You have been living in a new place, somewhere with acceptance, diversity and unity (for the most part). You walk among open-minded communities which you have come to love. You have met with curious minds, passionate individuals and people who question. Living your life outside of your box was a thrill. Adrenaline, unconventionality, adventure and new surroundings were at your door. You were independent. You were your own. Discovery and exploration was a possibility on the weekly when you take a train on the weekend to a random place relying on your keen self and google maps.
You have bought a cheap flight ticket from EasyJet to some obscure place and stayed in a town you cannot even pronounce. Gaining knowledge, volunteering, going to conventions, working odd jobs then sight-seeing: not forgetting the unexplored as you give in to basic tourist attractions- felt like the usual to you.
You wonder if this was all temporary.
The inevitable happened: having returned from it all, you sit for a good half an hour on a trolley with your passport, waiting for your luggage to find you on the conveyer belt. It sinks in slowly: it ended, you may not have anything like this again.
With time, your adventures increasingly seem dreamlike. You are home now. “Home”, you think for a while- no place is truly home. Not when you have lived unattached to a single place for years.
Then you face the dilemma of not quite fitting in anymore. Your lenses were changed. Everything is familiar but looks different. How many times do you hear your relatives of the same race and religion talk about refugees or other vaguely middle-eastern people and refer to them as “possible terrorists” before you snap? Or educate them? Or awkwardly laugh it off to show discomfort?
How many #AllLivesMatter before you use a metaphor to completely obliterate that statement?
How many times does it annoy you that a five minute distance was rendered “unwalkable” by acquaintances?
You sit at gatherings to be welcomed with gossip. Celebrities were also the default topic of choice.
You feel trapped realising you no longer have the option to hop on a train for a weekend getaway. You miss your independence. You crave conversations involving humanity and greater purpose. You know who you are but could not live it out- not to the fullest, or so you thought. It seemed to you that you are a hollow shell of yourself.
Know that this is the new you: A global citizen. You love culture and learning. You find comfort in the uncomfortable. Not everyone has the privilege to experience what you have gone through.
And that is okay. You were there before too- if anything, your renewed perception gives you the ability to empathise.
Use this to be compassionate- to be an educator, to be a voice to the voiceless and misrepresented. With all the hostility, xenophobia and violence in the world, we need people who advocate kindness.
Realise that this reverse culture shock is also a whole new experience. It is an adventure. Akin to navigating through a roughly familiar terrain with a map complete with street view that you never had, you see it all better now: both the good and the ugly.
So, whenever you find yourself conflicted by the question of home, whether you have one or not-do not despair, find promise in knowing we were always meant to be a traveller in this dunya. Your heart was never at home as your true home is eternal and lasting. No “home” on Earth can compare.
‘‘Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a traveller along the path.”