My heart has a huge space in it for travel. I crave learning about people in all areas of the world. I crave even more to serve, and learn from, and love the areas of the world which are struggling to get by on a daily basis. I still believe that simply loving these people is the answer to growth, strength, and empowerment.
One thing I have begun to take stock of is how I care for myself upon returning from trips to these places that need so much love. Because I try to squeeze out every ounce of myself I have to give, because I pour out, I need to be aware of how to refill myself once I return home.
Recently, I returned from a mission trip to Cuba. It has been my easiest reentry so far, I believe, because I allowed myself to take note of how I usually cope after a trip. I knew what I needed to allow myself to do.
Here is what I have learned about myself and how I react at the end of a trip:
1. I need to be quiet. I need to be alone. Not forever, but for a good 24hrs. I need to refill myself simply by being alone with myself. (Layovers are my biggest struggle in this case.)
2. I will most likely cry for the entire day after returning home. Everything will make me cry. I am a woman who feels everything. That’s just how it is.
3. I will want to do nothing but sleep for the week following a trip. I will be rushing to get ready for work because I let myself sleep longer. I will only want to nap when I come home. I will wake up groggy on the couch after said nap and immediately crawl into bed.
4. I will struggle to describe any details of my trip to anyone who wasn’t there for at least 4-5 days. I will struggle, even more than I do on a regular basis, to initiate connection and conversation with those I love. If you are part of my life, I’ll need to you to go first. I’ll need you to ask me. And all I’ll be able to respond with is “awesome.” But the asking will mean the world to me.
5. I will crave the food style of the country I just left. Nothing American will be appealing.
I also know that all of these things are only temporary upon re-entry. By week two, routine starts to kick in again and I feel more settled back into my everyday life, my perspective a little bit wider, my heart a little more full. But before routine can kick in, I have to give myself permission to process, grieve, and celebrate my time away.
Regardless of the kind of travel you do, work or pleasure or a little of both, I would encourage you to do the same. To start listening to your body and your patterns of re-entry. To give permission to care for ourselves too. The more we are able to acknowledge what we really need to fill ourselves up, the more vital we will be in continuing to pour out ourselves to serve others.