Nov 15, 2008
We’ve been back in the States for a little over two months now. As soon as we touched down in Nashville, we were caught up in a whirlwind of welcome-back parties, attempts to eat all of the favorite foods we’d missed for a year, time spent catching up with loved ones and dizzying trips through Target, where Shanna, in particular, marveled at the sheer quantity of products that were now available to her. And then, once again, we packed our bags and left the familiar–Nashville–for the unknown–new lives in Washington, DC.
We’ve stayed in touch with quite a few of the other long-term travelers we met on the road, and they had lots of advice for us as we made the transition back into “real life.” As it turned out, pretty much everything they warned us about turned out to be true. They cautioned us that very few people would be interested in stories about our trip, and that some would not even question us about it. This wasn’t at all true for us in the first couple weeks, when we were catching up with those who know us well and followed along with this blog, but we’re finding now that the vast majority of the new people we meet don’t seem to be very curious about our travels at all.
More often than not, any mention of our travels is met with blank stares. People here are less likely to have traveled themselves and, therefore, less likely to ask about it–the same way that we’d probably be reluctant to inquire about something that we don’t understand very well. (Derek runs into a fashion designer. Silence ensues…). This is a big change from life on the road, where everyone was genuinely interested in our adventures, most likely because they were traveling themselves and, like us, wanted suggestions about where to head next. On the road, the first questions people ask each other after they exchange names are “Where have you been?” and “Where are you going?” Here, it’s virtually always “What do you do?” During our year on the road, we heard the “What do you do?” question literally less than five times. That’s a big adjustment.
Our fellow long-term travelers also warned us that we’d miss each other once we were no longer spending every minute together. And we do. After 366 days of almost no alone time, we now have it in spades. Shanna’s new job often keeps her at the office fairly late, so we sometimes only get to see each other for an hour or two before it’s time for bed. That’s a huge change, and one we’re having trouble getting used to.
In better news, though, we’ve enjoyed many of the perks of a more settled life. It’s nice to wake up in the same place every morning and to always know where the bathroom is. It’s great to have food in the refrigerator so we don’t have to eat out all of the time and to be back in a familiar culture, where we rarely have to worry about whether we’ve just unintentionally but seriously offended someone. It’s good to have an address and a phone number and the feeling that we’re starting to build a life here.
And parts of our new life reflect things we learned from the trip. We’re far more likely now to seek out adventure, and we’ve already taken a couple of quick trips outside of the city. (A couple of weeks ago, we spent a day on the Chesapeake Bay, devouring (and we DO mean devouring–we have the Old Bay-stained shirts to prove it…) piles of delicious Maryland blue crabs.) More than anything, our travels have provided us with invaluable perspective on life. We recognize and are deeply grateful for the amazingly blessed life we have here in the USA and know that we are capable of overcoming virtually any challenge that presents itself.
From time to time, we’ll ask each other this question: “Someone offers you the chance to leave tomorrow morning and do the whole trip again. Do you take it?” We’re split on that decision. We’ll leave it to you to figure out who’s ready to grab a backpack and head out the door.