30 Jun

Settled…But Not

I had always said that, although a year seemed like a long time to be away, a year would pass anyway whether we did it or not. Now people see me and exclaim how quickly it seems to have gone by. Quickly indeed. We’ve been back home for more than a month now and we are settled in. Our routines have re-established themselves and that big, long year seems like just the blink of an eye.

It is almost two years since we tipped our hand to family and friends letting them know of our, until then, secret plan to put our jobs on hold, sell our house and car, and travel the world for a year. As I think about it, I can feel again the anxiety and nervousness I felt then…unsure of how people would react, scared that no-one would approve, worried that we wouldn’t be strong enough to see it through.

What a difference two years can make. I now feel strangely confident, strong and powerful…like I can do anything. I think success does that to a person – it finds a hole in self doubt and instead instills a sense of power. I’m slowly realizing what I might be capable of and, although it scares me, I am excited by the possibilities.

I have felt a mix of emotions in the past two (and a bit) weeks. Contentment, excitement, sadness, optimism, pride. I feel settled…and unsettled. I seem to be more emotional now than I was before. I was sitting at my desk one day listening to all that was going on around me and suddenly I felt like crying. There didn’t seem to be any reason for my sudden sensitivity – I wasn’t thinking about travel, or being home, or anything really – I just suddenly welled up with tears. I find myself on the verge of tears more often now than I did before. TV commercials, magazine articles, news stories…all seem to affect me, it’s weird.

I don’t think it’s because I’m sad the trip is over – I was ready to come home when we did. Maybe I’m sad that the adventure is over. Every day was different while traveling and new challenges were constantly presented. The tasks, such as getting dinner or finding a room, may have repeated themselves but the logistics around them were always different – we were always in a new city and often didn’t speak the language. Every day was an adventure and that is not the case any longer.

And so I feel settled…and yet not settled all at the same time.



The Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) got it start in early 2009 as a place for travel bloggers and writers to meet and support each other. There are now almost 3000 members sharing their stories, experiences, photos and blog addresses. It’s a great place to get answers to all kinds of travel, writing and blogging questions and to join groups with wide and varied interests.

This weekend the 2nd annual TBEX conference was held in New York City. I didn’t attend this year…but maybe one year I will be able to. It would be a great opportunity to connect up with follow bloggers, hear talks given by more successful bloggers, and generally mix and mingle with people who do amazing things.

P1110323 We held our own Mini TBEX conference this weekend in Victoria. Granted, it was small with only OneGiantStep, ForksAndJets and ProjectRunaway in attendance but we had a wonderful time sampling local beer, eating fabulous food and laughing the weekend away. We and Lisa (from ProjectRunaway) live here and were happy to host Jeremy and Eva. They were on their Home Is Where The Hops Are tour and we did our best to showcase our local beer culture while still trying to preserve our livers. It was great to meet people that we have been following on line, talk about travel and places we have all visited, and discuss what it’s like to come home. I’m sure the NYC TBEX was this, and more, on a much grander scale…but we did pretty okay.

12 Jun

The Long, Long Weekend

P1110115 I returned to work this week. Admittedly, it’s been a slacker week – my supervisor and co-workers are fabulous and are easing me back into the reality they have been living while I’ve been gallivanting around the world. It felt, however, like I was just away for a long, long weekend.

I went to a meeting where a woman, who I had worked with often previously, kept glancing at me with a puzzled look. I could tell that she knew something was up but couldn’t put her finger on it. It wasn’t until someone else welcomed me back that she clued in to the fact that she had not seem me in over a year.

At first I felt like a little baby who knows nothing. I looked through documents and listened to conversations and was impressed by all the stuff I used to know. I knew a lot of stuff and had a tremendous amount of information available at the fingertips of my brain…I was smart!! It’s amazing how quickly one set of information can be usurped by another – how all the things I know about traveling will soon be supplanted by work again…I will be indoctrinated.

As the week wore on more and more of my memory returned and I found I could easily retrieve even small details from meetings and decisions made long ago. Next week it’s likely I’ll be expected to be a contributing member of the team again…I think I’m up to it.


People have been asking how we are adjusting to being back home. It’s hard to answer without somehow feeling as though I am questioning the Great North American Ideal. I’m discombobulated by how un-discombobulated I am…how ‘the same’ everything is…work, shopping, working out, life…it’s all the same…like slipping on an old sock…like we’ve just been away for a long, long weekend. I’m bored with it and we’ve only been back a few weeks…how do I tell someone that? And what do I do about it? I don’t have the answer…yet, but know that I am not trying to be insulting; I’m just trying to figure it all out.


I’m finding some aspects of daily life annoying. I am particularly annoyed by advertising, especially for those products that are trumpeted as must-haves if we are ever going to live a life of adventure, beauty or comfort. Wrinkle cream ads, home decorating magazines, Oprah…I seem to have no patience for anyone telling me that if-I-just-did-this or if-I-just-had-that I would be so much better off. I feel stripped down to the basics and, so far, I like it. I wonder if we wouldn’t all feel so much better about our lives if we weren’t constantly inundated with messages that tell us how much better it could all be ‘if only’.


I’m trying to watch less TV than I did before we went away. Not for any high-and-mighty righteous reason other than I find that it can easily suck a lot of my time. I’m a natural procrastinator and, although I have embraced that fact in the last few years, I also don’t want to feed the procrastination addiction. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of other ways to procrastinate and I think I’m creating new ones every day – but TV was a particularly bad one for me and so less is better.

There is plenty to do to keep me busy.

  • For one, there seems to be an expectation that I show up at work every day – that severely limits the time I have for other interests.

  • We read a lot while away and I would like to continue reading – not only novels but also non-fiction books and websites that challenge how I think and keep me moving forward.

  • Although I edited my pictures as we went and posted them on Flickr, I would like to do some kind of electronic scrapbook that I could have printed as a physical memento of our travels. I made a scrapbook of our Greece trip in 2004 and we often look through it to ‘remember when’. There are plenty of options available out there and I think I’ve narrowed it down to one that is a)free, and b)gives me some good editing options. I don’t need too many doodads and thing-a-ma-hickeys – just some photo collaging, interesting backgrounds and an ability to add stories. It’ll be a fun project and so, obviously, gets to the top of the to-do list pretty quickly and becomes a procrastination tool in its own right.

  • This American Life. I was turned on to this most interesting series by Dirk of MyMindsInk and have him to thank for relieving the boredom of many a long bus ride over the past year. The tales told are diverse, interesting, and entertaining. I’ve learned a lot about a variety of subjects and have had my interest piqued about many more. I want to keep listening to them but, while it was okay to listen to them while staring out a bus window for an hour, it feels funny to just sit on the couch listening and I find that I really can’t be doing anything else and pay attention to the storyline. Maybe I’ll listen while gardening or cooking or doing some other non-brain needing activity.

  • I’d like to keep OneGiantStep going and have some thoughts of a site redesign. That would mean re-learning how to do that and then actually doing it. I really enjoyed setting it up the first time though and think it will be fun again. I have some ideas of where I see it going but need to work further on the goals and vision around it. On that note, if anyone has any ideas, thoughts or suggestions regarding the site feel free to let me know. Tell me what you like, what you don’t and/or what you would see change or stay the same.

The return home continues to be an interesting ride. In some ways more interesting than the trip itsself – I think because travel challenged what I didn’t know about myself and coming home is challenging what I thought I knew about myself. I’ll keep you posted.

29 May

Return To So Called Normal

Welcome Home One of the things that I like reading on a travel blog are the updates people write once they get home. I think that coming home is as much a part of the journey as the planning and the traveling was and I like hearing how people adjust back into their ‘normal’ lives.

It seems to be about half and half as to whether a blog will post back-at-home updates or not. Some travel blogs don’t even make it to the end of the journey, petering out and leaving me hanging as to what’s happening. I understand, of course, that blogging while traveling can be difficult but I feel connected to these people somehow and I want to know how they are doing and so, even though I have subscribed to their RSS feeds, I continually check their sites to ensure I haven’t missed an update (I’m talking to you RunningTowards and WhereAreLizAndAdrian).

I have always planned on writing post-trip updates and, although it seems mundane to write about my normal life now, it will make me really reflect on how I’m feeling as we settle in and the trip becomes more memory than reality. I think what I’ll do is intersperse back-at-home updates with some other trip related posts that I still have in mind (gear reviews, budget wrap up etc) – that’ll be a good mix of how-is-Gillian-feeling vs end-of-the-trip tales…and Paula and Diane W can stop worrying that there won’t be any more posts. ;-)

We’ve been back in Canada for 3 weeks already and our reactions have been mixed. The first two weeks were buffered by visiting with family where we had a chance to catch up, meet new members of the family (hi Matt and Karen!), eat all our favorites (thanks Ma and Mom!), and slowly adjust to being back in North American culture.

And so we are ‘home’ now and have been for just over a week. It’s not really ‘home’ though as we are in a furnished apartment and are, once again, surrounded by stuff that’s not ours and are fumbling around much like we have for the past year. The neighborhood is familiar though and we have wandered around checking out what’s new and different and what is the same…and that’s where it starts to get weird.

Where Is Everybody There is nobody around. We are in a supremely walkable neighborhood with wide sidewalks, grassy boulevards, and close by amenities and yet the streets are devoid of people. I didn’t realize how much I had gotten used to being around people all the time. Almost everywhere we’ve been people live very public lives – the climate allows them to be outside all the time, the living density means that everything is out in the open, markets and shops are on or open to the street…even driving is public in many places as everyone is on a scooter and not encased in a metal casing. Granted the weather here has not been the best since we returned but that does not entirely explain the dearth of people – we just don’t live like that here and I’m going to have to get used to it again.

I expected that as soon as we got home again that I’d be all over nesting and being ‘homey’ but I seem to be fighting it. We only had about 7 boxes to unpack and it took us four days to do it – I didn’t even unpack my backpack until yesterday. I am a natural procrastinator but I don’t know why I’m being so resistant. I was excited to be coming home and was looking forward to staying in one place for more than 2 or 3 nights in a row but now I feel disconnected, frustrated and unfocused for some reason.

We have solved part of the problem. It seemed that we had tons of ideas and plans floating around in our heads but hadn’t put any framework around all of it and so we were feeling like we were floundering a bit. One of the things we learned on the road (thanks to our new friends Keith and Amy from GreenAroundTheGlobe) is the value of setting goals and objectives. I know this is old hat to many, many people but it is not something that we had employed. Chatting with them over a couple of days (that seem so long ago now), we realized that we were missing out on the power of forward planning. So yesterday we sat down and put all of our thoughts and ideas and to-do’s down on paper and, where possible, attached a goal date for each. This helped to organize our thoughts, checked that we were both on the same page, and ensured that the harder tasks do not get procrastinated away in favor  of more fun tasks.

A Warmland Welcome Home Re-connecting with friends and catching up has been tons of fun. Having the blog as a reference has been great as people have some idea of what the last year has been like for us. They ask questions about our stories giving us a chance to add in details and tell tales that didn’t make it into the blog posts. It’s funny though…we’re not ‘talkers’ per se and it’s hard to know how much people are really interested in. I don’t want to be blathering on and on and see someone’s eyes glaze over, but I also don’t want to stop short and give the impression that I’m not interested in talking about it either. I’m working on the premise that people want to hear about it…having friends return from long (or short) term trips I was always hesitant to ask too many questions or I thought my questions might be silly…now I’m on the other side and I’m saying ask all the questions you want – I’m eager tell my stories and to hear about what other peoples experiences are.

There are a few other oddities about being home:

  • We aren’t cooking like I thought we would. Maybe it’s because we’re used to just going out for every meal, or that the kitchen (and it’s stuff) isn’t ours, or we’re just out of practice – either way we’ll have to get back at it, we may both have a bit of weight to lose but we still have to eat!
  • I’m sleeping really well. I’ve slept right through every night since being home – that was a rarity for me while on the road. No barking dogs, no scooter noise, no roosters, and no thin walls with close neighbors means no need for earplugs and the nice soft bed and fresh linens means a nice comfy sleep.
  • I know I joked last week about wearing the same clothes over and over again but it’s turning out to be true! Two reasons…it’s what I’m used to and so donning the same clothes as yesterday just happens, and because my old clothes don’t quite fit yet (need to hit bootcamp a few more times). I have been shopping a little though so although it may be the same few outfits, they’re not the same outfits I wore on the road.

It’s interesting being home. Just like being on the road it’s not quite what I expected and my emotions seem to be all over the place. It’s all part of the journey though and I just take it all in and figure it out as I go. I don’t start work for another week…that’ll be a whole other adjustment!

22 May


Looking Toward Home We’ve been back in Canada for two weeks now and, in many ways, our year away already seems like a distant dream. It’s amazing how quickly comfort and familiarity ingrain themselves again. We are enjoying being surrounded by culture we know and understand, are loving catching up with family and friends, and are happily getting back to our regular activities.

But, some days, it seems as though our re-entry into society is delayed…we keep regressing into on-the-road behavior.

  • We want to take our clothes out of the dresser everyday…just to put them back in again.
  • I still think about washing my panties in the sink every couple of days because I forget that I now have enough to last longer than a week.
  • When I open my closet I gravitate to the same three outfits even though I now have a full wardrobe again.
  • I find myself constantly stuffing toilet paper into my pockets in case the next pee break doesn’t have toilet paper.
  • I still hoard plastic bags and napkins…never know when I might need them.
  • We keep wanting to check out the Lonely Planet Canada to plan what to do/where to go the next day.
  • In a public washroom I check the stall first to make sure it’s not a squat…and then I check the seat to make sure that no-one has stood on the seat to use it as a squat.
  • When we go out for dinner we just about choke when the bill comes because we lived for 2 days on that in Vietnam/Bali/Thailand.
  • When walking past fences and walls I hold my breath to avoid the disgusting stink of it being used as a urinal.
  • I have to resist the urge to introduce myself to perfect strangers  explaining where I am from, how long I’ll be here, where I’ve been etc and then ask them for their favorite places and recommendations.
  • We still write every purchase or expense in ‘the book’ to keep track of all the money…seriously…but that is a good habit to keep and we plan on continuing. Never hurts to know where all the money goes.

I’m sure, soon enough, these habits will fade away. Until then they are quirky reminders of the time we spent away.