Return To So Called Normal

29.May 2010

Settling In

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!

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10 Responses to “Return To So Called Normal”

  1. Keith Says:

    Hey thanks for the mention! Glad that you are somewhat getting back into the swing of things and setting goals and making plans for the next stage in your lives! We leave for Australia tomorrow and feel that this is a major turning point in the trip. You mention feeling that there is no one around. We realized while reading our Lonely Planet East Coast Australia the other day that the entire population of Australia, a country as big as the Continental US, is the same as Shanghai – one city in China! We are preparing for things we have not had in 8 months, driving, English, and empty space.

    Keep up with the posts!

  2. Amy Says:

    Yay! I love hearing updates once travelers return home. So many blogs just end abruptly. In the beginning, I jumped ahead to the end many times, trying to assure myself that people can take a trip like this and live to tell the tale!

    Good luck with your continuing adjustment. Are you returning to your previous job, or something new? Keep us all updated with how everything goes!

  3. Nathan Shipley Says:

    This is a really interesting read. I am super guilty of not finishing my blog out. There was a suggestion that my last post wasn’t my last post, but that was over a year ago now. (wow. It’s been that long?) I haven’t even managed to do a “best of” posts list for people that stumble across my blog now, which I’ve been meaning to do as well.

    I’ve maybe also felt like the goings on at home aren’t as interesting as being in other countries, so I haven’t written about them. But, honestly, that’s not really true. I got back to Indiana, went to Puerto Rico for a couple weeks where swimming in a bio-luminescent bay is possibly the coolest nature thing I’ve done in my life, drove out west via Colorado and New Mexico, and ultimately have moved to San Francisco about 10 months ago. I guess I got home and didn’t stop moving until I got to SF.

    For me, I guess I didn’t really end up feeling like anything was too off or out of place when I was back. The trip was over, I kinda kept on keeping on, spending time with friends, and having fun. Perhaps I feel a vague greater sense of worldliness now, and I certainly tell the occasional random stories from my trip to people (It’s nice to be able to say, “I pretended to be a dentist in Peru.”)

    San Francisco is actually a pretty good place to go live in after a year of traveling RTW – especially compared to Indiana – it’s busy, international, lots of events, a good quotient of kooks, etc. If I had stayed in Indiana I might be freaking out right now, but I’m living in a more Hispanic neighborhood in SF proper so it’s a little like living in South America somewhere except I don’t have to worry about a work visa. And people still pee on the streets.

    I’ve found myself taking a lot more little weekend trips since I’ve been home for a year – even after settling in to SF. It’s still an exciting feeling when the plane takes off even if I’m only going to be in a different city for a couple days instead of months. And I’ve got a big (relatively, for someone working 9-5) two-month trip planned for July/August to go to Colombia, Brazil, India, and maybe Istanbul. I can say that it’s hard to think about “planning” a 2 month trip when I’m now used to my international travel having no determined end date. I find myself thinking, “What? Only three weeks in Brazil with a hard date where I have to leave? What if I really like it and want to stay?”

    Thanks for posting. I’ve kept with you guys the whole way. Maybe I should try to wrap up my blog… Naw – not tonight – I’m gonna go get beers with friends. :)

  4. Nathan Shipley Says:

    Oh wow. Yikes. I did not realize how long that comment was until I just posted it. Would have made a better email, I think. I must feel obligated to give you an update since you guys were good about reading my blog and I never finished it. Apologies for publicly rambling!

  5. Asa Says:

    Thanks so much for keeping us updated! I too love end-of-trip tales. In my opinion, coming home from a trip is every bit as interesting as setting off. We’re 10 days from landing back in the USA and are nervous/excited. We’ll definitely be posting about our return…

  6. ayngelina Says:

    Liz is a “real world” friend of mine and I can tell you she’s in Egypt right now and planning to head to the UK to stay with Adrian’s parents for a while. I’ve spoken to her a few times on Facebook and I’m not sure if she’ll catch up on the blog or if she abandoned it completely, which would be a shame because she had no many great stories to tell.

    As I’m traveling a similar path one year after her I always check to see what she did in each city to decide what to do.

  7. Jodi Says:

    I’m glad you’re writing about your return. I think you’ll say what I haven’t yet managed to sum up into words, but I was nodding my head all along in agreement. And, LOL about the clothes … A year later and we’re still wearing the same things. Just this week I caught Chris wearing his khaki shorts and icebreaker tee; I told him it was perhaps time we went clothes shopping. But, we find ourselves struggling with the balance of not wanting to return to consumerism and being practical. We still haven’t meshed our lives. Perhaps, we’ll go thrift shopping instead. ;-) Looking fwd as always to your posts while you assimilate.

  8. Gareth Livingstone Says:

    Its great reading about your “re-entry” and I’m glad to hear that you will be continually updating the blog in the future. Like you, I also feel connected to the blogs that I follow and also suffer an odd sense of wonder (or even loss) when a journey comes to an end or the updates stop. This fact reminds me that I need to keep my own blog up to date. It’s fallen behind lately because I have paused temporarily to teach English in Saigon. I guess after moving around so much, I feel that I have little to report now that I am in one place for more than a week. I know that’s not true, because I still have new experiences every day, so I really need to get back to the blogging again.

    I look forward to reading more posts as always.

  9. Eva & Jeremy Rees Says:

    Glad you have time to decompress before returning to work! I’m glad we didn’t rush back into everyday life. I feel very passionate about my goals now, and spend a lot of time putting concrete plans into our future calendars for how to sanely tackle personal projects. It’s interesting that this trip has resulted in us being more driven on that front.

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