My Anxieties About Coming Home
Home. 8,500 miles away. 50 days away. 3 more countries away.
When I left in October 2016, I didn't know how long I would be gone for. Four months, maybe. Possibly six. I aimed for a year, but I wasn't sure if my money would make it that far (it's not). Turns out, one year gone would have been far too long for me, anyways.
(But would a year really have been too long? Traveling has a trajectory... High, low, high. I hit the low, and now I'm on another upwards swing. What burn out?! Vietnam has been amazing and the people I've met here can't easily be forgotten. A month in Indonesia suddenly seems too short and buying a plane ticket home begins to seem like a serious commitment. I could keep going! I think to myself. My mind changes on a daily basis, so it's likely this post will be relevant one day and irrelevant another day. Oh, and I'm running out of money, so regardless of how I feel, my butt does have to go home soon!)
I can estimate the day I'll be home based on the amount of days I have left in the visas stamped in my passport. 5 days left in Vietnam. 30 days for Indonesia. 3 days in Hong Kong. 10 days throughout Canada and the Pacific Northwest in the US. I check flight prices from Hong Kong to Vancouver on a daily basis, fingers crossed that the flight prices might drop below $600 (they're not).
I'll land in Chicago around August 7, just shy of being gone for 10 months.
I've been transparent about the fact that I miss my bed at home, Chipotle salad bowls, my niece, driving my car. I miss seeing my best friends in Indy, doing brunch like it's our job and trading stories about our actual jobs. I miss taking hot baths with sea salts and seeing familiar faces at the gym I used to frequent. Surprisingly, I miss the boring hum-drum routine of life in the city.
I've met a lot of backpackers who insist that they are never going home, either because they've fallen in love (with a country or a person) or because they feel like they have nothing waiting for them there. I've always known that I was going to come home.
But feelings of doubt linger in the back of my mind.
I always have a hard time coming home. I am often quiet and sullen in the days after a trip. I will sit in the bath and Google flights to anywhere but here. My memories play on loop, but those same memories mean nothing to my friends and family at home. And because I travel alone, many of those memories are mine alone. There's rarely someone besides me who I can ask, "Hey, remember that time when we raced to the top of that viewpoint just in time to catch the sun set?" Cause it was just me.
And the memories I have shared with the many people that I've met along the way - experiences that I've never had with anyone back home - are tucked away in Canada, Guatemala, Germany, England, Australia, New Zealand, any corner of the United States. Anywhere but home.
I get bored quickly at home. I become disenchanted by the same Western consumerism that I often miss while I am away - the luxury of having every convenience at the tip of my fingertips. And the desire to leave again creeps in.
Travel gives me the greatest highs, but I always crash when I come home.
This isn't new for me. I wrote about these same feelings in Why Coming Home is So Hard after my trip to Thailand two years ago.
In that post, I wrote that I was happy; that while travel had made me question if I was content in life or not, I had decided that I was. I was convinced that I didn't need long-term travel to fill this constant need of my mine to explore new cultures, new people, new places. What I didn't know was that I could be just as happy working in a job I loved as I was hauling my backpack around a new country.
Less than a year after writing that post, I had applied for the Australian work / holiday visa. Less than two years later, I had quit my job.
And still I worry that this trip will not be enough.
(PS: Worrying is nothing new for Millennials. We're the most anxious generation yet. We often have every possible option at our fingertips when it comes to education, career choice, travel destinations, healthy food, apartments and houses, even dating. We are literally overwhelmed by our own ability to swipe right on whatever we want.)
I worry that any life I build, wherever I am, will not be enough. That I will be itching to leave again; that the memories of eating street food in Myanmar and racing down mountain roads in Vietnam won't be enough.
I worry about simply "sliding" back into normal life, the same life I left behind to embark on this adventure. Sticking my backpack in the closet. Slipping on a pencil skirt and my gold jewelry. Holding my Starbucks iced coffee in one hand and my car keys in the other. Getting my hair highlighted and my nails done. Throwing my gym shoes in the back seat.
I worry about fitting back into the fold of my friendships at home. I missed moments that I should have been there for; moments that I watched play out on Snapchat and Instagram instead of being there in person. I worry about boring those same friends with stories abroad that are meaningful to me but fail to translate to anyone else.
I worry about spending $25 on one meal, $1500 for an apartment, $100 for a night out, $70 for a new outfit when I know that spending $20 in one day made me happy, too.
I worry about Googling jobs that take me to far away places - Costa Rica, Thailand, England. I've watched my expat friends and family members carve out lives for themselves far from the United States, with normal routines and career paths.
I worry about not being content with the life I used to love because I don't think I am the same person coming home. I've changed. I can't explain it; maybe that's for another blog post. But I'm different and I don't know how to fit everything I've experienced in the last 10 months into a life I'm going to re-build back in the States.
To be honest, finding a job feels like the least of my worries. (Wow, that is privilege right there.)
At the same time, I know I want a home base. That's one thing I learned about myself on this trip - I don't like being nomadic for long stretches of time. That lifestyle isn't for me and it's tiring.
I want to put a deposit down on a cozy apartment. I want to hang up the artwork I bought in Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar. I want to put plants on a windowsill and try to keep them alive for longer than a week. Maybe I could even care for a cat (a German Shepherd might be a stretch, but I'd love that, too).
I want to invest in a relationship instead of skirting away from anyone who could possibly pin me down; anyone who could possibly make me want to stay.
I want to take a job that challenges me and allows me to advance in my career.
I want to strengthen my friendships with plenty of glasses of wine, nights out, late night phone calls, and by simply being there.
I want to be closer to home to spend more time with my niece as she grows bigger and with my dad as he grows older. (Or do I? Cause San Diego and Denver sound pretty amazing, too.)
For all my worries about sliding back into normalcy after being on the road for 10 months, I have to admit that normalcy sounds appealing.
And despite any anxieties or lingering doubts, I know that I've done everything I wanted to do on this trip. I did this trip my way; I have absolutely no regrets. I've held nothing back. I've given it my all. And this journey has given me everything.
I quit my job and left home behind because I truly felt that if not now, when?
And this journey of mine isn't even over yet -- I still have six weeks left. So I'm holding on to every moment and embracing every friendship while also cherishing the thought of home. I'm almost there, and I know these anxieties about home will fade in the same way my anxiety faded about buying a one-way ticket one year ago.
This adventure was absolutely the right decision. And so is coming home. (For now.)
Any travelers out there who can relate?