting.

Chicago, Illinois

I haven’t had any down time. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of coffee meetings, lunches, networking happy hours and catching up with friends. I have barely had time to keep up with some of the freelance work on my plate and have found even less time to devote to this blog. I long for an entire weekend (or week!) to spend all by myself to just write and write and write, but I know I won’t get it anytime soon – not while I’m living out of a suitcase with family or friends. There are just too many distractions.

But this whirlwind has been necessary so I can find a full-time job again. That is priority number one. As soon as that happens, I can hit “play” and move forward.

I long to feel settled again.

I want to completely unpack and then go shopping for a new wardrobe.

I want to do a spa day and get a haircut and pedicure and facial.

I want to move back into my condo and fill it with new furniture (which won’t happen anytime soon since it’s under lease through next August).

I want to go grocery shopping and fill a whole refrigerator with all of my favorite foods and start making all of my favorite meals.

I want to play in a volleyball league again and rejoin my old tennis club.

I want to start training for another half-marathon or marathon even though I am barely up to running 5 miles again.

I want to meet new guys and go on dates. And maybe even get into a new relationship.

I want to go out with friends and have something to talk about besides my job search.

Speaking of which, I want a job. I want a regular paycheck and good health insurance and a 401(k) again.

I want to start volunteering regularly and I want to learn French.

I want to write an e-book.

I want to get another cat.

More than anything, I just really want to develop a new routine and enjoy a sense of stability.

So I’m sorry if this sounds a little whiny or like I’m complaining too much. I always swore I’d be honest and open about everything related to my career break and travels. Besides, I haven’t vented in about 3 months, so I think I’m due (if you look back, you’ll see I had a minor breakdown/whiny/venting post about every 3 months on the road). And just by writing this, I already feel a little better.

And I’ll feel even better once I get my life back.


31 thoughts on “Feeling Unsettled”

  1. Hi Katie, I can relate to what you and others here have gone through. I travelled for a year and a half and eventually got terribly homesick. The backpacking lifestyle, where you constantly make and say goodbye to short-term friendships, never stay in the same place or bed for long, with little privacy, and few possessions, can create a very unsettled feeling. There is something to be said for routine, and we humans are largely creatures of habit. “Holiday mode” with that adventurous excitement is great but doesn’t last forever, and can eventually take its toll, especially if you keep trying to convince yourself that things should be great when deep down you are not feeling it. It took me a while to feel like I belonged back home again after my travels. Listen to your heart and enjoy what you may have taken for granted before 🙂

    1. Thanks Mark – appreciate it! It’s been a year since I wrote this post and I definitely feel more settled, although it has definitely been a struggle.

  2. Pingback: The Holiday Hits: Best of November 2012 — Hayley on Holiday

  3. I can imagine how unsettled you must feel still living out of a suitcase and bouncing back and forth between Chicago and MN so often! I think it’s amazing you took 13 months to travel through all the former Soviet countries, even if long term or permanent nomadic life isn’t for you. You had great, and sometimes not so great, experiences that have probably changed you in ways you haven’t even noticed yet. And you will probably appreciate stability and things like tennis and Friday night happy hours so much more now that you’ve taken that trip.

    French? Really? I didn’t see that coming!

    1. You’re absolutely right about the changing – I think it is too soon for me to really know how I’ve changed. I haven’t had time to process the whole experience yet.

      As for French, most of the travelers I met on the road were Belgian or French or Germans who also spoke French. While everyone also spoke English, they inevitably reverted to French when talking amongst themselves, which left me frequently out of the loop. Russian was great for conversing with locals, but it really left me wanting to learn French so I can better converse with other travelers. It’s also just a beautiful language. 🙂

  4. Oops hit send by accident.

    When I finally got back it was tough at first but I also started joining things and got into a routine and I loved it. I still do.

    You will come back to your new, settled life with so much more appreciation.

    1. Yep, definitely sounds like I’m in a similar place. And you’re right, once I start joining things and getting into a routine, I think it will be so much easier. I just need to land a job so I can settle into one home for the time being and get that routine going.

  5. I realized that in Seville, I had traveled for too long on my own and just wanted structure and to have brunch with my friends.

    I really think it’s a good thing. I still travel quite a bit but I have no desire to be nomadic. I pushed myself as long as I could and then finally I was ready to come home without any doubting whether it was the right thing.

    It sounds like you are in a very similar place.

    1. Thanks Lillie! Hoping it will be just a matter of time – I know it will be much easier once I get a job and can stay in one place – going back and forth between Minnesota and Chicago and staying with family or friends makes me feel like I’m still on the road!

  6. Your honesty is refreshing Katie; the nomadic lifestyle isn’t for everyone. I was pretty happy while we were on the road for 3 months, but who’s to say that still would have been the case after 6 or 9 months? My husband is more like you with the desire for routine and stability, so 3 months’ travel was enough for him. We’re settling into new routines in a new town, and while it’s pretty good on the whole, the job search is frustrating. Lots of luck with yours, but I think you’ll end up with a great job soon.

  7. I agree with everyone else here who has applauded you for being open and honest. The whole long-term travel thing isn’t for everyone (I’m convinced I wouldn’t last for more than a few months at a time!), and you are certainly entitled to your opinions and shouldn’t feel guilty about them.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you that you find a job soon and get some stability back in your life!

  8. you tried the lifestyle, yet it did not work out. It’s ok! If you wouldn’t have gone on that long trip, Q would have probably regretted it. You would have probably been wanting to go traveling and see what it’s like. So you did the right thing.

    Now you know EXACTLY what you want and how you want it. No questions, you tested the grounds and know which side you want to stay on.


    I hope you find your balance soon. As for me, I’m penny-pinching, paying off all my debt, and hoping to hit the road indefinitely soon enough — like many other nomadic bloggers. But hey, I don’t know if I’ll like the lifestyle yet, I will only know after I try it! I do hope I like it though 🙂


    Maria Alexandra

  9. We are back in Chicago December 20th and I completely relate to this post! With a month left I have been longing for my old way of life back.

    I feel as if I am on the fence with a strong wanderlust and an urge for my friends to be down the street again and sunday brunch in Chicago again!

  10. Thank you thank you thank you for this post! I am living abroad in Hamburg, Germany and not traveling, but man o man, do I miss ALL Those things you talk about! I SO miss the regularty and stability of my life back home. I miss having things I need. I miss things not always being hard. It’s VERY tough. I can only imagine what settling back in is like. So, great post and good luck! It will happen and you will find a routine again and wait, just as that happens you will crave travel. Trust me on this one. The grass is always greener. 😉

    1. You’re welcome! And I’m sure you’re right – at some point I will start longing to hit the road again (for a short time!)…probably not for a few months yet though!

  11. Feeling a lot like that myself Katie! I’ve enjoyed it all, really, but with one month left now…I’m going to be ready to get back. While I certainly won’t get the same life back, I do want to start the new life that it’s going to be. And also enjoy many of the things you’ve mentioned here, especially playing in softball leagues, going skiing, going out with my friends, cooking my favorite foods, being in my own place…it goes on.

    So no, you’re not the only one! My trip has been the experience of a lifetime, has created cherished memories and changed me forever, but I’m looking forward to going back to a (double quotes) “”normal”” life.

    Don’t worry about it, instead congratulate yourself on having accomplished something pretty remarkable.

    1. Thanks Chris! Glad to hear I’m not the only one! And you’re right – it won’t be exactly my same life that I get back, but hopefully a lot of the things I enjoyed before that I mentioned above will be in it. 🙂

  12. OMG! How refreshing to read this. I always felt like a minority (ha!) in that way. Although I was only gone for 3 months and it was for work, travelling every weekend was exciting and a joy. When I got back home I started to make plans on how I would take off for a full 6 months or a year and just travel. And, then I just could not do it. It puzzled me b/c reading hoards of blogs where people profess travel full time is the best for them made me think I was odd. What was stopping me from taking that ultimate leap? After months (yes, it took me that long) of contemplating why I just didn’t take off (considering I am single and childfree), it dawned on me that long term travel is NOT for me. There was no desire in living nomadically. I like structure and coming home. After every trip, I am usually super excited to get home and start work and my life again. Travel for that long is too much. I am so glad to read that I am not the only one because in the travel blogosphere, it seemed like I was the only person who felt like this. Good luck with the job search. Keep up the networking. Your job is out there waiting for you.

    1. Thanks Rhona! So great to hear that this resonates with so many others. I think I got sucked into reading so many RTW travel blogs before and during my trip that I felt like I was abnormal for wanting it to ever end. And even weirder for wanting to go back to a 9-to-5 job – but that’s exactly what I want! (and will hopefully have some good news to share on that soon!)

  13. You don’t need to apologize. Many people enjoy travel in different ways. Some are permanently on the road, others have home based and travel in short stints. But as you said, you would never know unless you tried it. Good luck on the continued job hunt!

    1. Thanks Jennifer! And yes, if I had never done it, I likely would have always looked back and wondered “what if?”

  14. This is normal. When I am outside the country for more than 10 days, I already want to back. To my friends to my house, my office, my phone number, my girlfriend. After years of wandering I probably would have felt a failure. So I try to go more often, but for a short time. For example, this year I have visited:
    Belarus (Orsha, Minsk)
    Ukraine (Kiev, 2 times)
    Austria (Vienna, Klagenfurt)
    Italy (Trieste, Miramare Castle just made ​​my brain!)
    St. Petersburg (Thank you Katie, you inspired me to make the trip in the autumn!)

    And the worthy end of this year, I thought a trip to the Baltic region of Russia. Kaliningrad.
    I look forward to a very interesting journey by train through Belarus, Lithuania. I needed a Russian foreign passport for travel abroad (In Russia, the two types of passports. Ordinary and foreign trips) and permission for transit through the territory of Lithuania on the train!!!!!))))
    Thank you Katie, you force me to move on!

    1. Thanks as always for the great comment Pavel! Glad you made it to St. Petersburg in the autumn – isn’t it so beautiful!

  15. There’s no right or wrong here. Like Sarah said, you shouldn’t compare yourself to nomads. It’s just a different lifestyle and that’s awesome. I’m the same. I love being able to take months off at a time to travel, but I love working, I love my job (an office job), I love walking past a shoe store and not worrying about dropping $300 on a pair of shoes, I just generally love my lifestyle. The important thing is to reconcile your love of travel with the love of your lifestyle and find the balance that works for you.

  16. I think the most important thing (and one of the hardest) is not to compare yourself to others. So what if you don’t want to live out a backpack forever? Just like you chose to travel for a year, you can choose to live a settled life too. I’ve enjoyed following your travels and even if you didn’t “love” it, you are definitely a stronger woman for it. Best of luck with everything 🙂

    1. Thanks Sarah – and yes, you’re absolutely right. I think for a while I found it so hard to relate to friends at home that I sought out comfort in reading RTW blogs and connecting with bloggers on the road – it shifted my perspective and when I decided it was time to come home and realized how excited I was to be back, I suddenly found myself struggling to relate to those who are still out on the road and never want to come back.

  17. Can so relate. I didn’t feel settled after my return (even though I stayed with my parents for free, I still had minimal savings and didn’t want to spend money on ANYTHING) until I got a job, which was a long 6 months….I survived and so will you:-).

    Good luck!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top