We’ve been back in the United States for two months now, staying with family initially while searching for a new home. Then, two weeks ago, we purchased and moved into a house in Columbus.
It took three minivans-loads and two car-loads to transfer all of our possessions. After moving just the contents of our backpacks each month for two years, this felt like a ton of stuff, but it still leaves our house mostly empty of furniture. Oh well. We have places to sleep and a table to eat around. Also (of high priority to me) our kitchen is pretty well equipped. (We are attempting to obtain most of our possessions, including kitchen-gear, second-hand. More about this in a separate post.)
So, we have a house. We have some stuff. I guess we’ll be here for a bit.
After spending so much time on the computer recently, I’ve been enjoying the physicality of settling – cleaning, cooking, and starting to order our massive garden space.
Theo enoys his new preschool, and it’s lovely to not go through the exercise of searching for a new school each month. (He’s also thrilled to have grandparents so close!) Brian likes his new job and working in an office. I like working at home entirely alone. We’re all enjoying connecting with family and friends. We can (and do) walk to Theo’s school, the library, and the farmers market.
All of this feels nice… but, there are definitely things I miss about traveling. I miss the frequent change. I miss the many people we’d meet, often because Theo would lure them to us with winning smiles and sweet requests. (For connections with locals, I highly recommend traveling with an extroverted preschooler.)
I miss the daily small challenges and successes, from figuring out how to buy a transportation card to overcoming language barriers by making animal noises. At the same, not having to spend times on these small challenges will hopefully give me more time to tackle larger challenges.
It would be ignoring a huge part of the experience of coming back if I didn’t also say that it has been chilling to see, first-hand, the surge of fear-mongering and isolationist rhetoric in our own country. While this isn’t unique to the United States, it is very much at odds with the overall kindness we experienced throughout the world. This absolutely includes the welcome reception we received in Muslim-majority countries at the same time as Trump was suggesting a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States. Even as Trump was linking 1.7 billion people with Isis, I never got the sense that anyone was linking me, as an American, to Trump. That’s accurate, but still appreciated.
Anyway. I’m glad for the current polls and glad we’ll be voting in a swing state.
We sometimes are asked if the trip has changed Theo. The short answer is that I don’t know. We get comments on how friendly and social Theo is, but he was this way as a baby and toddler before we departed on our trip. On walks near our home in Oakland, California, we used to joke about how he liked to collect smiles from people. While Theo is pretty adaptable, perhaps because of the frequent changes throughout the trip, he was also pretty game for adventures before we left. So, I’d speculate that while the trip may have enhanced some of his existing tendencies, it probably has not fundamentally changed him. (And to answer another frequent question, no, he didn’t learn any languages. None. To quote Theo, “I just speak English.”)
Brian and I agree that the trip has probably changed the two of us, though again, in subtle ways. While we’ve both been abstractly aware of income inequality, slices of our trip demonstrated it to us on such a more visceral level. The trip has both made us even more aware of our own random good luck in life and circumstances, and we want to continue to find ways to avoid hoarding this good luck.
Even as we settle into a life (for now at least) that looks somewhat more conventional, we also want to hold onto the thought that there are fewer “have to do” type things in our existence than we imagine, and lots of ways to work, play, and love. We didn’t collect many physical souvenirs during the trip, but memories of the variances (and commonalities) of each place that we visited will be our keepsakes, along with dozens of recipes and thousands of photos. There is so much we want to try and explore – even though our time actually traveling will be reduced.