The Reality of Reverse Culture Shock

Bahía de Los Angeles through our palapa window.

Bahía de Los Angeles through our palapa window.

We were warned. A close friend of mine who traveled to Mexico for several months last year told me to prepare for the experience of reverse culture shock when returning to the United States, and while I believed her, I don’t think there was any way to properly prepare for the reality of reverse culture shock. 

It hit us hard.

We spent the last six months without television, without movies, without internet or cell phone reception much of the time. A BIG evening for us included music and tequila around a campfire, or maybe a dinner out in a sleepy Mexican town. One night we spent hours entertaining ourselves by playing with the bioluminescent plankton along the Bahía Concepción shoreline. Mexican grocery stores are small and simple, with limited choices, making shopping quick and easy. The highways in Baja snake through vast unpopulated areas. There are no billboards, few gas stations, mostly it’s a vast wilderness. Interestingly, we quickly and easily adjusted to that slow, relaxed lifestyle, and we rarely missed the comforts of home. (Read all about our Mexico travels here!)

The moon rises over a gradient sunset in Los Arbolitos.

The moon rises over a gradient sunset in Los Arbolitos.

Fast forward to our re-entry into the states. After a hectic border crossing we decided to get a hotel room for a night so we could treat ourselves to air conditioning and unlimited hot showers for an evening. The giant highways and heavy traffic we had to traverse to reach our hotel felt so stressful! I went to the grocery store to get us dinner and found myself completely overstimulated by the sheer size of the store, the loud music playing, the bright “look-at-me” displays. I bought what I needed as quickly as possible and retreated to our hotel room where Tom was having a similar experience with the big screen cable tv. So THIS was that reverse culture shock we'd heard about!!

The next few days were similar, and we found ourselves seeking ways to calm the chaos we were experiencing! Luckily the western U.S. is full of beautiful protected wilderness that gets us out of the hustle and bustle of American cities, and we chose a remote route to take us to Oregon (read our tips for finding beautiful, affordable campsites in the states!)  

Wildflowers blooming in Joshua Tree National Park.

Wildflowers blooming in Joshua Tree National Park.

We are currently making our way up Route 395, camping on sparsely populated BLM land, and loving it. We are easing ourselves back into the speed of American life slowly, and realizing that our perception of “home” and “comfort” may be permanently shifting (we discuss our new home here). While we are excited to reunite with our family and friends, we are approaching “home” very differently now, and already making plans to continue our travels through the summer and into next year!

Camping near the base of Mt. Whitney.

Camping near the base of Mt. Whitney.

Have you experienced reverse culture shock? What was your experience? Leave us a comment below!