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The Big Journey – Returning Home for the Holidays

There is this one big journey you probably take at least once a year no matter how far you live away from that destination. I’m not talking about an extensive retreat or adventure trip at the other end of the world here. I’m talking about that kind of flight on which anticipation meets a sudden queasy feeling. I’m talking about returning home for the holidays.

Flight photo from the plane

As much as I travel – far, close, alone, with others – visiting my native town, my home, my old children’s room is always one of the biggest challenges in the travel cosmos. So here’s a little unusual and not so serious piece (or call it survival guide) on the 5 phases of going back where you come from.

1 – The “It’s actually all not too ugly” phase

Schwelm Germany © Janine Juna Grafe

So you come back and see everything with completely different eyes as they say. Enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t be long. It’s this phase where your up to now unconscious nostalgia comes through and you put a shiny filter over what was thought to be grey and boring. When in fact it’s not. How could you have never seen this cute little alley? And who knew your home town could make good coffee? You are basically re-exploring a place that you should actually know in and out. And you start wondering why you had been so desperate to find your way out.

Schwelm Germany © Janine Juna Grafe


Schwelm Germany

Kaffeerösterei rabenschwarz Schwelm © Janine Juna Grafe

2 – The “I’m getting a little sentimantal here” phase

Kaffeekännchen © Janine Juna Grafe

Congrats, you got carried away. Everything looks so picture-perfect to you all of a sudden. But this pure air really is so soothing and all the nature around! How the light is glowing here and everything is so very idyllic, can’t you see?

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Schwelm Germany © Janine Juna Grafe

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Attention: This phase intensifies with memories. Recognise that little bakery where you used to buy your bag of candy when you were 8 years old? Or see all the Christmas decoration and think back to all the holidays spent here?

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Altstadt-Bäckerei Ruttkamp Schwelm © Janine Juna Grafe

This sentimental episode of nostalgia leads us right into the next one.

3 – The “Actually this still feels like home” phase

Hygge © Janine Juna Grafe

That’s the most hairy and dangerous of all the phases. The typical symptoms are: You are recognised on the street by all the citizens, they still know your whole life story, mummy washes your laundry without you asking for it, you walk around in your cosy jumpers from ten years ago and you actually sleep like a baby in your old bed. Why would you ever want to leave again you might wonder. Until the side effects kick in. Mummy also mentions that the flat above is available, you are constantly asked since when you drink coffee and beer, people tell you stories about other young people who you grew up with and who moved abroad and ask you if you could possibly imagine that (“Hello? So did I!”) and you start feeling more like the kid from ten years ago than the woman you’ve come to be.

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4 – The “I don’t fit in here” phase

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After seeing everything with different eyes, you now begin realising once anew why you left in the first place. You rub the way of your once fellow small-towners with your ideals and world views, you miss the fast wifi, you actually don’t want mummy to touch your laundry and seriously wonder why those neighbours you have never met know your whole life story. In a nutshell: The idyllic small-town-dream lasted a couple of days. Congrats, you’ve made it through it way longer than some others. But now it’s high time to pack.

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5 – The “I’m coming back soon, I promise!” phase


Once you’ve packed, you might experience a brief stadium of relapse. When you get homesick for that place that hasn’t been home for quite a while now. That makes you want to book a flight back here directly again because it was sort of nice you must admit. Now is the time to indulge in all the things you appreciate from here. Like Laugenbrezel. Or the cute half-timbered houses. Take it with you, it might always remain a piece of home no matter how far your new home is away.

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