Last Tuesday, I stepped off the plane, made it through US customs surprisingly fast, collected all 120+ pounds of luggage, and immediately walked into a cluster f*ck of people at JFK airport. Everyone was speaking very quickly and I could understand what everyone was saying, which was overwhelming even though it's my first language. I didn't know which conversation to listen to or why almost everyone was carrying carts of at least 5 suitcases. I stepped off to the side to avoid the children that were running in every direction to wait for my mom, who arrived a few minutes later. I had been gone for just over 5 months but no matter how much time goes by, it always feels as though I saw her yesterday. But that's how it's supposed to feel, right?
We drove through the horrible but unsurprising traffic through Jamaica and Queens to reach the oh-so familiar I-95 to get back home to Southport, Connecticut. My mom asked me all the right questions that anyone who just got back from months abroad would be ecstatic to answer but wasn't overbearing, either. We finally made it home and I was greeted by my favorite hello and hardest goodbye; Cooper, my 10-year old golden retriever.
As many people have said before, the hardest yet best part about going home is that it doesn't change. My parents are starting to think seriously about moving back to Toronto by the end of 2015, but that's still a ways away. Cooper's eyesight is failing more than ever but he's still the same fluffy, banana-obsessed, loving dog that I've always known.
This article perfectly summarizes exactly what I just said and what I'm feeling. It's a good read for anyone who has just returned from a long trip or an extended stay somewhere else. It doesn't even have to be a foreign country or maybe not even a different state, but a different place that aids self-growth, helps you meet your goals, or realize your dreams. From the article:
"You feel angry. You feel lost. You have moments where you feel like it wasn’t worth it because nothing has changed but then you feel like it’s the only thing you’ve done that is important because it changed everything. What is the solution to this side of traveling? It’s like learning a foreign language that no one around you speaks so there is no way to communicate to them how you really feel.
This is why once you’ve traveled for the first time all you want to do is leave again. They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited."
I just purchased a flight to San Francisco in October to visit Chris over reading week and help feed that travel bug. He speaks the same language as me, both literally and in the sense that he feels the same feelings as I do plus more after being abroad for a whole year.
We had a wonderful few days together back on this side of the pond. Having him here for those first few days definitely helped the process of easing back into life here. I even got to play tourist in New York City again, which is always fun to do. It's easy to forget about all that the city has to offer and why it's so special.
Since I dropped off Chris at the airport yesterday to return to California, it's felt like the experience is actually over. Everything has finally sunk in, but at least reality sort of eased its way in and didn't hit me full-force. I'm going to work for the same photographer I've helped for over 4 years tomorrow. It's work, but I love it, and I'm not dreading it all. He is my role model and I actually can't wait to see him tomorrow.
"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place. Like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again."
- Azar Nafisi (also from Alison Clarke's blog who studied in Stuttgart 2 years ago)