On the way home from the airport, I watched many familiar roads and buildings out of the window. Smiles spread across my face when I see them. I felt that I haven’t seen my family for a few weeks, not a year.
A feeling was surreal when I walked into my home. I felt that I was in my dream and expecting that scenery to fade and wake from it but it wasn’t a dream. I walked into my room, and everything was almost exactly the way I left it. My closet was a mess after shuffling everything inside before I left home. Old reminder notes of what to pack were left on the table. Abandoned items that I had changed my mind to pack were still on sitting on my table. Am I dreaming? Am I really here? Didn’t I just left few days ago? Did I really just finish a long-term travel?
My dogs! I ran outside to my backyard, thinking back how many times I’ve been anxious since I left home. I feared that my kisses goodbye a year ago would be my last time I’d see them, especially the oldest dog, Pexie. Pexie is now barely 17 years old. For the past year, I feared that one day I would get the message, that Pexie has passed…and that I wasn’t there at her last moment. I ran outside, really thrilled to see her with certain reminders kept in mind.
Pexie, a beagle-daschund mix was walking with a little limp due to arthritis. Her eyes became cloudier than I have last seen her. She also became deafer (like me). I blow lightly on her face to tell her that it’s me; she looked at me through her clouded eyes but I could tell that she didn’t really recognize me.
“Your scent changed,” my brother said. “I don’t know why, but when I hugged you, your scent is completely different now. So maybe that’s why she couldn’t tell with her only sense left.” I knew this was the possibility which why I had certain reminders kept in mind. Yet, my heart broke. My heart didn’t break because she didn’t recognize me. My heart broke because I know her time will be near soon. My other dog, who is 15 years old, recognized me but was confused with my scent.
I never thought how traveling can really change scent.
but she soon realized that it was me when I showered her with affection with the same habits: kisses on her snout, a light blow to her face and tapping her shoulder to give me her paw. I also found myself smiling seeing the same employees at the local boba milk tea cafe that I frequently went to. I can read her facial expression. Eyes widen, eyebrows arched higher, she was surprised to see me. “Do you remember me?” I show her the question on my phone. She smiled and nodded, and I can read on her face that she might have wondered where have I been gone to.
Sometimes this familiar city also first felt foreign to me. I had to adjust to the different cultural lifestyle. I forgot that I could swipe my credit card after ordering food. I was lost in thoughts and stared blankly at the credit card swipe, “please remove your card.” The cashier was waiting for me. My mind snapped back to reality, oh shit, that’s right. I forgot. I have gotten used to paying a lot of things in cash or giving the credit card to the cashier instead.
All these feelings of excitement to be home, to see my family and friends, eventually faded within a week. When adjusting back to my old life again in Los Angeles and suffering from a terrible jet lag, I came to realize that there are a lot of things that haven’t really change, or at least that everything felt the same to me. Time stood still in Los Angeles.
Has a year really just spent in a flash?
The transition from the constant new stimulus and being on the move every day to becoming steady, relaxed and bored at home has been hard. Post travel depression crept in, and I found myself missing my other life. Every day was a brand new day for me. There is always something new, always something hectic, always something quite challenging. That suddenly changed once I landed home. I found myself wishing that I’ve stayed longer or wished I’ve changed a few certain things. I shook away those thoughts. No, Stacey, you’ve got the privilege to live that life. And you will experience that privilege again at least.
I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate my home or that I’m not happy with where I live. I am very fortunate to still have my family, some friends and a roof to live under. It’s just that I feel different. All the travel and life lessons were bought with me. A feeling that I couldn’t even describe into words. There are some situations that I’ve encountered that I feel that it is no longer worth my time or feel that I’ve outgrown from them. And I know that some people I know are already showing a hint of jealousy, so it was hard for me to share many of my travel stories or relate to them with these current feelings I have. There’s no one I really know who can relate to these feelings except my boyfriend whom I was traveling with and the long-term traveling community. I came across different articles about their feelings returning home after a long time, and I can relate to many of them.
Although I am still experiencing post-travel depression, I am now getting used to this old life. It is still nice to be home sometimes, and I find some bright sides of returning home is that I can focus on these things:
- find more strategies to make and save money
- start recovering from travel burnout
- rekindling relationships
- facing my own emotional baggage that traveled with me
- finding some time for myself
- make, organize and prioritize different goals
Returning home is not the end of the world. Returning home doesn’t mean you, and I, have failed. It is a place where I can check in with everything (including myself), recharge and look forward to a new door that is waiting for me.