A few days ago my Dad’s friend came by the office where I’ve been working since coming home about six months ago from a year and a half of travel. He dropped in to have a quick chat with dad (who is also my current employer) and he casually stopped at my door to say hello. I can’t recall ever having an actual conversation with him and so the conversation followed the typical formalities that apply to the polite acquaintance chit chat.
He asked how life was now that I’m back home and settling into a routine.
I say with a smile, because really, things are good. They’re great actually. I’m happy with my current situation and I’ve got no plans as of yet to leave anytime soon. After our speedy ping-pong-like ‘Q’ and ‘A’ session, he exits the conversation with:
“Well, welcome back to reality!”
Now, at this point I’d like to point out that this man is a genuine human and he really was happy to see me and really does wish me the best now that im “back”,but initially all I felt at the end there was a slap across the face. He may as well have said “well, you pretentious, narcissistic brat, now its time to get back to work like the rest of us!”
There are few phrases I loathe more than “welcome back to reality!” From those who (presumably) have no concept of what it means to uproot yourself from all known comforts and attempt to scratch and claw your way through a gauntlet of unpredictable variables in order to establish something on foreign turf that in some small way resembles your idea of a life. And, therefore, they’ve built up all of these presumed fantasies you’ve been living in.
That presumed fantasy consists of myself (the pretentious traveler), rocking ever so slowly, back and forth in a netted hammock. A hat ( I’m sure they’ve envisioned a straw fedora) tilted just so over my eyes, resting on the bridge of my nose, protecting my face from the afternoon sun. A backdrop of turquoise ocean melting into an azure sky. A faint breeze plays in my hair and a nearby fruity cocktail sweats with condensation as the ice drifts and clinks against the rim of the glass. My thoughts consist of nothing more than the ever changing shapes of clouds and a daydream reel of picturesque landscapes. This is incorrect.
So, over the past six months, I’ve found that this presumed fantasy and my desire to explain the realities has sparked interesting complexes in social situations. I have two ways to go about the aforementioned conversation with dad’s friend or any other unsuspecting Joe.
Option A: I can attempt to explain the reality and try to convince the Joe that I really have been working harder than ever in my life. Or Option B: I can allow Joe to continue to believe in the hammock scenario and everyone is happy that I am now following the rules again just like everyone else, that I am playing nice in the sandbox, if you will.
Now, Route A, requires a lot of talking and displaying evidence (i.e. scrolling through photographic proof) and a lot of tension and stress on my part. This is hard and just not worth the effort, plus it makes me look like I am trying to prove myself to this person who has their own busy day to go about and didn’t sign up for my rant.
Or I can choose to go with Option B, which is quick and painless for the Joe. For me it’s a bit like ripping off a band-aid. Sure, it’s quick and easy, but for a moment it stings a little. I have to smile and let them reap the satisfaction. They leave with a lil’ pep in their step. Able to face that daily grind knowin’ ”everyones gotta do it! even my friends weird gypsy daughter!”
This strategy doesn’t only apply to corporate situations. A few weeks ago I found myself inside a loud bar, old college friends scattered about.
“Heyyyyyy! haven’t seen you in forever! what are you up to these days?”
My pre-higher being response to this was:
“Oh, well I just moved back to town”
“Just started a new job”
Some sort of jargon that prompted the question:
“Where were you before this?”
“What were you doing before this job?”
Which would then allow me to say:
“Oh i was living in New Zealand and then I was working in France for awhile”
(what a pompous ass, right?)
Then I would bathe in the shocked expression on their faces.
“What??! No Way!”
Yes. I am superior. Worship me.
Of course soon, this delicate luring of the unsuspecting Joe into a dialogue that allowed me to shine with all of my travel glory became more and more difficult to cultivate. As the weeks and months passed, I could no longer procure a conversation that would prompt my travel glory without looking like a complete jackass, desperate for attention. I had to let go. I had to be ok with meeting new people or catching up with old friends without them knowing the full extent of my proudest travel moments.
And not only that, but when I did tell my stories, I noticed most would be engaged and impressed initially, but often they just didn’t relate to working on a tall ship in Italy or living with flatmates you can barely talk to because you don’t share a mutual language with them. And so, they would naturally change the direction of the conversation to one they could actively contribute to.
And thats ok! We are humans and we have these egos that need a strokin’. So now I’ve resolved to accept that my travels (for now) are just a piece of my past that I carry around with me, tucked in my pocket. I share it when its appropriate and when my audience will genuinely appreciate it.
Do not force your travel stories on the unsuspecting joes in your life, instead keep them safe in your pocket, they are delicate precious experiences that have built you into who you’ve become and not everyone deserves the time and energy it requires from you to give them a proper showcase.
Earlier today I came across a photo that a friend took of me this summer, a day or two after my flight home from Venice. Im lying on the back of a boat in my swim suit, a baseball hat (no fedoras) protecting my face from the sun, an ice cold beer in hand, not a care in the world. I realized today that living and working abroad was the most “reality” I’ve ever experienced, being back home with all of the comforts, resources, and community… this is truly la la land. So kick up your feet.You’re home. Welcome back to the fantasy.