Wednesday, June 13, 2012

4 Things I've Realized Since I've Been Back

Other travelers said I would have trouble readjusting to life back in the U.S.

They said I would instantly miss life on the road, that I would become hopelessly bored back in my hometown and long for my next international adventure.

They were wrong.

Relaxing in Mom's backyard — exactly where I want to be.

I didn't travel for three months to "find myself" or to do my own version of Eat, Pray, Love (I get asked those things a lot).

I traveled for a few very simple reasons: to challenge myself, to have some great adventures and to have fun!

It turns out that I did learn some things about myself along the way, but I've only really realized them since I've been home. Here, away from the constant trip planning and decision making of backpacking life, my mind has been free to reflect on my trip and think about what I want to do with my life now and in the near future.

I've shied away from travel blogging for the past two weeks or so, and I apologize for leaving you hanging. I have so many things to write about, but for some reason I can't bring myself to put some of my best travel experiences into words. What's worse, the further I get away from those experiences, the more difficult it seems. My reality as a solo traveler was wildly different from my reality now, and the travel reality feels like it fades more and more into myth with each day.

I'm determined to unearth those great travel stories eventually. For now, I'll just let you in on a few things I've realized about myself since I've been back.


When I prepared to leave for my trip, I did it in such a way that I wouldn't necessarily have to come back. I sold my car, all of my furniture and most of my possessions. I was completely open to the possibility of falling in love with another city and starting a new life there.

What happened, though, was exactly what I didn't expect. I became fiercely homesick and realized just how much I love Seattle — and all the people here that I care deeply about.

Before my trip, I never had much of an opportunity to really miss my family and friends. I took them for granted. Now I know for certain that being geographically close to my loved ones is very, very important to me.

And despite its faults (rain... clouds... I could go on), Seattle is my city. I belong to it. I learned on the road that there are many places throughout the world to lay your head at night, and then there is home. Seattle is that for me.

I read The Art of Racing in the Rain while I was in Australia and couldn't agree more with this excerpt:

"In Seattle we live among the trees and the waterways, and we feel we are rocked gently in the cradle of life. Our winters are not cold and our summers are not hot and we congratulate ourselves for choosing such a spectacular place to rest our heads and raise our chickens."


Sometimes it takes several months of being apart and thousands of miles of distance to bring two people back together and make them feel happier than ever.

Unbeknownst to us, a photographer captured this pre-race good-luck smooch.
Then it showed up on the race organization's Facebook page!

I won't go into all the personal details, but I will say that being on my own for a while helped give me the strength to finally quit my job and plan the trip I'd dreamed of. In the time that Aaron and I were apart, I got to do my solo travel thing, and Aaron focused on excelling in cycling, photography and more. We both thrived in our independence. And now? Everything is better when we're together.

I have my best friend back, and I don't plan on letting him go. In fact, my next travel adventure is a weeklong trip to Kauai with Aaron in July! I'm thrilled to have a travel partner once again. (Remember our great trip to Oahu last year?) We also have something international in the works, but I'll save those details for later.


I read quite a few travel blogs, and most of the bloggers travel for long stretches of time while running location-independent businesses via the Internet. That seems to be the dream for many in the travel blogosphere, and I thought I might be able to do it, too.

I now know that I don't enjoy super long-term travel. I like being home too much! My initial goal was to travel for a year, and I felt like a bit of a failure when I realized I didn't actually want to do that. Maybe I set that goal in the first place because that's what so many other people do. But hey, it's just not for me, and that's OK!

I realized that one of the things I enjoy most about traveling is that it's different from "normal" life. When exploring new cities every few days and lying on sun-soaked beaches became my normal life, those things weren't as exciting to me anymore. Call me crazy, but I'd rather take a few very special, kick-ass trips each year than travel for long chunks of time.

Also, call me crazier, but I realized I actually like having a conventional, structured work environment! At this point in my life, I would rather show up to a job, interact with co-workers, work on deadlines, etc. than be my own boss in front of a laptop in an exotic locale. I've thought a lot about what my ideal work situation looks like (and will detail it in a later post), but it's not the typical travel-blogger dream. Maybe it's not yours, either — and that's OK!


None of these realizations mean that I'm ready to stop traveling — they just mean that, in the future, my travels will look different. I won't be gone for more than a few weeks or months at a time, I'll travel more slowly and I'll most likely have my best friend at my side.

Before my trip, I didn't know if I'd like traveling in other countries. I had never even left North America! Now I'm sure that I want travel to remain a priority in my life, but not my only priority.

I'd love to balance travel with an engaging work situation, a good family life and other things I really enjoy, like running and racing. When I focused solely on travel for three months, I really felt lacking in those other areas that I now know need fulfillment.

I'm not saying that it'll be easy to coordinate all those things, but I like to aim high. I've certainly never accomplished anything in life by aiming low.


Whew! I'm happy to get that stuff off of my chest and let you all know where my head is now. I feel like the same person I was before I left for my trip, but when I write stuff like this, it's clear that I'm very different. And strangely, writing always gives me clarity in a way that mere thinking does not.

I guess that is, after all, why I have a blog.


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