The trip is over. It’s been hard for me to come to terms with this fact, always pausing for a second when people refer to it in past tense: “How was it?” Was? Was. Right, it’s over. When the hell did that happen?
After five years of fantasizing, my big idea actually happened. I completed my dream Round the World trip, making it through all the countries I wanted to see and then some. It’s taken a while for that to sink in and for me to perceive it as a huge accomplishment. Talking about my trip in the past tense is still sad, but it’s turning positive, becoming something I am proud of and okay with being a part of my past instead of my present.
I’ve been trying to figure out why it took so long to come around to this point. I think there are a few factors. First, I had a hard time with the word “back” when I got to the US. People kept saying, “Welcome back!” and I kept thinking, “I’m not really back…” Although I had returned to the United States, I knew it was only temporary – this is a “layover,” as a friend put it, and I fully intend on leaving the country again after the summer is over. I was told at one point that no one thought I would come back, and it was then that I realized that this idea that everyone thought I had returned for good irked me. I checked my rising temper as I responded that they were actually right, I had not come back, even if my physical presence seemingly contradicted this statement. My initial difficulty with this particular word has subsided; there aren’t many other phrases to use when someone returns to their home country after an extended journey. The important thing is that I know that this “back” is not final.
Second, I think the open-ended nature of my trip had something to do with it. Not having a concrete moment to call “the end” was supposed to create a feeling of flexibility and freedom, but it may have had a side effect of anxious and confused. I wound up viewing India as the end to my trip since it was the last country on my original itinerary. I came to realize I needed that end to know that I had completed my goal and thus feel okay that I had come home. For a while I felt like I had copped out, ran away to home just when things were really unknown instead of continuing on as a true nomad. I don’t see it that way anymore, especially as I start to shift my focus to leaving again, but it definitely took a while to shake that feeling. The tattoo I got in India of my flight path has been a wonderful reminder; every time I look at it I feel like I really accomplished what I set out to do.
Third, the undeniable fact that there is always more to see. Whenever I hear something about South Korea part of me cringes knowing I was just a three hour ferry ride away and I chose to come back to the States instead. But I could say the same for my proximity to Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, the list goes on and on. The world is huge, we all know that, and at some point I had to take a break before I could even try to see any more of it. I moved at lightening speed and needed a rest, a fact I had to first coax myself to admit and then constantly remind myself of leading up to my flight, along with the fact that I can always go back. The world will still be there when I’m ready to get out there again, just because this trip is over doesn’t mean I can’t take another one.
But now, I’m starting to feel that my idea about coming to Vermont was right. I needed time to let this trip become part of my past. Let it sink in. Complete my final projects – blog posts like this, the last of my video editing, pulling together highlight reels of my photos, and my tickets, bracelets, and coins collage – as an act of closure. Taking off the bracelets was symbolic for me. I took them all off over the course of the weekend leading up to June 1 (my first day back at work). Each one has a place associated with it, and almost all are connected to people too, so every time I untied one I mentally relived a part of my trip. As each bracelet came off, each place was put into my memory bank, where it will remain forever a positive part of my history.