You've raided your couch cushions, slashed your weekly pizza deliveries in half and scrounged together enough cha-ching to make your travel fantasies a reality. Whether you saved enough for a few weeks basking under the Caribbean's scorching rays or for six months train hopping around Europe, your bags are packed, your flight is booked and your passport pages are awaiting fresh stamps.
After hearing countless life-changing stories and career revelations from those who've already ventured abroad, you knew you had to test it out for yourself.
Everyone told you that fleeing the safety of your own borders would be eye opening, life altering and maybe even revolutionary. Travel would either confirm or squash your preconceived notions; it would either make you more tolerant or less; it would reveal your strengths or expose your weaknesses. But without a doubt, travel would somehow change you and your life.
And, now that you're back on our own soil, you fully grasp the extent to which your adventures impacted you. Traveling abroad did change you.
But all those overzealous travel junkies who raved about the benefits of going abroad, forgot to mention one small tidbit: the return home.
While it's logical to plan for a trip, travelers often become so entranced in the moment that they don't always anticipate the after-effects of travel. Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to traveling as well.
You've got mail...and lots of it
Traveling abroad is designed to help you unplug from the technology overwhelm that binds many of us to our computers, cell phones and tablets nearly 24/7. And, it often does. Since not every country has lightening fast Wi-Fi, it can be a welcome relief to disconnect for a while. So enjoy it... It doesn't last long.
Once you're home, you not only need to catch up on your work inbox (which is now over capacity), but you must also reply to all of the emails you've now accumulated from new acquaintances you've made abroad.
Now, with friends scattered throughout the world, you're busy responding to emails, messaging friends on Facebook and making long-distance phone calls at 2 a.m. Your online social life might be thriving... But it might be costing you some snooze time and some actual face-to-face social interaction. Unfortunately, don't expect to see an empty inbox anytime soon.
Plan to arrive home starving
Have you started to crave Mexican enchiladas, Italian pizza or Swiss chocolate since returning home? By the time you're safely back on your own soil, you won't only be salivating for those mouthwatering bites, but you'll also be starving for more travel experiences.
While every traveler hits bumps in the road, most experience a high like nothing else. Travel adds a bit of spice to life and keeps you going back for seconds, thirds and fourths. Once you get a taste of what is available in the world, your appetite for travel may never diminish.
You are richer, but not wealthier
The instant friendships, the breathtaking sights, the slower pace of life and the unforgettable experiences add richness to your life that far outweighs any material possessions. Travel fulfills a gap in a way that money simply can't. Unfortunately, travel can also empty your bank account.
Although traveling to far-off lands is an invaluable educational experience in itself, you'll need to be prepared for the sticker shock of it all. Even those who scrap for food, haggle with street vendors and sleep in dirt-cheap hostels will probably come home with less money than what they left with. Unless you're already rolling in dough, your retirement and savings accounts might be put on the back burner for a while.
You receive a (false) sense of comfort
Staring out your bedroom window with a coffee cup in hand and the rolling hills of Tuscany staring back at you is quite a sight. You may answer a few emails in the morning and then delve into a page-turning novel in the afternoon. Life, overall, is not just comfortable, but free from stress.
While traveling abroad gives you respite from your day-to-day obligations, it also gives you a false sense of comfort. It makes you forget your high-strung bosses, clogged inboxes and ungrateful customers. The transition from traveler back to overworked office minion isn't any easy one to grasp. Once you are exposed to a more laid-back lifestyle, you might find it difficult to return to your "normal" routine.
Travel leads you astray
One of the best aspects of traveling abroad is the ability to explore places far different from what you are accustomed to. Sometimes these explorations are intentional and sometimes they occur by mistake. Occasionally you hop on the wrong bus or train, and occasionally you throw your plans to the curb and let the wind guide you.
Travel doesn't always take you to where you plan to go, but it does take you to where you need to go. It often opens your eyes to a world of possibilities. It exposes your true passions and gifts.
When you're abroad, you may be lead off your original path, but toward a more fulfilling one. This is true once you return home as well. Unfortunately, that path isn't always paved. It's up to you to find your way and this can sometimes be more difficult than you might imagine.
Although most people do their research prior to boarding the plane, very rarely do people prepare for the changes that occur once they return home. So be warned. Travel will change you, it will change your outlook and it might change your entire future.
But, I guess adding some new friends to your social circle, discovering a thirst for travel and pursuing new passions aren't always bad. Maybe these "pitfalls" are really just rewards in disguise.