I have now been home for approximately 24 days. 24 short/long, dark, occasionally very cold days. What’s always hard for me about coming home after time abroad isn’t exactly the sadness that comes from leaving a place, its the gradual readjustment back into life left.
I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book Bloomability
by Sharon Creech, If you haven’t, you should. Stop reading this, go click the link on over to Amazon (make sure its on Amazon smile and you’re donating to VSP
) and buy that book! It’s fantastic.
Anyway, the main character Dinnie has this bubble. A metaphorical bubble that she has with her as she goes, full of her life;
“It was as if I were carrying around all the places I’d ever lived, and nothing I was seeing was just what it was – it was all of the places, all smooshed together. My bubble was fairly bursting by the time I got home, what with all that stuff crammed in there.”
My bubble is also “fairly bursting”, and my experiences too have layers. Oceans overlapping oceans, people reminding me of other people, a constant ebb and flow of memories.
The best was when I reached a space where there were no memories to overlap. The expansion of the bubble to areas I have never been before, things never experienced. The things that changed.
I’ve become confident. I can navigate tiny streets in a manual van with children in the back seat, singing obnoxious pop songs (in English) and refusing to put their seat belts on. I’ve spoken (yelled) in front of classrooms of rowdy kids in Spanish (terrifying), and talked in front of politicians (only slightly more terrifying). I’ve sang and played my ukulele in a bar full of strangers, something I’ve wanted to do for years but was always scared to, big shout out to Hotzi
and Siobhan for helping me accomplish that goal.
I’ve also been humbled. Many times. A lot of the time by 15 year olds, calling me out on my Spanish speaking abilities, my terrible jokes, and constantly challenging me to view the world differently. But also by people who work hard for the people they care for and for the things they believe in, by landscapes, and small kindnesses.
I’ve screamed in absolute joy, swimming naked in the freezing Pacific on a beautiful sunny day.
I’ve cried through terrible sadness, suffering through loss and comforting those around me who had also lost. Separated from loved ones by miles and shitty wifi connections.
I’ve drank countless drinks with friends from places whose names used to just be dots on maps, but have now turned into memories of familiar faces when spoken. Rio de Janeiro,
Germany, Rancagua, Australia, Istanbul.
Coming back to an old place, people that travel have a choice. For me that seems to be whether or not we want to fight to keep our bubble in its new shape, however uncomfortable that might be, in the space we have left for ourselves. Or, conversely, how much we’re willing to give up to fit back in, folding and hiding away new habits. That’s the thing about traveling. Your bubble can be however you want it to be, you have all the space in the world to expand, to be you. No expectations.
Sometimes it’s necessary to view coming home as going to a new place, new customs and bits of life to be re-learned instead of old habits to fall back into; we DON’T kiss people on the cheek to say hello, we DO have central heating (wahoo!!). And though I’m going to adapt to my culture as I would adapt to any other country in which I’m living, I’m not going back to the old dimensions of my bubble. I’ve grown, and changed, and lived, and I can’t be in there comfortably anymore, I’m not the same.
And that’s good.
“Tan absurdo y fugaz es nuestro paso por el mundo, que solo me deja tranquila el saber que he sido auténtica, que he logrado ser lo mas parecido a mi misma que he podido.”// “So absurd and transient is our time in this world, the only thing that leaves me calm is the knowledge that I have managed to be the closest to myself that I can be.”
– Frida Khalo.
Credit for featured photo goes to the beautiful and talented Kelly Bruett!