In Thailand I met young Australian man who told me “I never want to go home. I don’t want to go back to reality”. He was 19 and had been traveling for two months. I was at the seven month mark of my journey. “Wait another six months” I told him, ” you might change your mind”. I wondered how different this trip would have been if I were 19 instead of 29.
At 19 I had very little understanding of myself or the world around me. Upon returning to Seattle, I started reading my old journal from 2007. It was like a stranger had written it. Those words came from someone who isn’t even me any more. I realized at 19, I wouldn’t have wanted to go back to my reality either. I had absolutely no idea how lucky I was that the power to change my reality was in my own hands.
Yes, I’m going to talk about privilege again. Anyone who has enough privilege to leave their life and travel the world has a better reality than most to begin with. World travel is a modern phenomenon, and it is mostly restricted to those from richer countries visiting poorer countries. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to do it the other way around.
Traveling the world has enriched my reality at home, not replaced it. There are a select few who travel long term for a living, such as travel bloggers, but most will inevitably have to return home at some point. Using travel as a means of escaping something will always be unsuccessful.
Upon returning, everything old is new again. Relearning how to interact with people from my own culture has been the biggest challenge. Often in our society we complain about routine being mundane and draining, but it doesn’t have to be.
Routine assures us that we will sleep in the same place every night, have food to eat, a steady income, and that we will be surrounded by people who know us. It allows us to build a life within a community which we are a part of, rather than just a visitor to. We take routine for granted, as many people live without these certainties.
Aside from the people closest to me, I missed routine more than anything else during the eight months I was gone. If your routine involves being a part of things you truly love and believe in, it isn’t so daunting. I will start my job as a hospice nurse, visiting patients in their own homes, in one week. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a career that will allow me to see and do something different every single day, while still having stability.
This doesn’t mean I have to give up travel or learning about other cultures. As a former home health nurse, I know that visiting patients from all different backgrounds in their own environments can feel like travel in itself. I will see people and places I never would have before, all within driving distance of my own house.
For me, travel is mostly about the people. When I walk through the streets of my incredibly diverse neighborhood, I see faces and hear languages from many of the countries I went to. I hope my experiences in these countries help bring me closer to those around me, and inspire me to make a difference right here in my own community.
I am back to reality. I am the same me on the inside, but what what I have learned will continue to change me and the life I lead as time goes on. Travel has been an indescribable, incredible gift, but there is absolutely nothing like coming home. I’m excited for my new reality in my favorite destination of all; Seattle, Washington.