We’re back home. A little late on this update… because life started. Like full swing. In the first two weeks we unpacked all of our possessions (or almost all), scrubbed the house, painted the living room, and had a welcome back / Sergey’s 30th birthday (!) party. Sergey started a new (old) job, and served jury duty. Jenia applied for jobs, and had interviews! And we both voted… that’s a lot to fit into two weeks. Not sure if we’ve had time to really reflect on being home, but its time to get this update out, so here it goes.
Same same but different. If you have ever travelled in South East Asia, you are no doubt familiar with that statement. Having these word pop up in your head is a soothing reminder of a wonderful place where sun is always warm and smiles are aplenty. However, once you get back to reality of your old everyday, and in my case literally old everyday – I started working on the second day of being back, full forty hour week, bought a bicycle and helmet, and drank my oh-so-missed ice coffee from baked and wired, you are bound to develop discrepancy between your old self and new self. Same situations with a new outlook on living. Sounds like a cliche, but something has changed internally.
Same Same But Different bar on Ko Lanta, Thailand. Source.
After the first weekend, I could not comprehend how people cope with having only 48 hours of free time. Saturday was dedicated to fun things, Sunday to the house stuff, and that is it. No time for anything else.
Also, do I really need to work 40 hours a week in the office? I’m not sure I do. Having a luxury of freelancable career, I will do my best to fix this no-time issue.
Aside from being busy, having all the friends around all the time is definitely a treat. Happy hours, brunches, hanging, and various other activities are definitely something we have missed, so having friends back is definitely nice! You no longer need to do a little debrief on your origin and your next destination in every conversation over beer.
DC has changed, no doubt about that. Even though a ‘sherry and ham bar is not my jam, I do appreciate a new variety of places to try. From empty parking lots to condos, the progress is visible. Bloomingdale, our neighborhood, is now a destination! Having seen a good amount of cities on our trip, DC is a damn fine place to live. It’s green, it’s small and it has a lot of depth. To those of you who do not share my sentiment, you should leave immediately and let us love our city. When people ask me where I am from, I do say DC. I’ve been here for close to 7 years, second longest time after leaving Moscow in 2000.
On the home front discoveries in our own basement brought some unexpected results as well. We’ve stored a good amount of clothing, art, and just things in our house. Rediscovering all these treasures is a exciting as well, yet I do not know how to wear my old/new clothes. I pick one item at a time and wear it few days to see if it works for me, maintaining “you do not really need this” attitude. In truth, you do not really need most things you possess.
We sometimes wonder if we should get one way tickets to Bangkok, just you know, to continue traveling, as everyday is no longer sufficient. Not because we have time and are bored, but because when you begin settling in your everyday, you start questioning why you are doing all these tasks when you can just be on the beach, eating papaya salad, and not going to plumbing store to get an elbow for the shower since it’s spewing water all over the place.
I guess the question is what’s next…
Being home has been great. I was a bit nervous about the reverse culture shock, but I think we got all of that out of our system when we returned to the States and did our road trip east of Mississippi. By the time we got back to DC, all things American seemed totally normal – except the $10 tacos; still working on not throwing the menu out in disgust and laughing hysterically at the server. Oh and f.o.u.r. dollar coffee? Did you know that once we rented a damn fine private room, in a guesthouse in Cambodia for a total of $8…which means my coffee here in D.C. costs the same as guesthouse in Cambodia. Damn.
Sticker price shock aside the short of it is: I love having our cat back, love running errands, and love, love, love our house and friends. Sometimes I sit in the kitchen in the evening, having some tea, and think to myself about how nice our space is, and how much I love it (I am serious). Of course, it’s only been two weeks. So it’s kind of like the honeymoon phase? I sure do hope it lasts awhile though )
I have yet to return to the office, which I am a bit anxious about. Even though we are financially doing ok thanks to Sergey working, I would really like to start making money. You know, so I could buy him birthday presents, or buy new blinds without feeling like its an unnecessary expense. But the other part of this anxiousness is that I suspect that going back to the office will take some shine off this ‘in love’ feeling with return to home. Or maybe not. It’s a great unknown. I’ll be sure to update 6 months in, or some such (fingers crossed I’ll have a job by then).
In these two weeks of being back in DC, we have seen many, many old friends who all wanted to hear about THE trip. Two things about that – I hope people will keep asking questions forever, or at least for a long time from now. Because there are SO MANY stories about what we’ve seen / done/ experienced. In our one-year update, we’ve talked about coming up with different answers for same questions, and so far I have been doing well on that. Of course, some stories become recycled. So I actually make a conscious effort to sit down and think and reflect on the trip. Which is great. So please keep asking!
Did you know that Shanghai absolutely blew our mind for how futuristic it is? I mean you can just shoot a movie about living 100 years into the future right now there. Also, fun fact — thought the buildings there are all lit up almost no one lives, works, or visits that side of the Bund. China.
The second bit – my favorite question so far: so what have you learned about yourself from the trip? The answer: Going outside of my comfort zone is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s not something that I have reflected on too much while ON the trip, but in retrospect, before we left I was actually nervous that I would hate traveling for an extended period of time. I am a homebody and I like routines, I need alone time to recharge. BUT! Not being home, not having a schedule, and talking to strangers every single day for an extended period of time worked out pretty great. Turns out who we think we are, isn’t necessarily the only way we need to be in order to be happy. Going outside of that ‘comfortable’ self awareness, actually might not result in discontent. Or at least for me this is how that turned out.
I have also realized that there is another very important factor in my ability to travel long term: Sergey. Traveling with him has been a great – he is my ‘home base:’ I take comfort in him, in us, in our routines that we can have no matter where. He is my true north, and all other comforts are really irrelevant if I have him.
Home is where Sergey is. Even if its a ger in Mongolia.
Moral of the story: coming home and reflecting on the past year has been one of the richest experiences and parts of this whole travel thing. )