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Feeling Strange, 2 Months after 9 Months Traveling

Boston from above

My beloved Boston from a plane… “Same Same but Different!”

Blogs are supposed to be honest, so after a bunch of weeks of trying to hide it, let’s be honest here: Things are weird.

I suppose it was to be expected, right?

You can’t just uproot your life and meander around the world for nine months, then come home and expect everything to be silky smooth.

Now, it’s not that things are bad: in fact, most things are lovely.

It’s all just… weird.

The best way to describe this dizzy feeling of being back home after so long away is the classic Southeast Asian remark: Same Same… But Different. Here’s why:

1. Social Life: When you’re 28, a lot happens in your social circle over 9 months. While I was abroad, a bunch of folks got engaged or married. Some moved away (heck, my best friend in Boston moved to China a few weeks after I came home), and others are sprinting down new paths, though they’re still in Boston. Many remain dear, dear, dear soul-mates but the fact remains, for better or worse: my whole social landscape in Boston has changed.

Comm Ave in Boston

The gorgeous greenway along Commonwealth Ave. in Boston

Add on top of this my new online travel world chums. In the almost-year I was traveling, the online universe became the only solid home I could return back to each night, and so I became extremely attached to people I’ve never set eyes on.

When I finally met a bunch of them at the TBEX10 Conference last month, it was emotional and beautiful! But that also changes one’s social scene, doesn’t it: having friends on the computer instead of down the street?!

Part of me wishes a magic new social circle would descend, sparkling, from the heavens and make everything feel tethered again… but part of me knows this current strange aloneness is all right, and even necessary. I spent a lot of time alone when I was traveling, and it’s forgivable to embrace that a bit more before rebooting.

2. Work and Future Career Plans: It feels really good to work (and get a paycheck again!) after 10 months of living off savings and not having a single routine each day but writing. And it feels great to be an officially productive member of society! That said, when you realize it’s POSSIBLE to travel for nine months and not work, you begin to salivate a bit and scheme further possibilities.

Suddenly, you realize that a lot more life situations are doable than you originally anticipated. It’s as if five-thousand thrilling doors were simultaneously thrown open, each beckoning you to enter. You know now that you can accomplish most things you put your mind to… and so which luscious door are you going to put your mind to entering? It’s a wonderful feeling, but boy does it spin your head!

Phyllis Wheatly Statute

The Phillis Wheatley statue on the Comm. Ave. Greenway, so thoughtful!

Add to this the cyber-element again: In addition to my ESL teaching job here in Boston, I’m also technically working a few other jobs, by my passionate choice. First, there’s the upkeep of this blog, my baby, but there also is coordination for Boston’s awesome September 14 Meet Plan Go conference on career break travel (free registration is now open!), and fundraising for students in Ghana.

Online work is super-awesome, but also a bit lonely! I scheme to have similarly working buddies in town who can plop their laptops next to mine and silently provide solidarity.

3. All this STUFF: What is all this stuff piled in my room? I lived out of a tiny blue bag for nearly a year and was just fine. Now I’ve already sent three heaping bags to Goodwill, but there are still childhood rock collections, High Jump trophies, and lots and lots of piles of paper. Oh my! Same stuff, but I’m definitely looking at it differently.

4. Stubbornness: I was one hundred percent my own boss for nine straight months. You fill in the rest.

5. Responsibility: When I was traveling, I had to be ridiculously responsible in the sense that I was a woman, totally alone, in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and Africa, and constant altertness was mandatory for safety. But in contrast, I had a complete reprieve on other major features of adult responsibility: cooking, cleaning, driving (not that I can drive anyway), and work. Coming home, then, I’ve got to step it up in some realms (clean baby, clean!) and let it go in others (stop being such a control freak). Internal see-saw shift! Ker-thump.

Me and Meg at the wedding

Me and my dear college roommate at a recent wedding

6. Money: I spend soooo much more money each day in Boston than I ever did while traveling!

7. Bad Habits: Part of why I left the country in the first place was to get out of non-fabulous ruts. Now back home, I’m proud to say I HAVE gotten out of many of them… but alas, not all.

8. “Nice” Things and Places: After 9 months of frequently roughing it (30-hour buses without a bathroom, anyone?) I return home with a strange new lust to be around the nicer things in life.

When I left Boston I was an anti-materialistic hippie. Now I find myself strolling by the posh cafes and shops of Newbury Street, breathing the soft air as it swirls through green trees, not really buying anything, since I don’t have the money, but enjoying the easy embrace of the environment! Clearly, this phase won’t last (the hippie always returns) but it’s a shift to note.

9. Commitment: When you’re on the road, you can hightail it instantly out of any place where the scene or aura does not mesh with your soul. Now that I’m back in my beloved Boston, I can’t stop thinking: “How long do I want to be here?” or “When is my next trip?” I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, but I do know they’ll develop soon, and I’ll keep you posted!

At a recent wedding I attended, one inspirational speaker gave us the secret to happiness:

“The secret to happiness is simple: Have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.”

I’m feeling rather odd right now because every single one of those elements is currently in flux since I returned home from journeying around the world! But in the end, (of course!) I feel massively thankful for the abundance of opportunity that brings the dizziness and on-and-off lonely swirls. It’s all good, man… it’s headed somewhere great, and it’s not so bad at the moment, anyway. Just… Same Same but Different!

ESL student
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