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The nostalgia of being back

January 3, 2010

2009 represented a big change. I moved once again, but this time, back home, back to Brazil, after almost 10 years. As I slowly settled back (and still am) I dissected thoughts and feelings – the sensation of not knowing exactly where you belong, a bit of disconnection from everything and everyone as a result of moving to a different country, new home, starting over, new people, new streets to remember, new paths and words to memorize… This sensation was calmed with the warmth of being back, with reliving and meeting again, feeling familiar tastes and seeing familiar faces.

This Christmas eve I felt the nostalgia of being back. Being back in a place where I had lived and was struck with this melancholic feeling. I arrived in a foreign airport where an immigration officer stamped my passport (after a bit of questioning) and went on with the feeling of being home. Is that normal? The land is not yours, the language is not your mother tongue. But at the same time it is. And it is home, in that strange way. I was back in the US after two years. It was the longest time I spent without setting foot in the USA. It was a strange, warm feeling.

Passing by the streets, watching the landscape from the car window, recognizing routes I used to take – memories came back as flashbacks. It all came back to me: how I arrived, how I left; the people I met and used to see often. I remembered the reasons – of going, of leaving. I lived that nostalgia of going back to a place which was once home.

And what feeling is that? It´s the one that makes you remember, slowly observe everything and everyone, and see the differences. What has changed? What has remained the same? Who moved?

You feel like going to your favorite restaurants, to walk around the streets, simply gazing. You feel like going back, for a while. It makes you compare.

I remembered what I liked and what didn´t really please me; what was simple and practical, what irritated me; what was beautiful, what was tedious; what was organized, what was laborious.

To live this mostalgia is not simply to remember. It also means to transport yourself and reconnect yourself. It means to relive while longing and yearning.

To live in different places is a blessing and a curse. We meet different cultures and people, we fill our minds and souls with new experiences that magnifies us. When you miss someone, feel cold or experience culture shock, you grow, mature and judge less. But then there´s farewell and parting yet again. The end of a life and the beginning of another. And we´re never the same again. We will forever miss people, places and things. Even if everything were the same, you are different. Only the essence remains, the rest is a permanent transformation. However, the one thing that never changes is the feeling of always missing something or someone.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Judy permalink
    January 3, 2010 8:23 pm

    Having repatriated myself this last year, I know exactly what you mean. And I have also returned to the places I lived before and experenced that strange deja vu sensation, a need to pinch myself and say “Did I really live here? Did I really call this place home?”

    I recently read Robin Pascoe’s book “Homeward Bound” and she makes the point that you are forever changed by being an expat. She says “The harsh reality is that you are forever going to feel like you don’t belong.”

    Tough though that sounds, it made me feel a whole lot better because it helped me accept the “new me” who had returned home and I’ve stopped trying to turn back into the person I used to be. I’ve realized that I don’t need to feel that I’ve left my expat life behind and grieve for it, because I know I will always be an expat.

    One thing you need to understand is that you are not alone in this. As more and more people travel there is a huge community of expats, ex-expats and immigrants out there who feel just like you. I’m sure you will find that instinctively you will seek these people out and incorporate them into your social circle, if you haven’t done so already.

    • January 3, 2010 10:16 pm

      thanks for the comment! it´s comforting to read that other people go through the same thing… the life of a nomad- always missing things and forever changed! 🙂

  2. January 3, 2010 9:39 pm

    I followed your link on Twitter.

    Thank you so much for writing this. I felt like I was reading my own “journal” from years ago when I returned to the US. I very much understand that feeling of disconnectedness from your own “homeland” and wondering if you will survive, do you belong there, (indeed do you belong anywhere?). I like your summation best: “…the rest is a permanent transformation.” Indeed. I have often wondered if I am even capable of being “the same”, not only the “same as everyone around me” (it seems not) but also the “same as I was before”. (I never am so I think not there too!)

    You have a very nice blog and I hope you don’t mind if I add you to my blog list.
    well done!
    Suzanne (fellow global nomad)

    • January 3, 2010 10:15 pm

      thanks for the comment and for adding my link!
      I have come to the conclusion that it´s better to deal with this ever changing me than to have stayed in only one place… 😉

  3. January 3, 2010 11:47 pm

    Good introspection. I haven’t had the same experiences as you, but I can relate. Traveling truly does emit a powerful curse, of not being sure you’ll ever see the place again and always having to say goodbye.

    • January 5, 2010 11:58 am

      exactly, it´s not just when you live in a place, but also when you travel in general and meet people, cultures and then have to move on

  4. January 4, 2010 12:30 am

    I’m attempting to rethink the concept of belonging. My transformation might lead me to belong everywhere, not just one particular place. Keep writing, this is terrific!

  5. January 4, 2010 1:28 am

    I loved what you wrote here….soo soo true that living in different places is a blessing and a curse. I also often find it hard to adjust back with people who haven’t experienced the same thing I have. How can they understand me anymore when they can’t possibly understand what I have just experienced. I remember when I first got back from living in Thailand for two months I didn’t talk to anyone really during the first week I was back for this very reason. I am certainly going through a bit of a rough spot with my own adjustment to my new home in Argentina, and I also wonder what it will be like if and when I go back to the U.S. There is no telling, but that is also sort of the beauty of moving to a new place. Putting yourself in that challenging place of needing to adjust over and over. And like you said, you mature, you judge less you learn a lot about yourself. Great post!

    • January 5, 2010 12:00 pm

      I always go through that – a week of introspection until I slowly drift back to readjustment, enjoy Argentina! hope I can go visit soon!

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