The Truth About Returning to the US

I know I have to write a series of “I’m back in the US” posts – what I’ve been up to since I got back, final analyses of my pre-departure decisions and how they worked out, responses to some of the frequently asked questions I’ve gotten, and summaries of what it’s like to travel like I just did – but whenever I try to sit down and write them my mind goes blank. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, I have tons to say, I just have a hard time putting it into words. I am not sure why, but I have a theory.

It reminds me of what I’ve left behind. The way I returned to the States was busy. I was in Arizona for three days, San Francisco for five days, Vancouver Island for six days, San Francisco again for five more days, then Jersey City, where I’ve been for over two weeks now but broken up by going in and out of New York City to see friends. When people heard this plan they realized that even though I’d returned, I hadn’t left travel behind just yet. I will do that starting next weekend when I move up to Vermont. Which, ironically, is exactly one year after I moved out of my San Francisco apartment. So I guess you could say that I spent 300 days out of the country but 1 year traveling.

Being on the go and seeing so many familiar faces I thought had done wonders for my adjustment, but now I think it was just a distraction that allowed me to put off facing the decision I had made to return. It’s been wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but now that the bouncing around is almost over I am finally starting to process where I am and my next moves. And I’m anxious to get moving again already.

The thing about culture shock, or whatever you would call the depressing feeling of being home, is that it comes out of nowhere. One moment everything feels normal, like I’m back in the life I knew so well before I left, and the next I’m hiding in a bathroom with tears running down my cheeks unsure why I feel so uncomfortable, out of place, and alone. It’s not something that hits fast and strong, an immediate adjustment that can be pinpointed and processed, but something that lurks underneath the surface and comes out at times obviously and other times subtly. It’s a slow process, one that right now doesn’t have a clear end in sight. It’s unexpected. It’s difficult. And worst of all, it’s entirely personal. I can try to talk about it with other travelers, most can relate to it in some way, but how it affects us all is different. Ultimately I feel like it’s something I have to deal with on my own. Which is ironically one of the things I’ve been missing – my life the past year has been so on my own that this much coordination to see people, even the ones I care so much about, can be oddly suffocating.

Plus there’s this odd feeling of uncertainty that the last year even happened. It’s like some distant dream that I have to keep reminding myself was real. Sometimes I just sit and try to remember where I was two, four, eight months ago. Having this blog has been an amazing help – I’ll read old posts and have proof that I did that or I was there.

So I will get it together and write those posts I mentioned up front, and I promise they will be more positive than this one turned out. But I had to be honest and acknowledge how hard this transition really can be. It’s led to a few nights of insomnia and lots of time looking at Kayak’s “Explore” feature. Hopefully getting this out there, writing and posting what is actually very hard to make public, will clear my mind and make way for the posts that are much more fun for everyone. Until then, I’ll be reading “coping with coming home” articles.

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