Returning home after a long trip is bittersweet and, for me, is often accompanied by a mixed bag of emotions. The familiarity of home is comforting after being overwhelmed by so much newness, but it comes with a kind of reverse culture shock.
After weeks of being on the road, my bathroom seems nothing short of luxurious with its beautiful tiles and endless rolls of quilted toilet paper (let’s not forget the paper shortage in Siberia!). I take the longest, most wonderful shower and use every beauty product I own. I blow-dry my hair for the first time in a month and – good god – I’m GORGEOUS!
A sign in the train station promises the train will arrive in 1 minute. Guess what?! It does! It arrives in 1 minute! I’m positively delighted by the modern efficiency of the world around me. From bougie yoga classes to designer salads, I revel in the wonder that is America.
But then… something happens. Suddenly, things seem a little too familiar. My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with people holding up paper beards to their faces. Initially perplexed, I soon realize the cultural reference refers to the Red Sox being in the World Series – another event I missed while away. Ugh. The Red Sox. Again. Every year with the Red Sox…. How am I supposed to get excited about this same team every year for the rest of my life?!
And then there’s work… everyone is still talking about the same projects they were talking about when I left. I can physically feel something inside of me change – it’s as if the part of my brain that has been emotionally and intellectually stimulated for the past month is powering down into some kind of energy-saving mode. Cruise control: engage.
Did you have fun?
After any kind of big adventure, I’m always met with lots of enthusiastic inquiries about my travels. My friends, my family, my coworkers – everyone wants to know about my crazy trip to Siberia. Or, at least, they say they want to know about it. As I excitedly babble about the trains, the landscapes, and the current political climates in the countries I’ve visited, I can see their eyes begin to glaze over.
“But… did you have fun?” they ask, confused.
Did you have fun? This question is the close cousin of the aforementioned, “What if something happens?”
I sigh. “Yes. I had fun.” They smile. Discussion over.
Now, of course I had fun! I guess there’s just something disappointing about reducing the host of new perspectives and personalities of the past month to a puny, frivolous word like “fun.” It doesn’t do the journey justice!
It is worth noting, however, that my disappointment is totally typical and my fellow travelers will undoubtedly understand. There is an interesting article in New York Magazine about this very topic called Proof No One Cares About Your Awesome Vacation. It turns out my quest to travel and understand the human experience actually makes me less relatable – at least to all of the Bostonians here rooting for the Red Sox. How bout them apples?
This makes me especially thankful for you, dear Reader. Thank you for allowing me to share my stories and musings with you while on this very special trip. It seems lame to sign off with a quote, but there is a snippet from Mernissi that repeatedly comes to mind in my travels – it suggests that we are drawn to faraway lands to observe foreign ways, so we can get closer to the strangeness within ourselves. Isn’t that an interesting idea?