My last week in Edinburgh was pretty surreal. I had grand plans – I was determined to make the most of every last second in the city. In reality, I ended up spending most of the time curled up on the couch, watching TV in my pyjamas. Whenever I did leave the house, I just couldn’t enjoy myself. I felt so obligated to take everything in, to try and memorize every tiny detail of the city as if I’d never see it again.
When it came time to leave on that final day, I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at the airport, or on the plane. I felt sick at the thought of leaving – physically sick to my stomach – but I couldn’t muster a tear. Maybe it was because I cried so much in the weeks and months leading up to my departure. Maybe my travels through Istanbul, the Balkans, and Italy helped to clear my head. Maybe I had finally come to terms with the fact that I was leaving for good.
Regardless, saying goodbye to Edinburgh wasn’t easy. I’ve left so many places before I felt ready. It’s an art that frequent travellers know all too well, the reluctant goodbye. But this goodbye was different. Edinburgh is more than just a city I love – it means more to me than any other place I’ve visited. It was my home for two years. It was a city that changed me for the better, a place that granted me the freedom to grow into the person I didn’t know I was longing to become. It was a place that felt more transformative than any other.
When I moved to Edinburgh, I didn’t really experience a transitional period. I don’t remember having to adjust – it just felt like home from the get-go. It felt natural and effortless.
And yet the transition back to my hometown – the place where I was born and raised, and where I’ve lived for nearly 30 years – has been really tough. How does that even happen?
Everything here is comfortable and familiar, yet strangely foreign at the same time. This city is exactly the same, but I’m so utterly different. I feel like a fish out of water, like a complete stranger in a place that I know like the back of my hand.
Coming back hasn’t only been reverse culture shock and panic attacks – there have been so many moments of joy too. I’m loving the sunshine and humidity, and catching up with my nearest and dearest. But I still feel like I don’t really belong here; the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach serves as a constant reminder.
It’s a bizarre feeling, to feel like you don’t belong in the one place that’s supposed to feel like home.
I guess that’s the risk you take when you live abroad and when you travel: you always return a different person.
Have you ever felt this way?
Any tips for readjusting after living abroad or travelling long-term?