Something I'd never considered before moving overseas was what it would be like to visit in the months and years after leaving. I'd lived in my home city for almost 30 years, so surely it would be just the same as it has always been and I'd be able to slot right back in? Not even close. Balancing seeing everyone, spending quality time with family, and actually getting time to take a break – it's quite a talent!
The first time I took my now wife to Australia, I planned every single day down to the minute. I had breakfasts, coffees, lunches, beers, dinners, and cocktails planned for the full two weeks to make sure that we didn't miss an opportunity to see someone and wanted to make sure I'd introduced her to every single person I'd ever met – it was exhausting.
It was wonderful to be able to see everyone and laugh like old-times but by the time we left I was ready for a holiday (which isn't helpful when you've got to be back at work with a healthy dose of jet lag). So how do you do it? How do you fit everything in and what are the community's best tips?
Make a list of the absolutely essential things you must do
First things first, prioritize. The one thing you'll realize quickly is that doing everything is impossible, so you need to make sure that you find time for the things that are most important.
Spend a lot of time with your mum, she misses you most. And your Dad and brother, it's hardest for your family when you're away.Megan T.
For some, that will be family, and Megan is right that your family are the ones who are likely counting down the minutes until they get to see you again. For others, it will be the friends who are like family and are dearly important to you.
Don't plan to go out to dinner with them, plan to sit still and do very little with them. Hang out in a living room, or sit in the backyard, these are the moments that you'll treasure the most.
The best thing we've done is picking little groups of friends to hang out with at a pool, or sitting in a park for a lazy afternoon. The jokes come easier when you're not on a strict timeline.
For others the most important things will be food and those familiar things that you've missed while living overseas.
Every time I’d come home to Melbourne I liked to get my fill or charcoal chicken, chicken parmigiana, potato cakes and dim sims.Daniel K.
But ultimately it's about understanding that there sadly won't be time to see everyone – and it's going to hurt you, and also those who you don't have time to see.
Don't bother trying to spend time with everyone. You want to be able to relax and focus on the things that matter to you, especially the people who matter most.Louise C.
When you return, you are one person, and the people in your home town only have to find time for one. You have to find time for many, and sadly that means disappointing a few.
Set a central meeting point so that everyone can see you at once
That all being said, there is a way to try and limit the amount of people you upset and that's by catching up with lots of people in one central location.
Don’t make my mistake of 1:1 catch ups for breakfast, lunch and dinner nearly everyday. You’ll miss out on using your time off for some resting and recharging (plus it’ll be exhausting for your American partner if they’re coming along for them all). Instead be at one spot e.g. a bar, a park, and tell everyone you’ll be there for x time periodSam D.
While it's less personal and you'll get less time with everyone who attends, it's better than nothing, and in a lot of cases you'll find that you were the glue that brought together different communities. These people will love catching up with each other as much as they will love catching up with you, so the pressure is off a little bit to be the entertainer and to re-tell your stories.
Don’t rush around to try and see everyone. Pick a date and place and let everyone know you will be there and let them come to you.Mandy F.
Set a schedule and pace that you can actually keep up with
Most importantly: Don't put everything at the front-end of your trip (or the back-end). Float it in the middle and leave some buffer times around the outside. I've put a recommended schedule at the bottom of this post but know a few key things:
- You won't want to do anything the minute you arrive, you'll need some downtime to recover from a long flight
- You won't want to pack every single minute with something, and things will come up that you wish you could have done
- Free-time is great, this is meant to be a holiday after all!
- More is not always better, and seeing someone for 30 minutes and then “having to go so soon” feels almost worse than not seeing them at all.
Make one more list of things you want to bring back
Food, treats, gifts, documents you should have with you, or some nostalgic things that your Grandma gives you. Don't forget to have a list of the things that you want to bring back with you so that when you're packing up you can check things off.
The stress at the end mixed with the sadness of leaving can make for a difficult last day and you don't want to feel like you've left something important behind.
Make a shopping list before you leave for Australia, once you’re there it’s hard to remember what you wanted and sucks to miss out once you leaveRosemarie S.
This counts for treats, too! Don't feel silly going a little nutty at your local supermarket and buying all those flavors that will remind you of this trip. In a couple of months when you're back in your new country, you'll wish you'd gone just a little more crazy!
Listen to your partner (if you're bringing someone home)
I will fully admit that I wasn't great at this one when I first took Stacey back to Australia. I was so excited to introduce her to everyone and to see all my friends, I didn't fully acknowledge just how draining the whole experience was for her.
She retold the same story (like a trooper) one thousand times, and answered the same 65 follow-up questions over and over again.
The first time you bring someone back, they're not falling into familiar jokes or catching up with old pals, they're “on” for the whole time trying to make a good impression at every turn.
Keep this in mind, ask how they're doing, and again, don't plan too much so that they have break times in between.
Act like a tourist in your home town – make sure you actually take a holiday
This leads me to my last and crucial point: Actually take a holiday when you visit.
You've spent so much time above worrying about seeing everyone, and finding the familiar things you remember, and ensuring that everyone else is taken care of that you will burn through your days or weeks without even realizing it.
Search Google from your new country about the “best things to do in X” or “Hidden gems of Y” and you'll find some sights that you may subsconsiously dismiss as not worth visiting, but when you think about it, you've not been there for 25 years and you barely remember it.
I took my (Thai American) partner home to meet my family (and my country) and so I got to play tourist, visiting places and doing things I never did when I lived there. Highly recommend it, it can make you see your hometown in a totally different light.Talina A.
Do it anyway! Find the things that other people do, visit places you've never been, and take a holiday.
Even outside your hometown, the trip is meant to be enjoyable and not just a checklist of people to see and things to do, so be sure to plan at least 15-20% of the trip like you would plan a holiday to a country you've never been. You will be so rewarded when you have stories about new sights.
For many, the trip back home is going to be some of the only time you can actually take off, so you want to be excited for it and not dread it.
A recommended timeline for your next trip back home
Our last trip back to Australia I think we absolutely perfected in terms of stress and timing. So here's what we did:
- Relax at the start (Day 1) – We flew into a city that is not my home city and therefore didn't come with an intense start. We spent the first day alone so we could wander the streets and recover from some jet lag, and then go to bed super early.
- Ease in (Day 2) – We then caught up with two very close friends who understood that we wouldn't be up for much and just wanted a casual catch up. We drank wine at home, we played board games, and we went out for a fun dinner.
- Start with the Holiday (Day 3-5) – When you see everyone, you want to be relaxed, so don't rush into seeing everyone all at once. In our case, we drove from Melbourne to Adelaide along the Great Ocean road which gave us a holiday, time together, and some wonderful experiences along the way.
- Break the ice with family (Day 5) – From here, we're home, and it's now time to start things off seeing parents, siblings and close family. We dedicated a day, afternoon, and night to be in one place so that we were in no rush to get away.
- Some group activities (Day 6-7) – Our friends all now have families, so we planned some park days and some outside time with larger groups. We got to see people in groups of 8-10 and actually got a chance to chat with everyone.
- A large group activity (Day 8) – Now that we're well and truly back, it was time to host a big party at our favorite local pub, and get everyone to come and see us. Starting on a Friday afternoon and going late into the evening – these nights are always great fun.
- Recover (Day 9) – A big fun day followed by a long day of nothing. Being a tourist in our own city, wandering your old haunts, and finding things that you never kew existed!
- Free time and smaller catch-ups (Day 10-13) – This is the time we leave unscheduled so that if we've not had the chance to see someone in particular, or need to see family again, or want to do something that arises last minute – we can. Over-planning is terrible, so leave things open to the feelings of the day.
- One last thing to remember (Day 14) – We always try to plan a really fun and nice dinner with close friends on the last night. There's always sadness in leaving, so be sure to pick something that you can be excited about right at the end which will give you a soft ramp back out to get on a plane the next day.
- Fly away with good memories (Day 15) – Don't over-promise for next visit, don't worry if you didn't see everyone, you did your best!