The journey continues even in the return, and my homecoming is quite epic.
After seven months of Southeast Asian hostel beds (and sometimes more questionable sleeping arrangements), I’d lost the art that is a good night’s sleep. So being cuddled in my dearest friend Alli’s dreamy comfort cloud that is a bed in LA is therapeutic, as are our quaint neighborhood walks, coffee shop dates, Target runs, and those deep, honest talks that two best friends get lost in.
The shenanigans begin when I reunite with my bestie Gabi. One moment, we’re in LA sitting on a couch in Costco, cradling handles of booze, and searching last-minute hotel rooms in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hours later, we are on the Strip, clubbing ‘til close.
The rest of the weekend is full of chaotic good: friends from home flood in, and we celebrate both the bachelor and bachelorette parties of our beloved bride and groom. Sleepless nights, wigs and drag shows, lots of hugs and catching-ups, and a special shout out to ExtraJoss from Indonesia for fueling my weekend.
A week later, I find myself again in Vegas in celebration of my little sister’s 21st birthday. Between the clubbing, fancy dinners, lack of sleep, and quality of drink, there’s not much of a difference in how 21-year-olds and 25-year-olds do Vegas. It’s all debauchery.
After, I hibernate, allowing the process of returning to settle in. This part of the adventure is less spoken of, the part where we re-meet ourselves. Those who leave home and return with stories of adventure and exploration can agree: though there is comfort in being home, there is also contrast. We don’t lie when we say that travel changes you. How can it not?
From a homely routine, a traveler ventures to a land of strangers with strange customs and strange accents. Soon, however, our traveler realizes that she is the stranger, the one from a strange land with strange customs. She, who watches as people pray at all hours of the day, or is hushed when she asks too loudly about politics, or admires how a people prioritize respect for elders and ancient traditions, or is perplexed by the paradox of intense driving chaos but far less road-rage. She begins to understand her own country’s identity within hers and in contrast to the cultural characteristics of others’.
Grand exposure to the infinite ways humans do life yields compassion to our intrinsic, yet diverse passions and struggles, desires and fears, values and dogmas. Universal values shine through the contrasts, and our traveler begins to understand her own identity a little bit more.
I travel, and I return home with stories of adventure and exploration, finding comfort even in the contrast. The self that left meets the returned self, re-characterized by unexpected experiences and expanded perspectives, and there is integration. Home is an in-your-face, in-your-space reckoning of our souvenir-selves, or all the pieces that we create space for along the way and all the parts that were shed somewhere far from home.
I realize that there has been an energetic shift. It shows up in how I show up in life. My nervous system has become adaptable and attuned. In spaces where I may have felt insecure, I meet security. In the places I may have felt stress, I am at ease. Triggered less. More accepting of mess. A deeper belief that no matter where I am, the world takes care of me. In complement to this, a sense of confidence that I can take care of myself.
Travel has the power to catalyze change in our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical evolution. Being back home is the adventure of navigating how to integrate all that has shifted. Shape-shifters, are the travelers.
I am in Tucson and I meet a friend at a diner for lunch. Re-entry, as she terms the return home, is usually complicated and tense. It can get uncomfortable, feel stagnant, and it’s only a few times out of the many that it may be graceful and easy.
This re-entry has been one of the few. I am at peace here at home. Not to say there’s a lack of chaos and discomfort, which are inevitable in change. But my expectation and acceptance of these inevitabilities eased the process of my return home. It’s created space for things to get a little weird, for the contractions and contrasts. And that lesson, now integrated since being home, was somehow somewhere picked up during my time in Southeast Asia as one of the souvenirs I hold dear. Being here feels good.
Maybe it helps that I have a summer trip coming up. End of June I will be venturing back to Europe for a couple of months to adventure and visit with friends, work on my writing, practice yoga, and enjoy this nomadic lifestyle I’ve claimed. Slow down. Be in peace, in ease. Integrate. And change, inevitably.