You're prepared for culture shock. You're warned and nervous and so out of your element that when it happens it's unnerving, but you expected it. Of course you did. You're in another country, speaking another language, surrounded by customs and mores unfamiliar to you.
What you're not warned about is coming back.
Which is really the harder part, because you don't expect it to be hard. And it's not hard per se, it's that while you were off galavanting around the globe, life at home held steady. While you learned how to exist in a foreign city, in another nation, and while you had great revelation into yourself, and while you gained confidence and courage that only comes with being completely out of your element, everything else stayed relatively the same.
Sure time passed. People started new jobs, couples got together or broke up, babies got bigger, but generally speaking things stayed the same.
Coming back from extended time abroad is such a mixture of excitement and relief at first. You know how things work! You don't have to look up directions every time you leave your house! You get to see all these people who know you, and who you love, and who you've been missing!
But quickly, everything's just as it was. And you're a little changed, but not different, so you can't help but notice that everything feels flat.
Flat. That's where I've been this week.
It's not that I'm not happy to be home. It's not even that I miss Paris. It's the return. It's a weird and difficult feeling to explain. I've been here before, and judging by the way I prioritize travel in my life I'll be here again.
Other people, much more worldly than me have written about this - one of my favorite descriptions being that if you're not careful, you'll develop a lifestyle version of the bends.
So I'm reconciling with being back and life being about as normal as it gets. I'm trying to indulge in the things and people I missed, while holding on to some of the habits I picked up. I'm already planning future trips while settling back into a routine in a place I am happy to call home.