It’s been almost a week since I arrived back in Minnesota after my trip. In fact, at this point a week ago I was in a plane that was flying eastward as a part of my 30 hour journey from Hanoi to St. Paul.
I’m slowly but surely getting used to being back home. I’ve done some laundry, paid a couple of bills I forgot to pay before I left (oops), gone through 3 weeks of work email and documents and back into the campaign saddle. There is still a lot I need to do, mainly the rest of my laundry, moving my empty suitcase from the middle of the living room, and getting actual food in my house, but that’ll happen eventually.
As I look back, I realize the past week has seemed to just fly by. It seems as if the last 6 days have lasted as long as one day while I was traveling. Once I had this realization, I began to wonder why – time is time and it’s not like days in Minnesota are shorter than in SE Asia. . .
What is different?
Now that I’m back in Minnesota, I’ve gotten back into my “standard” routine – wake up, feed animals, get ready for day, go to work, do work, eat lunch, do more work, go home, feed the cats, do campaign stuff, forget to eat dinner, read, sleep. I don’t have to think much about what I’m going to do, or what is next up, I just react. This is not to say that I’m just going through the motions, it is more the sense that it is comfortable and familiar. I know the people, places, and things I will encounter (for the most part) and don’t have to process much in the way of new things. Anything new I come across in my “normal” life can fairly quickly be compared to other things and I can react accordingly. Again, not saying that I’m just a robot that reacts the same to all situations, it’s just that when you do something long enough, it loses its newness and becomes woven into the fabric that is your life.
While I was on my trip – this was not the case. I was in places I had never been to before. I was with people I had never met before. I was literally traveling down roads that I didn’t know existed before the vehicle I was in started travelling down. I didn’t know what was around the next corner, behind the next door, or over the next hill. Everything was new, and I had to take in new information, which forced me to pay attention to things that I no longer have to for most things I encounter at home. I could no longer count on knowing the amount of time left in a drive based on familiar surroundings. I couldn’t go for an aimless walk and know that I’d be able to find my way home easily. Nothing was familiar and I was forced out of my comfort zone.
This is not a bad thing. In fact, this is why I love to travel. It forces me out of my “normal” routine and to push beyond what I know about the world and myself. I am tested by new sights and sounds, and I’m able to learn a lot about how I react and respond in these situations. I can spend time reflecting on things and thinking, since I’m not bound by deadlines or tasks at hand. It’s time I wish I had more of, and moving forward, I will make sure I have more of.
I also welcomed the opportunity to just be me. This is not to say that I’m not me when I’m at home, but when I am meeting new people for the first time in a new setting, they are not getting you with the baggage that comes with context. I was not “Cog in the Government Machine”, “Party Activist”, or “Campaign Manager”, I was a person who was interested in learning more about Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the work of CLI, buying random things, taking a lot of a pictures, and reading. I didn’t want to defined solely by what I do; I wanted to let who I am shine through. (more on this at another time. . . ) It doesn’t mean I’m not proud of the things that I do at home, it’s just nice to sometimes mix things up and do something different.
However, as much as I would love to just travel around all of the time, I do love my life in Minnesota (not to mention my own bed) I am thankful for the people in my life at home that make it brighter and glad to be back with you all. I just need to get over this jet lag (no more soda or coffee after noon) and get up-to-speed on things I missed while I was gone, all while thinking ahead towards my next journey.
Shorter term, I need to post some pictures (sweet cheesus did I take a lot) and the recap of the other days of my trip, but right now, I’m going to just work through getting used to living my life again and tackling the bit of reverse culture shock I’m going through.
Until then, cheers.