The Home Experience After a Year

By: leelefever on December 26, 2006 - 8:05pm

I sometimes have to stop and think to myself that this is what it feels like. I mean right now in my life – like the phase I’m currently in, if you know what I mean.  It’s been a progression I suppose and I’m reminded that this phase, the return home, is one to be documented.  Seriously – like many times in the past year, I’m simply not gonna be in this situation often.  Coming home after a year around the world?  That’s a pretty unique place to be in life, so let’s get started.

Josh Berman reminded me to write and sent along a link to his description that involves a bucket of cold water to the face

Exciting, uncomfortable, inspiring, and totally discombobulating. Such is the experience of coming home from the World.


Newley also reminded me about his article about the at-home blues

As I began the process of re-settling – like finding a new apartment and gainful employment – I was overcome with restlessness; I didn't want to re-adjust. I'd managed to pick up and move to South AmericaAsia, yet now I was intimidated by the simple prospect of combing apartment listings and sending out resumes.

My personal experience in coming home has been smooth on the outside and a bit rough on the inside.  We were lucky to come back to our own home and have a couple of weeks to decompress.  Viewed from afar, it would appear quite easy and worry-free – and it was I suppose except for the voices in my head reminding me that the real world is coming – fast.  Am I prepared?  Do I really need to rest right now?  How do you rest?

Right now is a period of limbo before the next big thing and after the last big thing. The trip was something that we viewed as a project with a beginning and end.  By coming home in one piece, we celebrated the successful conclusion of the project.  For now, it is all about the next project, which refocuses attention that might otherwise be diverted to a longing for the road.  We’re in the process of making a clean break, which is how we started the trip.

This, of course, doesn’t preclude us from reverse culture shock. Whether we’ve chosen to recognize it or not, coming home has been a rollercoaster of emotion.  It’s a little like jet lag – you feel something off in your head, but until you connect the feeling to the event, it just seems like a mood swing.  We’ve just recently recognized our symptoms and all the little things that make home so strange.


I have personally had ups and downs in my own confidence or perception of my ideas – a newfound lack of confidence in our big plans for 2007, less confidence in being able to gather up all the balls that so swiftly rolled away in 2006 and less confidence in restarting.  It is like being on the road created a bubble where ideas and plans all sounded so perfect. Home then becomes the place where all the ideas are seen in the context of reality- often a reality that changed in the last year. After a few days on the low end, my confidence is growing again as reality sinks in.

Never have I valued small talk so much.  It gives me great joy to socialize and a big part of that, for me, is humor.  One of the big rules of travel is that jokes don’t travel well and for the most part, I couldn’t interact with strangers on trip in any light and humorous way.  I now value the ability to talk a little smack to someone in line, or with the barista, or with our neighbors.  They understand me and it feels so good to have the confidence that my words mean what I think they mean (most of the time). Fortunately they also understand that I’m illiterate when it comes to US pop culture.

As a short side note- one strange thing I’ve noticed too is that I’m not yet used to Asian people speaking English.  After so long in Asia, my mind made very distinct associations with race and language. 

The most wrenching experience for me was returning to our dog Amos who is 12 years old.  My experience with him has played with my mind more than any other thing.  Amos is not a young dog and his age nearly forced us to delay the trip for a few years.  We decided he would be fine for a year.  As it turned out, the year was not so kind to our beloved dog.  He is showing signs of arthritis and I’m now the guy waiting on his dog to walk through the park. He’s as sweet as ever, but just a different kind of dog.  He doesn’t play.  He doesn’t chase squirrels.  He sleeps a lot.  Thankfully he has recently shown improvement after switching to a new anti-inflammatory (remadyl) and his attitude is less mopey.  Plus, I think he's becoming my dog again.

Seattle greeted us with a set of historical extenuating circumstances. A storm blew through the Northwest within a couple of days of our arrival that made our first week cold, dark and overall very, very weird.  Of the first week at home, we spent the majority of our time in a home with no power or heat as temperatures hovered in the 30s.  80 hours of no power. During this period we chose to stay home as others stayed with friends and family who had power.  We both chalk it up to a little reverse culture shock – we were only ready to be home.  Venturing away from the home that welcomed us did not sound right at the time, so we dealt with the circumstances as they came.   

And in case these points may makes you think otherwise, home is good - very, very good for us right now.  In fact, we both feel liberated by the trip.  Now is a time for us to rebuild, to rethink, to re-imagine.  In a lot of ways, this is a whole new beginning for us both – few times in our life will we have such a perfect time wipe clean the slate, call off the old bets and take a fresh look.  Despite the ups and downs, we’re both convinced it’s all up from here.

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