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Coming Home: Coping With Life After a Long Motorcycle Journey

 So you've lived the dream life traveling the world on a motorcycle, now what?

Published on 11.17.2017

There’s an abundance of information, online discussions, and articles about all aspects of a long overland journey, but life after adventure is something that’s rarely talked about. Yet so many travelers experience a shock when they come back home after a long motorcycle journey: there are reports of severe adventure blues, trouble adjusting back to “normal” life, a feeling of deflation and disconnection with loved ones, and financial turmoil.

So how can you prepare for the end of the adventure?

Manage Your Expectations

For months or even years, most travelers lead an unusual and exciting life on the road. But back home, friends and loved ones still went about their business, shopped for groceries, picked kids up from school and gossiped about their bosses. Reconnecting after such vastly different experiences can be difficult, and many ex-RTWers admit that managing expectations is key.

Life After a long overland motorcycle journey
Life will never be the same, that is a given! But it does not have to be – Mark Donham

“Coming home after our first round the world journey which lasted two and a half years was tough. Deflating, even. The lack of interest from some of our friends in what we had done for the last 2.5 years was a shock to us. Life back home continued for them as it had before, but without us, and it was up to us to rejoin that ‘day-to-day train’ if we wanted to stay connected with our friends,” says Anne Speed, an Australian traveler who has ridden around the world twice now with her husband, Anthony.

For Anne and Anthony, it was a conscious, daily effort to reconnect with loved ones at home: they needed to catch up on their friends’ lives, worries and realities. “Everything on our mind was in the past, mostly, what we had just lived, experienced, overcome and achieved. And we were different people because of what we had experienced,” she adds.

This feeling of disconnection and detachment is very common among travelers who come home after months and years on the road: many report feeling isolated and lonely, because the contrast of what was going on at home and what they had experienced on the road is sometimes too great.

Life After a long overland motorcycle journey
Having a grounding routine, being busy and planning your next trip is great medicine for the adventure blues – Anne and Anthony Speed.

According to mental skills coach and relationship counselor Lynda Lahman, it helps if you’re prepared. “Sometimes the fantasy is that after having spent so much time away, and often alone, is that you’ll relish the return home. In that case, the disappointment is often greater when reality hits that you now feel so out of place despite being surrounded by friends. Recognizing that dissonance and allowing room for those feelings to sort themselves out may be the best you can do until you re-acclimate and find your way,” says Lynda.

“When we were about to return home after our second RTW trip, we knew what to expect so we were better prepared emotionally.” says Anne. Having a plan helps you stay focused and grounded: keeping yourself busy, establishing a routine and planning the future can have a very positive effect and ease the transition. “Make several short-term, achievable plans,” she adds. “For example, we will continue the decluttering and painting of our house, do a bit of gardening, I will resume my gallery business, we will also resume our regular exercise routine. And no doubt, we will be planning our next trip!”

Accept Change

Life After a long overland motorcycle journey
It took time to start feeling normal again. Allow yourself room to settle a bit and decide what direction you want your life to go next – Mark Donham

For some, coming home after a long adventure can be challenging because the circumstances had completely changed. Mark Donham hit the road in 2011 after his wife had lost her battle with Alzheimer’s disease and passed away. For Mark, a round the world journey which lasted 928 days was a way to start anew, get lost in the world for a while and rebuild his life.

Coming home, he remembers, was a jarring experience. “I returned to the home that my late wife and I shared. It had been all packed up, so it could be rented out. Upon my return, the hardest part was to unpack my old life that was missing half of me. I had not really thought about the emotions I might feel. I also had not planned what was the next part of my life when I returned. So I had a period of time when I felt I had lost purpose. Not sure which way I would be going next was difficult for my system. Once I settled back, it took several months to focus on work options, social reconnections and grounding in being in one place,” says Mark.

According to him, it took time to start feeling normal again and to settle into a new routine. Now, three years after the journey, Mark is starting a new adventure: getting married and moving to Italy for a year or two. What’s his secret? “Relax. No matter what your return and transition is ahead, you will be able to navigate it. Life will never be the same, that is a given! But it does not have to be. Take time to share your experiences, settle a little bit, and decide on what direction you want life to go next. Enjoy every moment! Life is short, and you can make the most of it”.

Don’t Wait Until You Get Back

Life After a long overland motorcycle journey
Michelle Lamphere sold her house and belongings and embarked on a two year journey. Coming back to civilian life was full of challenges.

In 2013, Michelle Lamphere quit a 21-year executive career and 6-figure-a-year salary as a hotel business operations manager, sold her house and most of her belongings, and left for a two-year long adventure across the Americas with her fiancée, Brian Clarke. She admits she took a hit financially, living off her savings for two years, but says she was prepared to risk it for the sake of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Before she returned home, Michelle was lucky to get a job offer for a hotel manager role from a friend, but admits that it wasn’t easy to get back on track. “I had a really hard time getting back into a 9-5 office job. The structure and routine that I lived with for decades had been abandoned at the outset of my trip. Putting the shackles of responsibility, for myself and for the business I took over when I went back to work, felt heavier than they ever had before. Freedom changes your perspective,” says Michelle.

When she got back and started working, Michelle lived in a guest room of a friend. After six months – that’s how long it took to be able to qualify for a mortgage – she took the last of her savings and paid a down payment on a house.

Life After a long overland motorcycle journey
The hardest thing after coming home is that our time is no longer completely our own: on the road, we chose how to spend all our time but now it is ruled by both my work and more overall commitments. – Shannon and Mike Mills

For those who are considering a RTW or a long overland motorcycle journey, Michelle advises to plan ahead and find a way to generate passive income instead of selling everything. “I had to sell my house before I left because I had a rental property that I owed more on than it was worth. So, I had to cash in the equity from my house to pay that shortfall off from my rental. Given the choice, I would have kept my house and rented it out to at least have it pay for itself, and when it was paid off it could have generated some passive income,” says Michelle.

Shannon and Mike Mills from Seattle have spent over three years riding around the world. They report their total expenditure for both at $115,000 and say that smart budgeting, planning and deciding about your priorities can make a big difference. “Before we left, we rented our house which covered its own costs (although it didn’t contribute to our travel fund) and we sold, gave away, and donated the majority of our belongings. We kept some things that are sentimental or important like artwork, photo albums, tools, camping gear. It was a real cleansing of possessions and stuff before we left! So, in some ways we are starting anew in our house but in other ways we are just walking back into the life we left. But to start anew costs money and we are using the refund on our carnets de passage to help with buying the things we will now need in our daily lives.”

Life After a long overland motorcycle journey
Looking for a job while still on the road paid dividends – Shannon and Mike Mills

Like Michelle, Shannon was able to secure a job offer as a project manager before actually arriving home, while Mike, a building engineer, is still looking. ”We got lucky because I got a job before we arrived home from the trip so we don’t have as much financial stress. Even though looking for a job and interviewing from the road was time consuming, and altered our plans some days, I am really glad that I did it!,” says Shannon.

Egle Gerulaityte Author ProfileAbout the Author: Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle Gerulaityte is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, Egle focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.
Photo credits: Mark Donham, Anne & Anthony Speed, Michelle Lamphere and Shannon & Mike Mills.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

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6 thoughts on “Coming Home: Coping With Life After a Long Motorcycle Journey

  1. Was only on the road for 8 months but when I got home it took me about a year to settle back into life, things had changed a lot while I was gone.

  2. What a great read. I am a seasoned street rider but newer to adventure riding. Articles like these are extremely valuable to anyone considering long term travel. In all my dreams of venturing into the world, I would have never thought of the emotions in returning home. Thank you so much!

  3. Thank you. My wife and I are dealing with some issues after almost a year on the road and this helps. P.S. Saw you and Paul in Steamboat Springs. I was on a black Super T.

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