Going on a mission trip to a foreign country can be an amazing and rewarding experience. In addition to religious work, missions are a great way to help those in need around the world by offering community building, medical, and other support. Returning home from a lengthy trip in a less-developed region can be a big shock. Follow these steps to make your transition home smooth and comfortable.
Prepare to Come Home
If you have been gone for more than a few weeks, you may run into some common problems when adjusting to life back home. While still abroad, take early steps to prepare for your return trip- this preparation will make your transition period much easier to navigate.
The most important consideration before returning home is where you are going to stay. Assuming you do not have a house or apartment, consider staying with family upon your arrival. Family can be supportive, interested in hearing stories about your time abroad, and may even offer you a warm bed for free.
If this is not an option, consider reaching out to friends or doing a Google search to find a sublet or some other form of temporary housing.
Upon your return home, you'll need to make sure you have health insurance coverage. If you are unexpectedly injured or become ill, you will want the ability to go to a doctor or hospital without paying for all expenses out of pocket. If you are no longer covered under your parents' health insurance plan or you do not have coverage of your own, you may want to look into getting a short-term health insurance plan.
Short-term medical insurance does not meet the minimum standards to avoid the Affordable Care Act tax penalty (unless you go without an ACA-compliant plan for no more than 2 consecutive months and claim a "short gap in coverage" exemption), but it is perfect coverage for a month or two while you get your bearings, or for bridging the gap until the next open enrollment period, when you can enroll in a Marketplace health plan.
Adjusting Upon Return
When you land back in the United States, things may seem different than when you left. On a mission, you can be exposed to poverty unlike what most people see in the U.S., and likely had a deep, personal experience.
Be prepared to feel different when you come home, and be sure to take these steps to make the adjustment easier.
Make Personal Connections
When you first arrive home, you will be away from your mission group and host city and may be alone for the first time in weeks or months.
To avoid loneliness, reconnect with friends and family. Share highlights from your experience and make plans that will get you out of the house and back into a regular routine.
Relating to Others
While you may have just had a life-changing experience, your friends and family at home were just living their regular day-to-day life.
You may find it difficult relating to others who have not had a similar experience to your own, so make an effort to stay in touch with fellow participants and connect with others in your community who have taken similar trips.
Reverse Culture Shock
According to the missionary blog, TEAM, reverse culture shock is common when you come home from abroad, and can lead to feelings of anger, confusion, or sadness.
Just like when you arrived in your host country for your mission, things like shopping, dining, and commuting may be very different from what you've become accustomed to.
If you find yourself experiencing culture shock on your return, attempt to examine and embrace the differences in the two cultures you know and love, and try to incorporate parts of your host community's culture into your daily life back in the United States.
Just because your mission has come to an end does not mean your entire experience has to come to a halt.
Look for opportunities to speak to or mentor future mission participants and speak around your community about your trip.
If you can inspire others to take similar steps to make the world a better place, your mission will continue to touch the lives of needy communities across the globe.