Reacclimating to Home After Being Away

Excited to come home to Philly - Italian Market
On December 7th, I will return to Philadelphia after being away from home for 108 days, or about three and a half months. This has been the longest I have been away from home without at least passing through for a day or two in between gigs. The first time I spent more than a few weeks away from home, I was surprised to find that getting back into my normal patterns was much more difficult than I had expected. Spending any extended period of time in a different environment requires some adjusting to get back into the swing of things, even in the comfort of your own surroundings.

I've often found while preparing for a performance, my focus becomes very intense and I may become completely consumed by the process necessary to get ready for stage. When I worked at Pacific Northwest Ballet, this was built into the fabric of my every day life. I woke up in my own bed, worked at the same facility daily, and returned home to rest in my own apartment. When I had weekends off, I would rest, hang out with friends, and enjoy the surroundings of my city. Developing patterns over time and repetition are natural and make living your own chosen lifestyle comfortable.

Dance is my business (Photo: Brian Mengini)
While preparing for a show as a freelancer may be similar to my experience at PNB in some regards,
it can be quite different when you don't work where you reside. Essentially, a dancer is often forced to start from scratch with their lifestyle and friendships in each locale that they are hired. You generally can't call your close friends to hang out, go to that same yoga place that always helps you find your zen, find the exact same ingredients to that favorite meal you make every week, or drink at your favorite watering hole to let off some steam. Each freelancing gig can be an exciting, fresh adventure in a new city. But while you are building an alternative, short-term lifestyle elsewhere, everything still keeps running like usual back at home. Dealing with this reality can often be one of the biggest challenges for anybody that travels for extended periods of time with their work.

Back in 2012, when I first spent 5 weeks away from home with Alaska Dance Theatre, I was thrilled to return home to enjoy the familiar, see my partner and cats, and visit my friends and family. When I left home, tons of friends showed up to throw me a party to send me off on my adventure. Once in Anchorage, I became so immersed in my work that I didn't really think to shoot off a text message or make a phone call to check in with what was happening with most of those people. After my time away, I expected the exact same reception for my return upon my arrival. A few people had reached out to me on Facebook and stated how excited they were to see me. But the reality of my homecoming was more like walking onto an empty country field in the dead of night. Instead of stepping back into a scene of revelry, I came home to crickets. Most of those friends who sent me off were continuing on with their lives as they normally did. Nobody was holding their breath waiting for my plane to touch down.

Dan working from home
Beyond my local social network, another place that, surprisingly, had changed was in my home. While my partner and I had been together for over 7 years and talked on the phone nightly, he had started to develop patterns that didn't include me. Since he works from home, he had gotten used to working alone in our living space and enjoying the quiet and freedom that came with it. A simple midday question from me could lead to a stressful conversation about interrupting work-related activities. Where I used to be in a pattern of performing household chores, I had gotten more lax living in a home with a host family. I even expected extra attention. I felt like we had to make up for lost time. But things had continued on without me, even in my own home.

What I had originally thought would be an easy reintroduction, turned into a stressful period of examination and carefully executed re-entry. I spent my first week at home depressed and sitting around waiting for my phone to ring with invitations to reconnect. I quickly realized that any effort to see old friends was going to require me to be the one to reach out. One of my biggest challenges was that I had started freelancing almost immediately after moving to a new city. If I had been living in Philadelphia for a few years, it probably would have been easier to reconnect with friends. But I was still in the development period of most of my friendships in the city. I had to be very patient to connect again and found myself spending a lot of time exploring Philly on my own to occupy my time before my next travels.

Exploring Philly on my own
When it comes to reacclimating to living with somebody that you have a relationship with, I find the best route to take is to leave all expectation at the airplane door. Yes, you still have the same relationship that you used to have. But it is human nature to adapt to your surroundings quickly. For this reason, instead of stepping into your situation with expectations, I would suggest taking a step back and letting things find a refreshed order. Even though you missed each other, you don't have to feel that you have to fit five weeks of time into the first week after you've returned. Take your time, don't overwhelm one another, and allow for a little added space than you are used to. Where you may have spent every non-working moment together in the past, you have likely gotten used to spending a bit more time to yourself. See where each of you are and slowly start to get back into more common patterns.
Time away from your home environment allows for one to return with new and fresh excitement. But don't let expectation get in the way of a happy return. Reach out to friends while you travel and after you've come home, but don't put the pressure on yourself to have an exciting homecoming party waiting for you. Don't feel like you need to live your life exactly as you did before you left. And don't suffocate your loved ones with immediate expectations. While traveling for work and time apart can make the heart grow fonder, break mundane lifestyle patterns, and refresh your outlook on living, it can also add stress to what used to be regular patterns. If you approach your return with less expectation and more awareness, you can gain a great deal of life experience to enrich your lifestyle at home.

Me and Dan during 2 weeks inbetween gigs


  1. Hi Barry,

    I just found your blog, and I'm already hooked. This post really moved me, as I had a very similar experience with re-entry, reintegration during the year and a half that my wife and I were in a long distance relationship before we got married. Even now, after living together for a year, I sometimes feel this way, as I am still learning to navigate the culture of this town, extended family dynamics, and yes, even our differing ways of doing things at home.

    Thank you for writing about your experience so openly. It's such a pleasure to read something that feels so real, transparent, and fully human. I can't wait to read more of what you've written here.

    Best wishes,

    Mani Schwartz

  2. Thanks for the comment, Mani! I'm glad that you are getting things out of my writing. Sometimes, I get criticized for being so open on a public forum. But it is for the reasons you mentioned that I choose to do so. Happy Holidays!