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.