Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Introspective Homecoming

We are officially back in New York and after six weeks of backpacking throughout Southeast Asia, I have returned a changed person.  To be perfectly honest, I really had no expectation of changing.  Which, in retrospect, is evidence enough that change is exactly what I needed.  Even while it was happening I wasn't truly aware of it.  In the past, I have had the privilege of traveling through a lot of Central and South America and some of those trips lasted almost a month.  So going into this trip, I knew what I was getting myself into.  I knew what culture shock was.  Or at least I thought I did.  However, this trip proved to be different, and particularly due to timing, it proved to be more life changing than any that have come before it.  Although it wasn't until our second day back in the states that I could even begin to comprehend it.

As of this moment, I am a little more than half way through documenting our trip on this blog.  Without a doubt I will finish blogging the entire thing, not only because it is one of the best ways for me to share our travels with our family and friends, but as it turns out, it is an extremely therapuetic practice for myself.  With complete and utter un-intention, my travel posts have somehow evolved into a deeply personal method that allows me to remember and reflect on all that I have experienced.  Truth be told, if I don't finish, I don't think I will fully process it all and that idea alone scares me like nothing else.  So for now, I need to take a break from the posts of destination highlights and write something different.  Something slightly more personal.  Something on the subject of homecoming.  A subject that brings to light everything from passion, to conflict, to purpose, to personal growth and to will.  All I can say is that this is a post that needed to be written and it needed to be written now.  It is a time sensitive issue, purely a state of mind and 100% reflective.  I have a sneaking suspision that there is an expiration date attached to my awakened mentality and because of it's fleeting nature, all I want to do is capture it in a jar and keep it in my possession forever.

Yet the question remains:  How can I possibly put the spectrum of emotions that I am feeling into words, let alone string them along to make sense?  It is almost inevitable that when you return from a long trip, one of the most commonly asked questions you're faced with is, "How does it feel to be home?"  Even while in transport back to the states, I knew I would be confronted by this question, but I didn't yet know how it would feel.  Now that I'm here, I am experiencing how it feels, but finding it difficult to articulate.  While I don't think I've been very successful in answering this question to most, I have realized that behind some of my responses (or even mere reactions) are the true underlying answers.

Sometimes I stammer because there are no words to describe the paradox of wanting to be here and there at the same time, or wanting to be the me that was there here.  Sometimes I give one word answers because it's easier to convey how amazing it is to see everyone I love, than it is to explain how I feel more at home with them than I do sitting on my own couch in my own home.  Sometimes I sigh and then smile and laugh because I feel relieved to know that I am growing into the person I vowed I would become and because finding myself feels like paradise.  And sometimes I cry because I feel more human than I have in a very long time.  Some of my tears are a direct result of the vast amount of love, compassion, and pure happiness I have recently endured, and some of them come from a place where I fear that the mentality I have gained will discreetly slip away if I don't make life changing efforts to maintain it.  I don't know what it is specifically that I have seen, experienced, questioned, or conquered that has made me feel this way, but I do know that this trip has challenged me to my core and has left the word "priority" resonating in my head.   I've come to a much needed and unexpected turning point in my life; a gift of insight has been bestowed upon me so that I may re-prioritize myself, and what doesn't help to define a person, if not for their priorities?  I know who I am and who I want to be, but I also know that this type of personal growth takes an immense amount of strong will and outside support to sustain.

Like I said, it wasn't until our second day back that I felt like an altered version of myself.  Walking side-by-side with Andy to the farmers market, I finally met my realization. I stopped in my tracks, turned to him and confessed, "If I don't continue to take trips like this, I know I am not going to like the person I become."  I believe in this statement wholeheartedly, but it is the most personal statement I could possibly make.  I don't want to give off the opinion that in order to feel fulfilled one must travel the world or that taking a long trip will change your life just because this one happened to change mine.  This post and that culmination is the conclusion of me taking a risk and experiencing a passion of mine at a pivotal point in my life; a passion that happens to be ignited by traveling to a new world from one that feels all too familiar.

"Buy the ticket, take the ride."  - Hunter S. Thompson.


Margaret said...

Jen, I am the wife of a friend of Andy's (Felix). I have been reading about your trip with much enthusiasm. I loved this post. As a former Peace Corps volunteer, I can totally relate. It was so hard to put into words what I had experienced. How can you? I would try, but nothing really even came close to explaining what I witnessed and experienced. And you're right, I didn't want to come off that the only way to be a complete person is to travel, but I think it gives you such a perspective. Felix and I have always been in agreement about traveling with the kids, no matter what age. It's not as easy with kids, but what a diservice we would do them for the sake of convenience. Keep writing! We love it!


Jen @ Brooklyn Experiment said...

Hey Margaret! It's so nice to hear from you, and especially today, because just this morning we were looking at pictures of your twins and the both of us were just in awe of how cute they are and how much they have grown (especially since we last saw them at your Kentucky Derby party years ago). I can't even begin to wonder what it was like coming back from the Peace Corps, but I can believe the impact it has had on the person you've become. Everywhere we traveled, we saw lots of families backpacking right along side of us and it was inspiring. It was beyond sweet to see such young children carrying their own packs, being flexible by sitting on long bus rides, and trying all sorts of new things with little hesitation. Of course it's not easy, but providing kids with travel experience builds their perspective, even from a very young age, and it is an amazing gift to give them. It shapes their character and who knows what it will inspire them to do when they grow up! Thanks for commenting and for keeping up with the blog! There are more travel posts to come for sure.