Culture Shock: When Your Soul Takes Longer to Arrive

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First you arrive physically and you are very tired. But only after a while, your soul gets here, too. Because the plane is very fast, but the soul takes longer to arrive.*

On Friday, my youngest son arrived home after two months of travel. He experienced hospitality, adventure, and food across Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, and Istanbul. He arrived physically exhausged but full of the best sort of stories and pictures. There are a lot of moments that transpire between goodbye and hello. 

In 2013, the BBC published a short video of a man from a tribe in the rain forests of the Amazon who had come to New York City to live. His words quoted above accurately describe our global world and remind us that though through plane travel we arrive quickly on the other side of the world, our souls take longer.

We have high expectations for ourselves. We expect to jump right into life, to pick up as though we are unchanged, to tell ourselves “it’s no big deal – I’m back now”. But when our souls are still a world away, we can’t fully connect.

We need time and we need grace.

Three years ago Robynn wrote a wise piece called “How to Give Yourself Grace: Advice to someone returning from a long journey.” As Robynn unpacks what this means, she says this:

You can anticipate some cultural confusion. When you switch a baby from breast-feeding to bottle feeding and then back to breast-feeding often the baby experiences some “nipple confusion”. As earthy as the metaphor might be, I think it describes some of what we feel when we return to our beloved places and then reenter our regular placements. We are confused. Our souls are unsettled. We knew a particular way and then we became used to a different way and now we’re back to the old way, but only temporarily and now we race to what was sort of familiar and yet now not so much. There has to be some cultural confusion….some yanking of our tethers, our leashes. We are whiplashed from culture to culture. You can expect to be out of whack!

 She goes on to say:

Resist the urge to return too quickly. Try not to rush back in. Breathe deeply. Move slowly. Go ahead and do the next thing on your list but don’t hurry. Your poor body has been around the world and back again. Let your soul catch up! Come home slowly.

I think of Robynn’s words as I pray for my son and as I watch him slowly enter, because his soul will enter slowly and he may need some time to breathe.

You can read Robynn’s piece here. I know many of you have been missing Robynn – she has take a break for a bit, and I hope to see her back soon resuming her Friday wisdom.

6 thoughts on “Culture Shock: When Your Soul Takes Longer to Arrive

  1. Ahh… so true of even places within your home country, like Syracuse, NY. I love that analogy of nipple confusion as I frantically look for stores, streets, doorways, all the way down to outlets that don’t require a three prong adapter. Thanks. Your encouraging words are timely for me as well.


  2. Marilyn…thank you for saying you miss me! I have tears in my eyes. I miss my CAB community. One of these days I do hope to be back—but I’ll likely come back slowly!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so true, and really, there are pieces of our souls that we leave behind. There is probably a better way to describe it, but I know that part of me stayed in Pakistan when we left. How could it not be so after 34 years and so much of life lived there? Then there is our beloved Eight-Acre Woods, our retirement home for 12 years. We made so many memories there that must still be in the walls, perhaps blessing the people who are living in it now and adding their own to it. And part of the paradox is that I am not lessened by what I have left behind. Rather I am richer for the memories and experiences, the laughter and the tears.


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