Part of being a seasoned traveler is acquiring a flexibility that allows you to easily adapt to wherever you’re lucky enough to find yourself. This includes coming back into your “own” culture after being away.
Coming home, wherever that may be, is usually depicted as a simple series of events that include arriving to a familiar place, smelling familiar foods, and becoming surrounded by familiar people. We tend to not allow ourselves to feel past these initial moments of returning somewhere, as a defense mechanism against ruining the familiarity that we cherish about home. The truth is, reverse culture shock is just as hard, if not harder, than culture shock.
The greatest shock I felt, both going to Sicily and returning to Miami, was the difference in pace. There is a distinct difference in the uses of time that Taorminese and Miamians employ. One of my constant criticisms of big city life is how rushed and frantic everybody behaves. Time is the enemy and yet it’s the thing we obsess over. I was not prepared upon my re-entry into the US for the change in pace.
In Taormina time is approached from an entirely different angle. It’s not seen as the enemy, but as an asset. And while everything takes more time and feels slower, which can be frustrating to a big city American, I quickly learned how important taking (not taking advantage of) your time really is. Cooking, eating, walking, talking, even shopping is treated as the luxury it should be. So when I came back to the bustling, eating and drinking in transit, racing around the mall culture that is America, I quickly began to miss the SST, Sicilian Standard Time.
No matter how far you go, how often you come home, or how different the cultures are, there will always be adjusting to the lifestyle changes that a new or a familiar place requires. My advice for those who want a fulfilling travel experience and an easier transition back into their own culture is simply embrace the pace. Once you embrace the pace everything else falls into place.
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