It has been exactly 80 days since I said my final teary see-you-laters to Krystal, and boarded my flight back to Minneapolis from my whirlwind year with Remote Year Earhart.
In the time it took Phileas Fogg and his trusty valet to circumnavigate the world and win an epic bet, I’ve finally (maybe…mostly?) come to terms with being home.
In the past 80 days I’ve done the following:
- Questioned daily whether or not I’d made the right choice in not continuing to travel for longer.
- Mourned the loss of a time in my life that was something truly special and won’t ever be able to replicated.
- Commiserated with my fellow Earharts, now scattered to the four winds, the loss of said time and the difficulties of home.
- Celebrated reconnecting with friends.
- Snagged a cute affordable apartment after some serious Craigslist perseverance and 10 different apt tours.
- Worked from an office cube-land again.
- Realized that it’s really hard to go back to office cube-land.
- Spoke with my manager to switch my working routine to 2 days a week in the office, which helped immensely.
- Questioned once again about making the right choice when I realized how much stuff was still in my storage unit.
- Donated about a third of what was in my storage unit that I no longer found joy or purpose in.
- Dealt with reverse culture shock and mild depression.
- Fell in love again with the openness reflected back at me from my fellow Earharts once I was open with my struggles.
Reverse culture shock is a phenomenon that some people experience when returning to their homes after extended stays abroad where you adapt to a different culture. You realize that your home has changed, you have changed, and you have to re-adapt. Mostly, it just fucking sucks.
Since my life was a constant state of change on RY, my main dissonance came from the change in the pace of life. Going from 100 miles an hour to basically slamming on the brakes is rough. Objects in motion like to stay in motion, AKA inertia is a bitch.
For me, my reverse culture shock manifested in a few different ways, but mainly:
- Finding myself incredibly sad about the lack of amazing tacos al pastor.
- Being overwhelmed by the amount of English. You get used to easily tuning out a language you can’t really understand. Your native language then tends to stick out like a sore thumb when you hear it.
- This was particularly bad in the office where I’d be surrounded by conversations that I could have a part in. It would get overwhelmingly loud and I couldn’t focus. I ended up having headphones in with white noise pretty often.
- Getting exhausted by having the same conversations with casual acquaintances and coworkers. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE talking about my experiences, and I LOVE that these people had a genuine enough interest to ask. But when I first got home I was still grieving the experience. It was like making small talk at a funeral about your lost loved one. It was so. hard.
- A profound sense of wrong-ness about everything
- It’s easy to order coffee? I don’t have to ask for my café con leche de almendra in incredibly broken Spanish? WRONG.
- Living with my friends*? WRONG.
- Moving into my own apartment? WRONG.
Nothing I did seemed anything but WRONG.
For me, this wrong-ness directly stemmed from when I was frankly over moving every month towards the end of my trip. I created this unattainable utopia in my head that I’d labeled “Home” and I daydreamed about it when I was having a rough time. It was basically every perfect thing about the apartment I had before I left frozen in time on a perfect fall day. If I close my eyes I can still viscerally picture it.
My friends home is a lovely home, but it wasn’t my “Home”. My new apartment, full of boxes and furniture I needed to put together which was hot and humid as fuck certainly wasn’t compatible with the picture in my head either.
Each day is a new struggle that I’m navigating one at a time. It’s definitely a lot better. Now that I’ve unpacked most of my boxes (and purchased an air conditioner) this space is starting to feel more like “Home”. My friends, near and far, have all been wonderful and supportive. I’m getting back into hobbies that I loved previously and couldn’t do while traveling.
Most days I think that coming back to Minneapolis was the right thing to do. I’m no longer scared that I’m going to lose the person I became while traveling with Remote Year, because I realize that that person is me, and I am that person. I’m just figuring out the new version of me that I want to be who exists somewhere between home and the great wide somewhere.
*Not because of my friends, they were (and are) wonderful fucking people for letting me live with them in my transition times. Shoutout to Janelle, Brendin, baby Kennedy, and the animal crew.
Its a question that I’ve heard a lot since I’ve started telling people about my acceptance into Remote Year, and it’s only amplified as I’ve gotten closer to my departure date (which, as of the time of this writing, is tomorrow morning).
Its a complicated question. On one hand, how could I not be excited? I’m about to embark on a year long adventure with 50 soon-to-be-not strangers visiting a new country every month (4 continents, 10 countries). I’ll be experiencing new cultures, experiences, and foods all around the world.
On the other hand, I’m terrified. I’m sad about not seeing my wonderful tribe of friends and family for months on end. I’m quite frankly, freaking out at getting everything packed, in place, and ready to go. I know I’m going to be missing weddings, birthdays, work achievements, and casual movie nights in. Its going to be hard to see my friends move on with their lives while I temporarily take a different direction with mine. I’m sure I’ll grow closer to some in new ways, and grow apart from others as our physical locations will no longer be shared.
This adventure will test every portion of who I am as a human, all of the connections I’ve made and the network I’ve built over the last few years of my professional and personal life.
So I take this giant leap forward while recognizing and honoring all of the wonderful people who have supported me through everything, and to whom I’ll be reaching out to /often/ in my travels, and I hope they all know they can reach out to me as well.
I’ve always struggled with the question “What/where/who do you want to be when you grow up?” Starting as a child and continuing well into my 20s, I’ve heard this question more times I can count. From teachers, family, mentors, friends. I’ve always managed to disappoint the asker with my non committal answers. I once even earned the highest marks possible on an essay in the 5th grade around the topic. I penned a very passionate paper on how I wanted to be an archeologist because Scooby-Doo made it seem glamorous and ended it with something along the lines of “but that’s probably not going to happen because I’m in the 5th grade and I’m going to change my mind a million times before then.
As it turns out, even at 27 I am still changing my mind. After settling into a gorgeous apartment of my own that I adored, I sat down one day and said to myself “Wouldn’t it be great if I put all of my stuff into a storage unit and become essentially homeless for a year? Yea, that’s what I’ll do.”
And now I’m sitting on a plane, far past the point of no return on a flight leading to an adventure that will likely fundamentally change who I am as a human being. At the same time, I am also thinking through all of the things that I might have become if this opportunity had never crossed my path.
(Full disclosure, I am several drinks in (who says no to free Bailey’s? Not this girl) and have just watched La La Land for the first time on this flight.)
Every step in life is a balancing act between what is gained and what might be lost. The future isn’t a destination. It’s not some emerald palace at the end of yellow brick road that’s just waiting for you to show up after taking some highly calculated ruby coated steps.
The future is simply a series of choices.
Do I go left or right? Forwards or back? Do I stay to explore what might be? Or do I find adventure somewhere out in this big wild world? Is the right path holding tight to what I have or is it letting go? Will I ever get back to who I was a week ago?
The answer to that last question, by the way, is no. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same person that I was a week ago, before saying incredibly difficult goodbyes to those I love the most and boarding a plane to lands unknown. So this post is a tribute to the girl that I might have been had my path taken a different route.
One of my favorite books is The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Inside, we find a homebody hobbit who has lived in one place his entire life, never bothering to venture much further than the fields surrounding his home. And yet he finds himself suddenly swept into an adventure almost across the known world with the most unlikely group of people.
If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to be following in the footsteps of a beloved hobbit, I would have looked at you like you were a dwarf on my doorstep looking for tea.
And yet, here we are.
While my adventure isn’t to the Misty Mountains, it is certainly going to be grand in its own right (11 cities, 10 countries, and 4 continents!) Heading out on this adventure means that for the first time I’m going to live somewhere other than the home I’ve known my whole life: Minneapolis, MN. And not only that, but I’m also not going to have a “home” to go back to!
For a long time I was conflicted by the thought of giving up seeing my friends, family, and becoming a “digital nomad”. But after giving it a significant amount of thought I realized that I was in the perfect position in my life to take this opportunity. I have a job that was gracious enough to let me work remotely, my apartment lease is up in April, and I have no pets/kids/spouses/significant others to tie to me permanently to one location.
I think in many cases, if I hadn’t decided to do this I would always be wondering what could have happened. What could have been. I decided I didn’t want to live my life always wondering what my life would have been like if I’d only done “X”.
So I decided that starting in June I’m going to step out my front door and see what the wild world has to offer. The beginning of a wonderful adventure.
Unlike Bilbo, however, first I have to pack up everything I own and get a bigger passport! One step at a time.