What’s the worst part about travel? Delayed flights or hotel miscommunications? Nope. Grueling hours on a cold train? Being afraid of the water that comes out of the tap? Diarrhea for days? No, no, and no. It’s simple: the worst part of travel is coming home when all the fun has ended. Sure, there may be some measured level of anticipation about getting back to the people you love or some of the routine comforts of the place where you live, but for those of us afflicted {or blessed} with terminal wanderlust, coming home just plain sucks. For me, the longer I am away on my travels, the further into this alternate universe I am pulled. I forget about the anxieties of daily life in the USA. Whether I’m volunteering at a wildlife rescue organization with Spartan living conditions and shared space with 40+ other people, or I’m reveling in a suite at a five star resort on the beach in Indonesia, I forget, for a time, about the place I came from. Dealing with hexed travel or happily soaking in the lifeblood of a new city is all equally wonderful and transformative for me. And I do not miss it, I do not want to return it – it: that “real” world which, after months of other-continental exploration, feels mundane and draining.

The awful realization that my trip is almost over usually hits about a week before my flight back. The best comparison I can make (and it’s not all that great), is that feeling you get when you are nearing the end of a book you can’t put down. You’ve become so involved in this other world of words that finishing up is somewhat panic-inducing. Sure, you want to know how it all ends up, but that means it’s over, and then what? Emptiness. Nothingness. Loss. The cessation of your engrossing, joyous escape. Yes, I’m being hyperbolic, but to necessarily illustrate the point with a feeling we all know. You just don’t want it to be done. Neither do I.

I must applaud myself though, in that I do not let these “trip over!” blues get me down until the end is really nigh. Yes, I may have an evening or two of restless anxiety and heart palpitations (2014 trip). Or I may have an emotional release at the spa (2015 trip, and I’m so apologetic to the poor woman who soothed me through my tears during the pedicure and the facial, and to my cousin who saw me through the rest of the day). Other than these little hiccups, I’m in the zone, and there is a big fat line drawn between where I am and where that plane will take me. I do not let work emails frazzle me, and though I make sure the hotels I choose have WiFi, I am still unplugged – from stress, from frivolous little shit that matters so much day to day, but not at all when I’m away.

I revere the new perspective, the new possibilities unplugging through travel gives me. In so many ways, being away and hitting the reset button on life is essential. I am still in the same world when I’m cruising around Indonesia on a motorbike, or traversing Bangkok on the BTS, or sitting in a Starbuck’s in Sonoma County writing this blog. How I live my life when I’m away in Asia offers me so many lessons for my life in California. Of course so much is different, but it’s also quite the same. “Same Same but Different,” just like they say. It feels like another world, but it’s not, and everywhere I go, there I am anyway. I come back refreshed, a somewhat improved version of myself. I am tan, usually thinner, talking a little bizarrely {you get accustomed to dropping the prepositions after a while}, and for the first five minutes totally befuddled driving my car. Part of my profession is driving people on wine tours, so driving is practically second nature. I adore that which serves to challenge such a basic part of my everyday. I love being reminded that “my normal” is so flimsy, so contingent on place and circumstance; that it can be shaken up and at least temporarily lost by a few months elsewhere. I love meeting ex-pats who have no idea who Katy Perry is and associate North West only with a direction, no people. Maybe these travels, getting longer every year, are baby steps to the big unplug.

But that’s a different animal, isn’t it? Putting down roots for the long haul in some other country is different than traveling for long periods of time. I am so fortunate to be able to travel as much as I do. I live a life and am involved in a profession that is very conducive to my wanderlust. For this, this life at home which I was just bashing and panicking about returning to, I am blessed and grateful. Without this life, I would have no point of reference for the amazing parts of the globe I visit, the new cultures I encounter, the delicious foods I get to eat, the beautiful people I meet and come to love. I couldn’t savor any of it the same way if I didn’t come from this set of random circumstances that led to me being me, and I struggle to describe how much I truly savor it. But even with my gratitude, me being me and all, the worst part of travel is still coming home. Love-hate, the grass is always greener, can’t appreciate the light without the dark – yes, all the tropes apply, and I know it. Doesn’t change coming home sucking. The bright spots? Well-Travel by planeknown medicine for all of those suffering post-holiday depression is the obvious: planning the next one. And in my lucky case, planning the next ones of others’ as well.

2 thoughts on “On Coming Home

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