Given our newfound determination to stick it out on the rest of our trip despite the many opportunities to give up, we’re not likely to set foot on American ground for another 4 or so months, and we’ll still be in unfamiliar territory until a month after that point (the last of the 12 countries is the US). This totals us to a year’s worth of time spent outside the land where we lived for the 50 combined years of our lives.
Now that I’ve demonstrated that I can do basic math (thanks, 3rd grade!), where this comes into play is a question we were asked recently, which I’m consolidating into the following statement: “When you come home, will you belong?”
Initial impressions? Yes. Of course. Why would we not? We’ve only been gone a year, and even then we moved away from our family, friends, and stuff 6 months before we came out. We’re not unfamiliar with restarting our lives in new places. But then I really thought about it, and to tell the truth… I’m not sure we would belong.
I’m not saying that we’re going to come home as high and mighty world-savvy travel hipster doofuses and pretend ourselves as better than our neighbors or anything like that, but I certainly believe that we will be affected by the experiences we’ll encounter over the year prior to returning. Things will be different, both in actuality and in our perceptions.
I think the biggest thing we’d have to overcome quickly is the fact that we’re not going to be traveling nearly as much anymore. It’s kind of the whole “the grass is greener” phenomenon, where right now we do love the thought of slowing down and being in one place for much longer than a month at a time, but as soon as we get that I have no doubt we’re going to immediately start missing the quick-paced change of scenery. “Don’t like a person you live next to? No problem! You’re outta there in 30 days.” Not so much in the real world.
The second most difficult part would be starting to think like an adult again. While we’ve been out, we haven’t had to think about much further beyond a paycheck or two. Financial problems are everywhere, whether you’re traveling or at home—but we haven’t had to think about buying a home, keeping a mortgage, having a truly steady income, raising additional kids, health insurance (seriously, it’s been far easier to have insurance on the road than trying to figure out the twisted US healthcare system)… all of that changes the second we’re back on US soil.
It’s not that we’re stuck to a morbid reality of a future we dread—we really don’t. We can’t wait to expand our family when the time comes, or have our own tiny home that we’d live in long enough to decorate for holidays. We very much look forward to it. But getting from point A where we’re at now to point B is a whole paradigm shift of unfamiliar ground. And you know how human nature is about the unknown. You’d think we’d be prepared for that with how much change we already put up with but… we’re really not.
While it’s nice to dream that we’ll be able to somehow keep a life in the US but potentially live for an extended period of time in another country like Morocco or New Zealand, we’re not sure how realistic of an option that is once we dig our heels in and have deeper investments in the place we are. There’s a lot of reasons why we took this trip now and not when we have 2 or 3 children or a monthly HOA fee to satisfy. We know that eventually we’re going to be in a place where—despite it still being possible—it’s highly inconvenient to travel attachment-free for a year across the globe. So we’ll have to learn to satisfy our travel bug in other means. Travel around the US is probably our next big adventure, and then every year our goal is to live for 1-3 months outside of the country together as a family.
Sam and Frodo, upon returning to the Shire after destroying the One Ring, discovered that the Shire—the home which they dreamed of the second they left—was really not home anymore. They eventually left for another land, eager for adventure. While I’m not entirely sure that alludes very accurately to our trip (not exactly battling orcs out here), there’s certainly some aspects we can associate with. Home is a place that often sounds like it requires a physical location, but the more we travel, the more we realize that our home is best defined as a feeling. And I very much doubt that feeling will keep us to one place for very long.