How does it feel to be back?
That is the question that keeps coming my way…usually the first one upon encountering a familiar face, along with “So, what was your favorite place?”..or even broader, “How was it?”
How does one summarize 14 months of experience and interaction, stretched across 26 countries, but more importantly defined by an endless collage of faces and landscapes, a continuous stream of emotions and moments, and the personal growth that has thrived right along with it? Or how do you assign preference to a country when each one harbors an unparalleled and incomparable part of that experience? As for that last one…oh dear.
However, that first one is an interesting question, one that I have also been asking myself. How does it feel to be back?
Many long-term travelers reference the “reverse culture shock” that hits them upon settling back into their old lives…the drastic mental assimilation after transitioning from sleeping on the cold, barren floor of a host’s bedroom in Manila to losing count of the pillows on your bed; from eating 50 cent noodle soup on a tiny wooden stool on a street corner as waves of Vietnamese motorbikes pass just meters away to sipping on Starbucks in expansive, spotless, air-conditioned spaces; from falling asleep to nearby karaoke music and waking up to the crow of roosters to setting alarms at night and being summoned awake by an unpleasant tone; from living in poverty-stricken areas to being drowned in superfluity at every turn. The list goes on and on, and is unique for everyone.
But one truth prevails, and that is that the nomad and the settled man live worlds apart. And when the latter spends enough time in the former’s world, change is inevitable – values evolve, comfort zones disappear, time becomes irrelevant, human connection and interdependence prosper, and novelty becomes ubiquitous. Needless to say, switching between those two worlds with the acclimation period of a trans-pacific flight can come as a shock.
But how do I feel now that I’m back?
To be honest, I’m not exactly sure. I have returned a changed person to a life very different from the one I left over a year ago, so in a sense it feels “novel.” And considering that my life has consisted of a constantly fluctuating series of novel experiences for the past several months, such a return only seems fitting. But on a more relevant note, it doesn’t feel any different from showing up to a new country. I’m structuring a life for myself that consists of new surroundings, people, pace and routine. Once I fully fall into routine, however, revisiting this question should be interesting.
One thing is certain though, and that is the fact that a 14-month solo backpacking trip around the world makes tackling all other pursuits and obstacles straightforward. So, going from a responsibility-free wanderer to a full time engineering student with a 30+ hour work week and a commute has been surprisingly, and fortuitously, effortless.
As I have time, I hope to continue sharing stories from my trip. There are far too many thoughts, memories, feelings and moments that have yet to be blogged, and apart from providing you, my reader, with more material, these posts will keep my journey and wanderlust alive as I settle into my new life…and plan for the next trip!