The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Simone McFarlane. Simone is spending the first part of her gap year in Mexico.

I left Mexico on December 16th. I spent 97 days being stretched and challenged in a new environment. Literally nothing was easy. Talking to my friends, buying groceries, working the stove, washing my clothes all took a specific type of mental energy that I was not used to exercising. In a way, you could say my mind was sore from adapting. I felt instant relief when I got home. Everything was comfortable. I was amazed at how much bigger my kitchen sink looked now, how fast I could get hot water, how different door knobs felt, how big and warm my bed was. It was like coming into air conditioning after spending a whole day out in the hot sun. Comfortable. Not necessarily better than Mexico, but familiar, and therefore more comfortable.

Seeing my friends and family again was a strange but relieving feeling. I was happy to be around familiar faces, but in a lot of ways, I feel like I shrank back down to who I was before I left. My memories of Mexico soon began to feel like a fever dream, and I felt like I had never left home. The comfort I felt to be back home abruptly went from being soothing to suffocating. I had no idea how to integrate the Simone I became in Mexico to the Simone I already was.

I don’t really know what lesson to extrapolate from this. I suppose it’s “the grass is always greener on the other side” conundrum. I also suppose that I got a deeper understanding that nothing changes if nothing changes. Packing away the lessons I learned in Mexico to the back of my brain is such a disservice to myself. If I don’t implement what I’ve learned, how much growing have I really done? In the same vein, I realized I need to be more intentional when it comes to reflecting on my experiences. I often get so overwhelmed in the moment that I choose to pack away what I’ve learned rather than unpacking it.

Now that I’m abroad again, I’ve made a goal to put more effort in self-reflection. I want to arrive back home as a combination of the new versions of myself, not as a person who is trying to fit back into who she used to be. But in order for my experiences to coexist within myself, I need to put more effort into nurturing all of them.