Photo: Fahim Fadz.
“Oh, it was great…”
I made new friends, learned more about myself, was introduced to traditions I’d never heard of, and gained a greater perspective on the world. But that happens on any trip — what do you want to know about mine?
“It’s not as weird to be back home as I expected…”
I’ve realized I have my own little niche here at home, and when I got back, I fit into it just as easily as I used to. My friends are all the same people — apart from the first few days of excessive hugs and stories, our interactions haven’t changed at all. Nobody seems to have changed except me, and I’m the only one who can see how I’ve changed. It’s in my thought processes and the way I view things. I’m more conscious of the people living incredibly different lives than I do, which means that previously trivial parts of my routine now evoke memories of quirky differences abroad.
For example, I can’t put a sandwich into a plastic bag without thinking of the miles of aluminum foil Spaniards use to accomplish the same task. It’s not as dramatic of a travel memento as a tattoo or an exotic disease, but it’s just as irrevocable.
“No, home isn’t boring…”
I was worried about everything being boring at home after the constant excitement of traveling. Yet one of my biggest lessons from the road is that everyone, no matter where they live, thinks their hometown is boring. Meanwhile, I was crashing in their houses and having a blast for 3-5 days with no problems. To be fair, a place with 5 days of fun may not be capable of stretching that out to years, but most of the activities I was doing were things the locals hadn’t ever gotten around to. Your priorities are different when you don’t sleep in the same place every night.
Since I got home, I’ve tried to approach it the same way — with a traveler’s mindset. I pretend I don’t live here and look around for interesting things to catch my eye. I have an extensive friend network here that can connect me to new places and people, which makes the process even easier. Before my first week home was over, I’d met a group of local au pairs who hail from many of the countries I trekked through, like Bosnia and Iceland.
Home is as boring as you make it. Treat it like a stop on your itinerary and you’ll find it’s not as bad as you think.
“Funny that you ask about my best stories…”
As I’ve already written down every part of my experience I thought would be interesting to my friends and family and posted them at spainwhatup.tumblr.com — there’s nothing I could tell you that I haven’t already said there, with fresher memories and smoother prose.
But you asked me the question to be polite, not out of true interest…so in your case — yes, it was just great.
“Yes. They’re exactly how you imagine them…”
Better looking, with adorable accents, and a habit of reposting silly web links all over Facebook just like the rest of us.
“No, I wouldn’t say I miss my adopted home on a daily basis…”
Once you get back stateside, all the American-ness envelops you like a favorite relative’s hug. Sure, these are the things that excited you to no end when you found them different elsewhere — like not having to take your shoes off at airport security, or the shape of the “Don’t Walk” crosswalk man. Every crosswalk at home reminds me where I am, but this isn’t a bad thing.
I have the good fortune to possess friendly supportive communities both here and now abroad, so neither is better or worse. One of them is simply the environment I spent the majority of my life in, and the other is not. I’m enjoying myself both ways.
“It was really fun. You should definitely make it out there if you get the chance…”
What’s that, you’re thinking of going there soon? Make sure you go to this restaurant, and don’t miss the view from this spot. No, I haven’t heard of that bar. Yeah, and the locals think it’s odd that we don’t wear them, either — how weird is that? I know, I’ve heard that too. Yup. Uh-huh. Tell me more…