On Coming Home After 13 Life-Changing Months

by Kim on June 30, 2013 · 84 comments

For the past 13 months, Brian and I have traveled the world. 10 countries, 3 continents, and more experiences and memories than there are hours in the day to recount them.

Last week, we arrived back in the U.S.A. We’re here on our home turf until October so this isn’t a long-term return, just a three-month pit stop before we set out into the world again. We’re home to babysit our dogs while Brian’s parents, who have so graciously watched them while we’ve been traveling, set out on their own long adventure.

I have started and deleted this post at least ten times in the week we’ve been back. It’s hard for me to write about our return because I’ve just barely begun to process the thoughts and emotions that have come with being home again.

The strangest part about being back after 13 months away is how thoroughly un-strange it is. Mostly, it’s like we never left. The place looks the same, the people are the same, most of them are going to the same jobs and doing the same stuff they were doing before. This isn’t a criticism, that was me, too, before we left. I spent 8-years in a similar cycle, but it’s strange because everything is essentially the same and yet I feel profoundly different. I don’t quite fit into the place I used to fit so well.

back in Portland

Back in Portland, it’s almost like we never left

While we were traveling, the changes inside of me felt obvious, almost physical, like upon my return people would say, “Wow, you seem different.” But no one has said that. Mostly, when I see someone I haven’t seen in awhile, we just get to catching up. How’s the job? How’s your wife? How’s so-and-so? It’s amazing how quickly I’ve fallen back into the same patters with people. I’ve picked up my old roles right where I left them, I dive back into old conversations, I produce old responses to old situations.

I have no doubt that these past 13 months have changed me. What I haven’t quite figured out is how I can carry this change back into a world that hasn’t changed all that much. Perhaps this shift will be something that I end up silently holding inside of me, something I keep for myself.

What this coming-back period has taught me is that we must change ourselves. We must create change in our lives if we are to continue to grow and learn. Because a year is a flash, and five years is a flash, and life soars by if we let it. But this year of travel was proof to me that we can be transformed. That we can learn more than we think we are capable of learning and stretch ourselves. There is no cap on what we can do. We are so capable. We. Us. Me and you and the lady that cuts your hair and that guy standing on the sidewalk over there and everyone. We have so much in us. But we have to make the decision to change, to pull ourselves out of a rut if we’re in one, to leap, to dive, to plunge. Things stay the same, life takes the path of least resistance, unless we say, Not me. I will keep evolving. 

For now, Brian and I are in Oregon. Soon, we’ll hop back into our car and make (another!) cross-country road trip back to Ohio where we’ll reunite with our parents and our dogs and live for the next few months. I’m looking forward to unpacking our backpacks, sleeping in the same bed each night, and establishing a regular routine for awhile. Also: Mexican food. Coming home has thrown me for a loop, but there are a lot of good things about it too.