After You Return

Preparing for your return is as important as preparing for your departure.

Once you've been an aid worker, your life and the way you understand and look at the world will never be the same again. The stories you hear from people displaced by war, victims of sexual violence, survivors of environmental disasters, victims of torture, and even the torturers, the rapists, and the politicians contributing to inequality, unrest, displacement, and many other horrors will undeniably give you a unique perspective on the world, international relations, and even on your own role as an aid worker.

Reflect on your experiences in the field, how you've been changed, and how to remain healthy in life beyond the field.It's important not to expect your life to magically return to "normal" (i.e. life-as-you-knew-it before you entered the field) when you return to your home country, leave the field for a family duty station, or pursue a different avenue in your career. Should you have this expectation, you are apt to be disappointed.

Take the time to reflect on your experiences in the field, how you've been changed, and how to remain healthy in your life beyond the field.

Read Life after the Field and Life after Trauma, join discussions and groups to vent your post-field frustrations, and share your own experiences to help others learn from you.

Try not to fall into the trap of returning to the field because you can't allow yourself to sit with the challenge of life out of the field. While it might seem that conflict-hopping or field-hopping is a sign of strength and perseverance, it may be an indication that you are not taking care of yourself and that you're actually unable to endure the challenges of integrating your field experience with life beyond the field.

Be good to yourself and, in so doing, be better to those we're meant to serve!Do your health, body, heart and mind a favor: Challenge yourself with an occasional year or 2 or 3 or 4 outside the field. Go ahead! Be good to yourself and, in so doing, be better to those we're meant to serve!

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