What a TRIP!
May 7, 2005
|Pun intended! Quite possibly the most bizarre feeling I've ever had on a plane was flying over the Sierra Nevada Mountains knowing that when I left out of SFO 2 1/2 months ago, I had flown in the other direction. Call it a "Galileo Moment" but I just stared out my window for the rest of the flight tripping out on the fact that I didn't come this way. But nonetheless, I made it back in one piece.
I've been home for a little over a week now (Apologies for keeping some of you hanging!) but coming home this time was a bit different. Being away for 9+ weeks and constantly looking at new cities, the ride home felt like I was coming to visit my own city. After 15 hours of flying from Rio, I dropped my backpack on the bed as soon as I made it to my bedroom... and headed straight for the shower. Once I got out and dried off I went straight for my backpack to get some clothes... then realized I was actually at home and had 3 closets full of clothes to pick from instead of the 4 shirts and 2 pants I'd been trekking with on my back for the past couple months. Funny thing was I couldn't find my underwear... I had to look through 4 drawers before I found them. I started going through my closets, and was suddenly really excited to see all these new clothes. It was like shopping for new clothes, except I already owned them! I felt like a stranger in my own home!
But after a week of catching up with friends, doing laundry, restocking the fridge, getting caught up on TiVo and getting back into the groove at work I can now feel how this trip has changed me... but its hard to describe in words, but I'll give it a shot.
I've been much less stressed at work, despite the fact I've got some SERIOUS catching up to do. Not that I wont take my job any less serious, but its somewhat of a relief to know that if I were to ever lose my job it would be possible to survive with much less. I met people who feed their families on a monthly salary equivalent to what I make in a day... and they were happy.
Driving here has been interesting as well. I find myself actually having to remember to drive on the right side of the road and am much more relaxed in rush hour since nothing in this country could compare to traffic in Bangkok, Mumbai or Cairo. I also find myself a bit more forgiving of bad drivers. But rather than get mad at them I just drive around or get so close to them it freaks them out... which is a lot more fun than flipping the bird.
It's also been a bit sad to come back to American media. I just learned a couple days ago about the Wendy's Finger incident... which never even made the end of the news in Brazil. And it's frustrating to hear them report that the US State department is telling Americans not to go to Cairo due to the recent bombings... yet more people have been killed in shootings on LA's freeways in the past week. I miss hearing about the news and events in Asia and Africa that the media abroad always reported on. There are so many more interesting things to learn about besides the Michael Jackson trial.
I've never really been able to read a book because I'm so easily distracted (I always joked that I had ADD), but I soon found myself plowing through books reading about 100 pages an hour. I even found myself writing these journals in the writing styles of the book I was reading. I've had so much feedback from a lot of you that I guess maybe I've discovered a creative side that I didn't know existed.
But most importantly, I've learned a lot about myself. As someone who prefers to surround myself with people... even I thought maybe I was a bit nuts going on this trip alone. Many of you knew that I even postponed this trip partly because I wanted someone to go with me. But life throws you a curveball every now and then and I just knew it was time for me to do this. I don't think I would have had the experiences I had, or met many of my new friends, had I not been alone. I was forced to be comfortable eating dinner alone... forced to have to communicate with strangers in places where they don't even speak English... forced to have absolutely nothing to do and actually enjoy it (I just told myself it was better than working). I also managed to work out some personal issues I was dealing with... understanding and learning more about relationships, they way people should be treated, the way I should be treated... and that settling for less is not an option. (Or as my sister Mardell says... Don't settle for the one you can live with, settle for the one you cant live without!)
Over 50,000 miles, 32 different flights, 18 different airports, 11 countries, 1 Helluva time! I don't think I can put into words what I've been through, but I can't emphasize enough the need for every American to travel internationally... and I don't mean Mexico or Canada. I was fortunate enough to be with friends around the globe in their own cities and homes... and to have met so many new people in all these different countries. You know who you are and you've all made this journey an unforgettable experience. And for those of you who followed along, thank you for the emails and the encouraging words, it was great to have you with me and hope these updates weren't too long and drawn out. It was definitely the trip of a lifetime, but I definitely intend to do it again!
Things I learned on this trip:
Sadly, I now feel we are an insulated country when it comes to understanding the rest of the world. It used to be that being an American was an envious title when traveling abroad. But it became clear to me consistently in every country that our title has changed in the last few years (especially since they now sell "Canadian Travel Kits" to Americans traveling abroad so we look Canadian). Now I'm not expressing my political views and, granted, people still want to live in America... but politically we've really tarnished ourselves with the war in Iraq, and EVERYONE I spoke to (with the exception of another American) couldn't believe we actually re-elected Bush. In fact it was usually the first thing I heard when revealing my citizenship. Most people were shocked to hear where I was from since "Americans don't get vacations" was the universal opinion. I was also shocked to learn that AT LEAST 75% of Americans don't have a passport. I think if more of us traveled abroad, we'd be a different country.
I love languages and somehow managed to learn new phrases in Chinese, Thai, Hindi, Czech, German, French, Arabic, Afrikaans, Portuguese and Spanish.
Some of the books I read and really enjoyed were Prey by Michael Crichton, Working Fire by Dan Unger, Double Homicide by Jonathan Kellerman, Angels and Demons, Deception Point and Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (Same author as the DaVinci Code... READ THEM ALL!!!)
And finally... if you dont have one... GO GET A PASSPORT AND GET OUT OF TOWN!!!! I want to read your trip journal next :)