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.


New here?


  1. Very cool! I'm a new reader & LOVE your story- wish I'd figured those things out at your age :) I ran the Vegas RnR last year too (along with waaay too many other marathons). What a mess! I still finished in 4:20 (crushing my PR) which I can only attribute to the mentality that I had to FIGHT every step of the way to get through that crowd.

    Seems like we have lots in common- hubby and I are headed ot Hawaii this Christmas for vacation, so I'm looking forward to your Kauai report, and we did 2 weeks in NZ last year (LOVED IT!). I look forward to following your blog :)

  2. It is so cool that you learned so much about yourself on a 3 month trip. I almost think that everyone should do a trip like yours to figure out their future. Sometimes you need a little time away to figure out what you really love at home. So happy you found it!

    Great kiss photo btw!

  3. It's refreshing for you to be honest about your travels. There are those who preach to the masses about how everyone should go away for a year, live abroad, never come home. You tell it how it is. It's great to hear you enjoyed your trip and realized there is truly no place like home.

  4. More power to you for speaking your own truth & being honest with yourself :) Traveling is a joy, but we all enjoy it in different amounts. ;)


    I hate the not-so-subtle message peddled in the lifestyle design blogosphere of, "oh you have a desk job and live in your hometown, you clearly must be stagnant and boring and have a sucky life. You should travel and start your own business to be cool like me" NO WAY! You can have a desk job, live near family, run marathons, travel abroad, save puppies, be an actor, start a business, become an elected official, BASE jump, make pottery, etc. etc.

    You're a tremendous example of just living life to the fullest. Isn't that the best we can possibly as for?

  6. I think it's fantastic that you've come to realize what it is that will make YOU happy and fulfilled. After my husband & I came back from our 14mth RTW we were miserable. It was fun to see family & friends but we longed to be back on the road. It's been a couple of years and, still feeling the draw of the open road, we're making our plans to do the location independent/ digital nomad bit. But, we've done both and realize that is what we want. You tried something different and realize what you want. Isn't that, after all, the whole point of trying something new? To firm up in your mind what is right for you? Good job on trying new things and realizing what works.

  7. I have the same goal, travel with John to unique locations but also maintain my job, home life etc. We do many weekend adventures and it keeps us so happy and our relationship fresh with activity.We also plan for the future with bigger trips/ organized adventures (thinking REI Galapagos trip!)and we like to bring family along (lucky to have very active in-laws). It's so great to be able to reflect on all of this in your comfortable home, and I completely understand your love of Seattle.

  8. Congratulations! To learn at your age what things are really important for you in life is priceless.
    I wish I would have done the same thing, but will definitely encourage my children and support them in similar self-discovery.
    Your blog is a bright spot on my RSS feed list! :-)
    Keep this great momentum going and your life will be a very happy one.

  9. My Mom was born & raised on Kauai. It is my favorite place! Two places that are MUST see are Kalalau Valley lookout and the Hindu Monestary both are beautiful.

  10. Thank you for sharing your truth with us. I also traveled on my own several times, and realized while meeting new people is fun, sharing those experiences with people who are already in your life is also fun, if not more so.

  11. Love that snapshot of you and Aaron. I think your journey is awesome and you are finding out so many things about yourself.

  12. Love what you wrote...beautiful. Love what you discovered about yourself. As you know, I believe everything in life is much more meaningful and special when shared with those you love. We are so happy to have you home too.

  13. So refreshing to hear someone else's thoughts on "normal" life and travel reflect my own. I love visitng far away places, but I also like to return home and spend time with familiar people in familiar places. I have chosen to stay in my hometown because I love the feeling of having roots. I have a great, rewarding 9 to 5 and have no desire to leave my job (unlike so many bloggers out there!)
    Thanks for being brave enough to share! Can't wait to hear about the next chapter.

  14. Welcome back Devon! No matter how it worked out, the important thing is that you saw your dream and acted on it. No doubt that you have many more adventures ahead - good on ya!

  15. Glad to see you're fulfilling your life in whatever way is necessary for you. Wishing you the best!

  16. I really respect how you're not trying to be a digital nomad 'because everyone else is doing it.' You have a blog because you can share your adventures and work out your thoughts as you grow on your journey. Even if it's not long term, the fact you're going out and traveling to different places is inspirational! I hope you & Aaron have a fantastic time in Kauai!

  17. Hi Devon, I stumbled onto your blog somehow (I think it may have been through Legal Nomads), and oh my goodness, I can so relate to everything that you are saying!

    Your first line of "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)" was exactly what I said after I finished my travelling, after I quit my job to take on a sabbatical :)

    While I didn't set out to travel for a year like you, or many of the other RTW travellers, I had my own version of quit-to-travel. All I wanted was to explore parts of Indonesia where I am from, write more and hone my photography skills. I set out myself for 6 months at least, and see how it'd go. My definite mission was a month in Bali, which I did, while the rest of the time, I just went with the flow. (I ended up with small trips here and there and 3 months in Sydney, which I loved!).

    After that one month backpacking, I realise I do miss the comfort of home and decided that I'm not quite cut out for long term trips, and I do like having a home. Just like you with Seattle, I love my Jakarta.

    And I think that is the whole point of a sabbatical, to go for an adventure and experience life, and learn about ourselves more, and know what we like. Sometimes, it is by trying that we know it is not for us. And I'd rather do that, than not ever knowing.

    So congrats on the adventure! And oh, I so hear you about not being able to put the stories on..I still have lots I need to write up, but thing at a time. :) I'm just glad I kept my journal the whole time I was travelling. Also, I agree with what you said, that I will look at traveling in a different way now.

    All the best for everything!

    PS: That was a good camera shot of you and Aaron :)

  18. I like this post a lot. Like you I thought that I wanted the life of a 'digital nomad', but five months into my trip I really miss home. Travelling has also given me an appreciation of where I'm from, and I can't wait to move back to London! I have a feeling that when I get home in December I will feel exactly like you do. Thanks for sharing.

  19. wonderful girl, hope the future will be much more interesting articles about Travel.


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