We bought our final flight tickets yesterday. Home. We’ll land in late June; less than two months left ahead of us before we return to our stationary life we wandered away from a year and a half ago. As I sit in our apartment looking out at Chiang Mai, I can’t quite come to terms with how I feel about going home.
There is the obvious sadness. The more we travel, the more we realize how much there is left in the world to see. It is doubtful we will be able to do any travel on this scale again, at least not with our children. John and I can see ourselves as retired, empty nest backpackers someday. We may take some extended trips with our children while they still live with us, but shorter trips that will fit into our lives. A sadness creeps in, not just for the loss of the places, but also for the loss of a forced closeness the travel imposes. At home, we will all have our own lives outside our nuclear group that has become so tight; a reality that is bittersweet.
Add in the excitement and anxiety of a new beginning. As we head home, our lives will have changed from what we left behind. Both of the girls will be in different schools, having made the grade transition from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school while we’ve been underway. Both girls’ groups of friends are not as tight as they were, fragmented either from going on to different schools or from the normal drift of adolescents finding their way toward the adults they will become.
John and I will begin something new as well. Before leaving, we’d sold our business and spent the following year wrapping up the loose ends to be able to leave home. When we return, we will need to focus on work and income. It was harder to keep up with the freelance and contract work I was doing while underway than I’d anticipated, especially because of traveling with kids. I am down to just a couple of clients, and will have to noodle around for an income.
Yesterday, we felt a great sense of accomplishment at having found UPS and sent home a box of things we won’t need for the rest of the trip. Moving from place to place, it’s the little things that consume so much time. Where is the grocery store? How do we navigate transportation, like the bus with no maps or information at the stop, or the train, or knowing to always ask how much the ride will cost before getting in a tuk tuk. Re-learning at every stop where the garbage and recycling goes. The confinement of a language gap. I sometimes miss the ease of the little things that develops from staying in one place. And yet, I think I will also miss communicating what I need through hand gestures, nods, and smiles; getting the person I don’t share a language with to sell me a box at the post office, cheese from a deli counter, or a hotel room for the night.
For the past few weeks, the “When we get home…” sentences have increased. Bedroom redecorating, improving outdoor living spaces, purging more stuff. The list we’ve created in our minds will most certainly not be complete-able, but the anticipation is fun. And, joy at the thought of seeing the animals. Our dogs, our cats, our horses, await us. Leaving them behind was difficult. A part of our family has not been with us for months, leaving a hole in our lives.
Although there are still several places mapped out on our path before we go home, the end is clearly visible. I think it is time; I am ready. Not only because we promised the girls they could have a little time at home before the next school year starts or because our tenants have moved on, but because a fatigue has set in. As we travel, things have blurred. Instead of being impressed by how different each place is, we are struck by how much things are the same. Although the places still on our list are destinations we’ve long wanted to visit, like Hong Kong and Vietnam, the excitement has waned. The travel and exploration itself has become routine. For us, the new is the old.