returning

I Got a Job, and I’m Back in the Working World

I said in my last post that my return to the working world would be a two-part story. In reality it could probably be many more parts, but in my mind there were two major factors that needed to be addressed regarding the transition from full-time traveler back to full-time worker. Part 1, discussed in the previous post, was about how my trip did not hinder my job search but helped it. Part 2 is about what it’s like to go back to a 9-6 life.

While I was on the road it was nearly impossible to imagine returning to a desk. The morning commute was something I scoffed at; I felt like I had escaped the rat race and found life’s true meaning. I don’t take that back at all, I did discover many things that I deemed meaningful during my travels, and one of those happened to be my work ethic. In order to reach that point I did something I think was very valuable: I kept going past my initial timeline. If I had returned to work after that first year I probably would have felt like I’d missed out on something. Continuing on the way I did – ultimate flexibility that led to an expat life – allowed me to feel like I’d satisfied my nomadic cravings and was ready to return to that “real world” I’d hated referencing as such. (My travel world was just as real as my working world, what makes one deserve that title more than the other? Cultural norms, I suppose.)

By the time I came back to the U.S. I knew I was ready to go back to work – back to a desk, a routine, and hopefully a career. These were things I had never completely sworn off but rather had taken a break from. I knew one day I would have to choose between my two lives – the eternal nomad or the successful careerwoman – and after two years away I realized that I was ready to put my nomadic life in the past, to be that person who had lived the dream and came back to pursue professional goals.

After so much time living according to whim, I expected it to be a very tough transition. In reality, I was so ready to go back to work that I threw myself into it. 10 hour days felt like 2 hours, and empty weekends felt like biding my time until Monday when I would be productive again. It didn’t hurt that my first task was opening a bar in an extremely accelerated schedule.

Now that I am past that initial rush, I am happy to report that, while I do fondly reminisce about my travels from time to time, I do not wish to go back to them. I have returned to that rat race, that desk life, that 9-6 schedule, that “real world,” and I am completely okay with it. I guess that’s the thing about pursuing your dreams – when you leave it all out there, there’s no wrong decision, and even those choices that may surprise you, like returning to an old way of life, end up being right where you’re supposed to be. Because after doing a trip like I did you know yourself too well to let yourself go the wrong way. So work it is, and hopefully the beginning of a long, successful career.

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I Got a Job, and My Trip Helped it Happen

October 13th I started a new job. I’ve been meaning to write about this for the past month, but a) didn’t know which route to take, and b) was way too busy to get my thoughts straight. Now that it’s been over a month and things are finally settling down a bit, I have decided this will be a two-part post. This is Part 1.

Last weekend a friend asked me, “How did you get a job?” Not that I’m unqualified, just that I have been out of the typical workforce for two and a half years, and that sizable resume gap seems like it would be a huge hindrance to getting back into the professional world. This is actually a question I’ve heard a lot from people leaving work to travel as well, whether the experience of travel outweighs the “seeming irresponsibility” of being out of work for so long.

Let me be living proof to you all: you can leave your career for over two years and have no problem getting a job when you’re ready for it again. In fact, it may help you land an even better job for you than you expected to find, as happened for me.

Over the summer I updated my resume, and instead of shying away from the past two years I decided to highlight them. Next to my “Work Experience” section I added a “Life Experience” section. Formatted in the same way my job listings were, it made my trip into a professionally-digestible asset.

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I got interviews at the first two jobs I applied for. Three rounds at each. The first one was an international architecture firm that wanted someone to help with their markets in South America and Japan, but they didn’t seem to care much about my experience in either. In fact they didn’t seem to notice that I’d even taken time to travel. They were focused solely on my work experience before I left, and for some reason that actually bothered me. My trip was a huge part of my life, and would help with this job opportunity, but they acted like it never happened.

This is also an important thing to highlight for anyone worried about being interviewed post-travels: you are also interviewing them. I found I was annoyed that something so important to me had been so blatantly ignored. Just because a place has decided you are worth talking to doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. Don’t just take a job because you’re relieved someone is taking a chance on you, take a job that wants all of you – professional and travel version – there.

The second job I interviewed with not only appreciated my travels, but partially hired me because of them. Also an international firm, they focus on hospitality design, and were in need of a Project Manager to help open a new mezcal bar. Now my experience working at Cafe No Se was invaluable to my being hired. The combination of my work experience before and during my time abroad combined perfectly into a role at this fantastic firm, not to mention the personality match that both sides sensed.

I am happy to say that my job search ended there. I know, some of you probably hate me for how easy that was, but when it’s right it’s right. And my new role at this incredible restaurant, bar, hotel, retail, and residential design firm is very right.

Moral of the story: taking time off to travel will never hinder anything in your life, it will only enhance everything, down to finding the perfect next career move.

The Expat Ending

Last year when I came back through the United States I knew I had a series of wrap-up blog posts to write – photo projects, how my planning worked out, how it felt to be done with that trip and moving forward, highlights of places I visited. The list was long and comprehensive.

This year I feel like I should do the same, but I don’t have a list. I don’t really know how to neatly wrap things up like I did before. Going through some pictures the other night I was reminded that my Central America adventure started much like my round the world trip, hopping from place to place seeing the sights of a new region. But in December that got derailed when I decided to stay in Antigua for an unknown amount of time. Over the next six months I built a life there, and that’s what has defined this part of my Travel Abrodge. I became an expat.

And I couldn’t imagine any better way to end this adventure.

One thing that I craved when I set out again in September was to get stuck somewhere. I’d encountered places in my first year that were tempting but I was so set on my moving itinerary that it wouldn’t have been possible to really enjoy stopping. This time though that wasn’t the case. I was intrigued by what it meant to be an expat, to get to know a place on a deeper level. Antigua became that place.

Antigua, the expat haven. It’s not a unique choice for this kind of experience, but maybe that’s also why it was appealing. I entered a place where expats were a huge part of the community. For better or for worse, I wasn’t alone.

I straddled a line between expat community – Cafe No Se – and Guatemalans and backpackers – Lucky Rabbit – in a way that made me feel like I got a pretty well-rounded experience of what living in Antigua was like. And on top of that, I had a more grounded life than I had maybe ever had before. I had a house, I had a relationship, I was caring for two dogs, I started to know people in town, was invited to parties in the city, became a person people would come visit at the bar, and couldn’t walk around without running into someone I knew. For the first time in a long time I felt like I had a real home and it was in Guatemala. A little bubble of Guatemala called Antigua. But it still had the market and the water issues and the language and the characteristics of being a town in Guatemala.

It was everything I didn’t know I was looking for, and even though it came to an end somewhat abruptly, I will forever be happy I experienced that life. My first year away was world exploration, constant movement, the backpacker life. My second year was dominated by this expat life. It’s the best combination that really made me feel like I’ve done it all now. Of course it’s not possible to have “done it all,” it never will be, but without that expat time I would not feel like I could come back to the States. Come back to a job. Come back to a life I never knew I would want to return to. It’s because of Antigua that I realized I did want to return to it.

Thank you to Antigua – to everyone there for making me feel so welcomed, so at home, and to the town itself for being the picture perfect place to stay.

Over the next couple of months I will probably write a handful of posts on concluding thoughts from the past two years. I don’t know what form they will take yet or where they will lead me. I just know that I can wholeheartedly say that I have just lived some of the best years of my life. It is bittersweet saying that it’s over, but if I’ve learned anything from it all, something wonderful still lies ahead. It always does.

It’s June 21 Again

How has it been 2 years already? 2 years to the day since I got on that plane to Brazil, since I left the world I knew behind and set out to discover the vast world I did not know.

One year ago today I wrote a reflective post about how I had spent the previous year living the trip of my dreams, and how, even though I was currently in Vermont to work, I was going to continue traveling in the coming fall. It was a pause, a shift of focus, an end to one phase and the beginning of the next.

Today I find myself somewhere I never expected I would be on this day: in Vermont. Again. Another end to a phase, another time to wrap things up and refocus, another summer in the mountains to clear my head and figure out my next move.

Vermont has become the place where I transition. Even as I write this now I realize that my trajectory will be similar – last year I took off in September for Central America, this year I plan to leave in September for a month or so in Europe – but the end goals are vastly different. Last year I came back with the intention to continue my backpacking life for at least another 6 months. This time I came back with the intention to go back to what many people call “the real world.”

So I guess now, on this 2 year anniversary of my departure, I can officially say that my journey around the world has come to an end. When I set out 2 years ago with a one way flight plan ending halfway across the world I did not know that I would end up with a one way flight back to the United States. I didn’t know where I would end up, truthfully. I definitely did not plan on living in Guatemala for six months, and then leaving such an established life behind to return to my home country.

When I left I felt like I had the world at my fingertips. Anything could and would happen. I was excited to see what that meant, to live freely, and solo. It was me and the world and nothing or no one could stop us.

Now that I’ve returned I feel oddly similar to how I felt then. Sure, I will experience a range of emotions that have already begun – denial at being back, confusion about the future, happiness at having achieved my travel goals, excitement for the possibilities of what comes next, serenity at where I am in life – but I am still excited to see what me and the world will do. Because for most of my 20’s I had a plan: work in architecture, live in New York City, live in San Francisco, leave to do my trip of a lifetime around the world. And now I can confidently say that, by the age of 29, I have achieved my life goals.

So now what? The world is still my oyster. And where I end up now will not be overshadowed by anything – no longstanding dream of travel, no need to save up for that goal or always live temporarily knowing I would one day depart. Now, I can really dig into life somewhere. Or not. Anything is possible.

Leaving Antigua

Where to begin?

I am leaving Antigua. The place that has become my home, that I have found a community, friends, family, that I have cared for puppies, that I have lived with a boyfriend, that I have talked up as a bartender and become a presence in as a manager, that I have lived abroad. It’s not an easy choice to leave such a place, but I knew one day it would come.

I didn’t know the circumstances under which it would happen. Simultaneously making the choice easy and difficult on the level of leaving San Francisco, there were clear factors that led me here.

I had a one way flight to New York in June. Going for a wedding, staying for a surgery that had an unknown timeline, I couldn’t predict how long I would need to be in my home country. My best guess was a month or two. With an impending trip like this it obviously made me take a closer look at my life, my priorities, my goals for the rest of the year. I haven’t been one to plan ahead too much in the past year but with ideas like Oktoberfest and the fact that I’ve been away from my profession for two years already I started to seriously think about some things.

Oktoberfest. The idea had come up to go with my best friends and, having wanted to experience this epic German festival most of my life, I couldn’t say no. Before I got locked into a lifestyle of limited vacation it seemed like the best way to blow the rest of my savings. And I’ve talked about visiting Europe for a year now to see if I wanted to live there. Oktoberfest could be the start of a research trip that would show me my next move.

I love bartending. I love Cafe No Se. I love the conversations and the people and the atmosphere. I love that my job is making sure people have a good night. I miss architecture. I miss working towards a project, pulling together something tangible, something that I’m proud of, winning a job. I left my career at a crossroads, when I was offered a manager position most people would kill for. I would have at one point. As my friends move into these roles I question where in the ranks I will have to reenter the architecture world. Will I have to start over again as I did at 22? How long can I rely on 5 years of experience? I’ve been away from it almost half as long as I was in it. But the realization that I want to go back to my former profession was enough to make me rethink my return to Antigua.

The people of Antigua made me stay here. The people of Antigua were making it nearly impossible to leave. Brayan has meant so much to me, from the time when we were just good friends wandering Mexico together to the deepest points of our relationship, and I am incredibly fortunate to have had him in my life. But as our relationship ran its course, I wondered if I could have a life in Antigua without him. My No Se family made me think it was possible. In the last two weeks before leaving I felt like I truly had found my people. They had me thinking about coming back when I’d already decided I wouldn’t. They have me thinking about coming back periodically over the years even after I have gone. But I have people at home, people I have missed dearly, that cannot be ignored. I do not take for granted how lucky I am to know so many terrific people that I feel pulled in so many directions.

I have loved being a nomad. The traveler life is one I took to instantly and lauded to any and everyone who would listen to me. Leaving to travel was the best decision I have ever made in my life. But there are things I have started to miss.

I miss winter. I miss cities. I miss walking on paved sidewalks in heeled boots. I miss sipping on a hot beverage because the air is brisk outside. I miss having my things in a place that I know I don’t have to leave. I miss sushi dinners with my friends. I miss the holidays with my family.

Trust me when I say this was a decision that haunted me for weeks before it came to fruition. I am positive I will have moments of doubt, I will look at flight prices, I will consider going back for just a month if I have it between surgery and Oktoberfest or Europe and a new job. And I am okay with that, because it is just further proof that Antigua was the right decision for me. That my time there meant the world to me. And that I will always consider it to be one of my homes.

(May 30, 2016)

Back in Antigua

So I came back to Antigua. When I left in September I thought that my return to San Francisco at the end of March would signal the end of this Phase 2 of Travel Abrodge, yet here I was, sitting on a plane on my way back to Guatemala. Much like on the way to San Francisco I knew I had a lot to look forward to upon my return to Antigua. I had my puppies and my boyfriend and a new role at work to begin and people to catch up with and a few events in April I was looking forward to, plus it was about to be low season so I would get to experience Antigua outside of hectic tourist season.

When my airport shuttle hit the cobblestone streets I was genuinely happy to be back home. Town looked bright again, like it did when I first arrived, and my house welcomed me back with comforting arms. But as time moved on I realized that I was not the same person who had left. My trip to San Francisco had messed with me more than I had realized at first, and more than I ever thought it would. Every day I woke up was a coin toss – would I want to live here today or yearn for the place I had just left? I found myself unhappy for no good reason, riding an emotional rollercoaster with no end in sight. I wrote this.

I knew I had to wait it out. There was a reason that I had decided to stay in Antigua, made a life for myself here, decided to get on that plane to come back. Removing myself from the bubble to go back to a life that was familiar, comfortable, loved, was a risk, but it didn’t mean that was the life for me right now. Right now I was here, living as an expat, living out a bartending dream, living with a new family I created here with Brayan, Molly, and Mary. Right now I was doing this. So it was time to really do this.

Spanish classes three times a week. Volunteering at Caoba farms. Going for walks and runs. Creating a perfect work schedule. The uncertainty didn’t go away entirely, but it faded with every day.

I celebrated my birthday in Antigua. I didn’t want to do anything big, 29 is just another year, I’ve had enough birthdays in my 20’s to let this one go by like any other day. Brayan and I went to lunch at a place I’ve always wanted to eat and for a good craft beer. And it isn’t a birthday without stopping at San Simon for a delicious cocktail. And then the day turned into a bar crawl. A friend had invited me to a pop-up DJ show. I walked around with Brayan promoting Ladies Night at Lucky Rabbit. Which of course ended at Lucky Rabbit. Everywhere I went everyone said Happy Birthday. People bought me drinks, gave me hugs, were so happy I came back from the States, and had big smiles as they called me the Birthday Girl. When I got to Lucky they broke out the party hats, free shots, and an embudo in my honor. There’s nothing that makes you feel more welcomed and loved in a new home than everyone you know wanting to celebrate your birthday with you.

I leave for the States again in a month, this time with a one way flight. This is already messing with my head again. Everything was going great and here I am again, unsure about how I feel. People are leaving all around me, should I be one of them? Or will this little reprieve make me happy to return again? Who knows. But for now I’m trying not to focus on that. I’m trying to focus on all the greatness that I did experience here before and after the last round of U.S.-induced emotional turmoil. I’ll let you know how that goes.

My Visit to San Francisco

6 months after I left the U.S. and 4 months after I came to Antigua, I boarded a flight to San Francisco. It was the first time I really removed myself from the bubble I’d been living in, and it was to go back to what I once called home.

Home is a difficult word for me. Is home where I grew up, New Jersey? Is home where I chose to make my life for a while, San Francisco? Is home the place I would go if shit hit the fan, Vermont? Is home where I now pay rent and work, Antigua? None of those really feel right but they also all do at the same time. I declare my status homeless.

Anyway, as I left my new home for my old home, I knew I had a lot to look forward to. I was going back for my sister’s wedding! I’ve been to family weddings and a friend’s wedding but nothing is the same as going to your only sister’s wedding. Not only would I be involved in a variety of stages – from a pre-wedding celebration of Kara (aka a bachelorette party but we’re not really using that word) to a flower market run to hair and make-up the morning of the big day to giving a toast at the reception – but I would also be a part of a family changed. My sister would now have a new first family with her husband and a new branch of the family with his family. I would now have a brother and extended family through him. The Brodgesell’s would now be a fivesome or a trio at holidays.

I wondered how this change would hit me. Would I feel the losing a sister or gaining a brother side more strongly? In truth, I didn’t really feel either. I simply felt happy for my sister. That she has a partner in life, one who I truly believe is right for her and genuinely like, and that they had a celebration of their love. It’s not like things will drastically change, they already live together and share pretty much everything, but we were all able to take a weekend to recognize how wonderful they are together. Isn’t that the point of weddings really? For everyone to be happy together because the couple is so obviously happy that it wafts over everyone like chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven?

Mmm chocolate chip cookies. What’s a girl gotta do to get some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies in Guatemala?

Leading up to the wedding I got to have some great San Francisco time with friends and family. I revisited my old neighborhood and ate all of the food I missed (burritos, sushi, udon, pizza, a legit burger, even a ridiculously expensive kale cesar salad) and drank all of the drinks I missed (IPAs and bourbon). I was fortunate enough to be in town for Easter, a day typically known for its drunken debauchery amongst my friends that was noticeably tamer this year, but at least I got to see friends and then see adults race down a serpentine road in costume on big wheels at the Bring Your Own Big Wheel Race, an event I forever associate with my first weekend living in SF. In between the bigger activities I just hung out with my friends, the real highlight of being back, in the city I love so much.

And then there was the family time. The bonus of being at your sister’s wedding is knowing most of the guests. Family from both sides were in town for the weekend so I got to see everyone on this visit. The longer I’m away the more I truly appreciate spending any time with family, so it was wonderful to see them all this time around.

The wedding itself was beautiful, perfect, seamless, and fitting for Kara and Noah. They looked fantastic. The ceremony was touching and candid. The dinner was tasty and filled with joyous conversation. Then everyone danced until they told us we couldn’t dance anymore. So we went to a bar two blocks away and kept going for a little while longer. Surprise of the night? The dance off between my dad and my sister’s husband. I never expected it and will never forget it, for better or for worse.

All in all, it was a fantastic visit to San Francisco. I couldn’t have wished for anything more. I would be lying if I didn’t admit it made returning to Antigua more difficult than I expected. But I wouldn’t trade my trip for anything, it was magical to be back in my old life for a little bit.

My Unexpected Reaction to Being Back in San Francisco

I approached the Bay Area at perfect sunset timing. The sky was beautiful, and its vivid colors were reflected on the shimmering ocean. I resisted the urge to take out my camera. Just enjoy it, I told myself. San Francisco was welcoming me home with a stunning nature show.

Returning to San Francisco didn’t worry me when I left Antigua. I knew that I had a flight back, that this trip was just a vacation from the life I had begun in Antigua. I mentally prepared myself for the inevitable culture shock – I can flush toilet paper! I can drink the tap water! I can understand everyone around me! – that I had experienced before. I also mentally prepared myself to face the changes that had altered a city I once loved and called my home. A city that, just the day before, I permanently marked on my body in a new tattoo I got with my SF roommate.

I did not mentally prepare myself for wanting to move back. Within the first 24 hours of being back I was riding Andy’s hoverboard (technically it’s called a OneWheel but hoverboard is way more fun) through Crissy Field with the Golden Gate Bridge in front of me. Then we stopped for empanadas before meeting friends at a bar to watch March Madness, where I happily drank a Lagunitas IPA and Chainbreaker White IPA, my two favorite Bay Area beers. More beers and empanadas followed, and my night ended in the bar we’ve affectionately nicknamed “the littlest bar” talking literature with men twice our age. My San Francisco was still here. It wasn’t totally the same, but after two years neither am I. The point is, new me and new SF can still hang out.

Shit.

It hasn’t even been two days, so I’m not saying I will feel this way by the time I get on that return flight. But if it’s only taken this little time to feel at home here again, I fear for what will happen when my entire family comes to town next week. Best friends, all my family, and feeling again like this place is my city soulmate. I’m in for one hell of a trip.

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Moving “The Trip” Into My Past

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.

San Francisco, I Still Love You but I’m Happy I’m Not Moving Back Yet

Going back to San Francisco I had conflicting feelings. When I left I knew that I would return one day to live for a long time. After dreaming about moving there for 15 years and having the best time of my life while I lived there, I had developed the feeling that SF was my place. And then that feeling was confirmed as I saw other cities around the world and still maintained a love for SF. So naturally I was worried that I was setting myself up for trouble. Would I be able to leave once I returned? Or once I set foot back in the city I saw as my place would I want to forsake my plan to continue traveling and settle back into a new version of my old life?

At the same time, I was looking forward to it. I was about to return to my place as my enhanced self, and even better I was about to see all my close friends and family who still lived there. The anticipation was palpable.

Both the worry and excitement stemmed from a strong love for the city. So imagine my surprise when, after just three days, I was ready to get the hell out of there.

It felt so strange to be back. The city still looked like San Francisco but it didn’t feel like it. Something had shifted. I don’t want to repeat the conversation that everyone is having about the gentrification of SF, but suffice it to say that I felt it was no longer the city I had idolized since I was 8 years old. It’s hard to express what exactly it was – I could talk about any of the usual suspects like the unavoidable homeless situation or tech industry dominance – but in the end it comes down to a feeling. In the year I was away, we, San Francisco and I, had grown in different directions.

Being back around talk about rent prices, office life, and IPOs was jarring. There were times I went silent and just observed the conversation around me. It wasn’t just an inability to contribute but a feeling of distance. The subject matter was so vastly different from what I had grown used to and, in all honesty, not something I missed. I had spent a year talking to people who found value in experience not in the workforce, and it’s not that either one is better than the other it’s just a difference of opinion. I had chosen the experience, removed myself from the workforce, and fallen in love with that decision. Now that I was back in that world I could see just how divergent I felt.

I was happy I had planned the trip to wander around Vancouver Island for 6 days. I needed to get out of there, and the first night sitting next to a campfire on a random beach underneath the stars I felt more like myself than I had the whole week. It was a necessary break from the shock of returning.

When I went back to SF the second time I felt much better. This could partially be because the first week back was such a whirlwind of seeing people, trying to say hi to everyone I possibly could while I was in town (something I did to myself and in no way regret), and this time I was much more low key. But I think it also has to do with expectations. I had gotten the initial “this isn’t what I thought it would be like” out of the way and was okay with the fact that I did not want to be there. I was even happy about it; if I had still felt such a strong connection to the city then it would have been much harder to leave again. How things turned out, I have no doubts in my mind about staying away for a couple more years. It made the nomadic choice easier to accept that I thought it would.

Having said all that, I am incredibly happy I went back to San Francisco en route to Vermont. I couldn’t imagine not having seen my SF friends when I returned to the US and I had a fantastic time catching up with them. I was able to celebrate my birthday and my friend’s birthday in the same week with tons of friends at some old favorite places and with food I didn’t even know I’d missed (BBQ and tacos); I got to experience some of the best parts of wedding planning with my sister and her fiance (a catering tasting and dress shopping); I played laser tag in the streets of the Marina to celebrate the big 3-0 with the craziest twins I know (it was as fun as it sounds); and from brunches, lunches, and dinners to late nights at apartments I got to be a part of my friends’ lives again. It was everything I wanted my time in town to be and I thank you all for welcoming me back with open arms.