One month ago I was in Africa. Three weeks ago I was in Europe. 5 days ago I was in Asia. Now I’m back in the Valley, sitting on my back porch, listening to the waterfall in our pond. It’s weird.
During my 19+ hours in the sky, I had quite a bit of time to think to myself and reflect on the last few weeks of my life. I could not fathom that an entire month had gone by and that I was headed right back to where I had started my journey. By the time I was walking out of Customs and into the waiting area of the airport, everything just seemed surreal. It was a bittersweet moment, to say the least, when I greeted my family with smiles and turned right around to say goodbye to my friends with tears.
We finally tore ourselves away and got in the car. We drove around looking for a place to eat and decided on Applebee’s. Walking in, I was suddenly very conscious of my blue elephant pants, birds-next hair, and bloodshot eyes. Luckily my parents had brought me a set of clean clothes to change into, which helped me to look “normal” but was another bitter moment as I really enjoyed wearing elephant pants (essentially classy sweatpants), and exposing my knees for the first time in a month seemed indecent.
Trying to decide what to order was another ordeal entirely. After not eating meat for close to two weeks, I wasn’t craving it and it didn’t really appeal to me. What I really wanted was fresh fruits and veggies, because we had been eating bread and rice and all other forms of carbs for days. The best part about it was getting to fulfill my sweet tea addiction once again.
Getting home, taking my stuff to my room, taking my first shower in days, and going to sleep in my own room in my own bed was something of a foreign concept to me. I woke up the next day before 7am because I was (and still am) on Sri Lankan time.
Luckily I was meeting a friend for lunch so I got to get out of the house. Before I left, my dad jokingly said “don’t forget how to drive.” I just laughed it off and said I’ll be fine. A few feet from the car I stopped. I could not remember how to get in the car. I just looked at it and had to tell myself that my instincts were right and that I was supposed to get in on the left side (Sri Lankans drive on the opposite side of the road). Even as I was driving, I had to continuously remind myself that I was where I was supposed to be.
Later I decided to turn on my computer. I opened the screen, but everything looked strange and out of proportion. Using it took a while to get used to because it just looked so strange.
Other random things would cause me to second guess myself or reassure myself that I was okay. Walking into rooms and buildings automatically made me feel the need to take my shoes off, which I did several times. In Sri Lanka, many places require you to take your shoes off before entering, as well as all the temples, and the mosques in Morocco.
I’ve been back a few days now, and I am still not fully adjusted. I wake up before 8, which may not seem early, but for a college student home on vacation, trust me, it is. I can’t stay up past 9:30 at night because I’m just so exhausted. I have had no desire to watch TV or movies (again, something common found among college students) and instead only want to read books and look at art (which is in no means a bad thing, as I’ve always enjoyed reading and art).
Driving through town back in the Valley, I realized how insignificant most of the stuff in our lives are. Walking through Lowe’s with my dad solidified that idea as I thought how stupid most of the stuff in that store is. Who really needs thirty-two types of hardware to fasten onto twenty-seven different doors and cabinets? Why are there seventeen brands of paint, each with 500 different colors? It’s stupid. We don’t need all of that. Yes I understand that we typically live on a different scale than that of my Sri Lankan family in the village. But that doesn’t mean that we need to gorge ourselves on useless items to fill our houses inside and out and spent countless hours and dollars on “stuff” or arguments that in the end are simply unimportant. We just don’t need it. Last but not least, why does a 20 oz bottle of water cost $2 in the US when I can buy 8 liters (just over 2 gallons) of water in a different hemisphere, and it will last me for several days? It’s silly.
Certain times I’ll find myself thinking about being in the village in Sri Lanka, or being on the bus driving through the Moroccan countryside. Today in church we sang “Amazing Grace” which I last heard in the village as one of our group’s performances for a Cultural Talent Show. Small things trigger huge memories and send me back, only to be jarred back again to reality, and the fact that I have to go back to work in a few days, and in a few months will be going back to school.
These are good things and necessary things, but at the same time it makes me sad. I loved my trip and every experience I had, the good and the bad, minus the very bad, while I still learned from it. This trip taught me many things and opened my heart and mind to new cultures and lifestyles that I knew nothing about. No doubt did I broaden my horizons and expand my understanding of the world, and for that I’m grateful.
On the second flight back, the one that was 14 tortuous hours long, I didn’t sleep at all. Instead I watched four movies on the little screen on the back of the chair in front of me. One of them was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which I am not even going to begin to explain because while I wasn’t asleep, I certainly wasn’t fully coherent. Watching this movie made me wish I could go on an adventure, thus having me realize I was on my way home from an adventure at that very moment. I realized that my trip only instilled in me an even greater desire to explore. Yes I was coming home from an incredible journey that I was very blessed to go on. Yes I realized that I wanted more. Not in a selfish way or a greedy way. I wouldn’t change one thing about my trip. It was my trip that helped me realize that there is so much out in the world that I have yet to discover, and I want to discover it because it does so much for me.
I became addicted to travel a long time ago. This trip helped me realize why. It’s not because I want to check off another place on my list or count all the stamps in my passport. It’s because I want to meet more amazing people like the ones I was fortunate enough to talk to this past month. It’s because I want to see different, more efficient and simpler ways of living. It’s because I want to be inspired by the cultures of those I came into contact with that I didn’t even realize had existed. It’s because I want to experience all that life has to offer from people of all walks of life.
Now that my rant is over, I am going to look at my pictures and reflect on how fortunate I am to have had all the experiences I did and hope that others will find ways to have similar experiences and ways to challenge themselves and everything they know.
Thanks for putting up with that. I started out talking about adjusting back to life here in the Valley and just got carried away. I will probably continue to post more in the future because I think I have some more interesting stories and things to share that I didn’t get around to while I was actually abroad.