Adjusting After a Life-Changing Trip
Returning home and readjusting to a “normal” life can be one of the most difficult parts of a volunteer trip. Your mind is likely to be flooded with questions, new ideas about life, and raw emotions. There is no easy fix or secret formula, but taking the time to work through your recent life experience is very important for your health. It can also benefit future volunteer trips.
When you first get home…
Give yourself time.
Realize it’s okay to feel the way you feel – confusion, sadness, anger, loneliness, guilt, depression. You need time to process these emotions and to make sense of your experience. Don’t expect it to happen over night, and don’t rush yourself. This especially goes for any lifestyle changes. You need sufficient time to adjust and find balance as you determine the things that are most important to you.
Journaling is an excellent way to organize your thoughts without a filter. If nothing else, you will be able to record your thoughts and emotions so that you can come back to them later.
Connect with others.
When you’re ready, reach out to those who have had similar experiences on a volunteer trip. The questions you’re holding now are too large to conquer on your own, and you’ll need others for support. Try to find one or two people who have been through a similar adjustment and stick with them.
After life is back to relative normal (weeks or months later)…
Now that some time has passed, which realities from your trip are still on your mind? Certainly you will not be able to act on every emotion or impulse that struck you while abroad, so the things that remain heavy on your heart are a good indicator of where you should take action.
Integrate your new convictions with your goals and passions.
Little things count! How can you integrate your new convictions into the areas of life that matter most to you? If you can figure this out, the likelihood of real change is high.
Realize change is a lifelong process.
Your volunteer trip was only one part of your life journey, one part of life that is shaping who you are and who you want to be. There is so much more to come.