I’m back in the United States.
It happened just as abruptly as that sounds. I had started considering what to do after Japan before I even got there, and this idea of returning had always been an option, I just wasn’t sure it would win out. I thought about going to South Korea, Taiwan, or England. There was more world to see and people to visit, was I ready to give in to going back already?
Then a couple of things happened. First, my ideas about my future changed. I realized that travel, my nomadic existence, was not just a phase but a new way of life. I couldn’t imagine returning to a desk and a schedule. Not to say that I didn’t crave some normalcy sometimes, but the idea of settling down in one place with just two weeks of vacation a year, knowing that there was so much more out there that I wanted to see and do, didn’t sit well with me. So I decided that for the foreseeable future I would attempt to keep going. But in order to do that I had to work again for a bit – my money wouldn’t last forever. Which is why, when I got a very tempting offer for a summer job that would allow me to work for 20 hours a week primarily outside and live in Vermont, a place I had dreamed of returning to for my readjustment to the States, I had to take it. I start June 1.
Once I committed to going back for the summer my time abroad suddenly had a limit. I knew I had to return at some point, so how did I want to do it? I could wait until the end of May and go through the East Coast, prolonging my travel as much as possible until my Vermont start date. Or I could surprise my best friends at a girls weekend in Arizona. My friends had decided months ago to have a weekend away at Jen’s new home, which none of us had seen yet, and I sadly had declined since I was halfway around the world. But then Kwaz came to India, and when we talked about what I would do next and the possibility of spending the summer in Vermont and how and when I would come back to do that, the idea of surprising everyone came up. I missed my friends. I had a fantastic life in San Francisco and that was mostly owed to the people there. If I went straight to the East Coast I would not see them, but if I went to Arizona I could stop by SF before going east. Plus it was much easier and cheaper to fly from Japan to Phoenix, and what better way could there be to return than by showing up at the Phoenix airport and giving your friends heart attacks?
I didn’t commit to this plan immediately but let it take its place in my thoughts amongst my other options. The more I thought about it though the more I realized that I couldn’t let it go, that every other option suddenly was being halted by this Arizona idea. I tried to figure out if I could fit in South Korea before I flew back, and in attempting to look up flights to England could only compare the price to the flight to Phoenix. So I finally gave in. If every other idea just didn’t sound as good as the surprise, why not just do the surprise?
It helped that the day I would return happened to be my 300th day abroad. I like round numbers and had had some sadness that I wouldn’t be making it to a full year, June 21, but the discovery that I would hit day 300 put me at ease.
20 countries in 300 days. That sounded pretty good.
So on April 6th I booked my flight to the US. For April 17th. Like I said, it happened pretty abruptly.
And the surprise was worth it. Showing up at the airport and having the incredible warm response I got from my friends – full of repeat hugs and “you’re not real!” and “how did this happen?” – made for a happy return Stateside. I love you guys. And now, writing this from a coffee shop in San Francisco after seeing even more friends, I know that it was right to come back here before going to Vermont. Add to that the amazing messages I got on my birthday yesterday – in person, texts, and Facebook – welcoming me home, and so far the dreaded end of traveling depression hasn’t hit. Instead I now have many plans to catch up with friends and family.
I’m sure the depression will come. I did almost start crying when the coffee shop played a song I had heard on repeat in Colombia. But for now, I choose to focus on the excitement of this return. And I also choose to keep traveling.
I’m in San Francisco this week, but will be adventuring around Canada for five days next week, then back to San Francisco for five more days, then New Jersey and New York City for a couple of weeks, and then I will finally move up to Vermont for the summer. Despite deciding to return to the States, I couldn’t stop moving just yet.
And all of this is in pursuit of a larger goal of not stopping. TBD where I’m going in September, but the hope is to get back on the road for at least another couple of months. My Travel Abrodge isn’t done yet…