Tomorrow is our last day in the UK, and also our last real day of travel outside the US. I’m trying to take a moment from our hectic schedule and clamorous inboxes to think about what’s going on. We’ve been traveling nonstop, barely sleeping in the same place for more than two nights, since we left Normandy, and I have several entries half-written in a Word document just waiting to be posted about our time so far in Stoke-On-Trent, Cambridge, and of course London. (Oh, and Paris too, can’t forget about that.)
Time however waits for no one to digest, contemplate, reflect, and move on from these experiences! As we reach the end of this trip, each day has become more filled and hectic than the last, right up until Tuesday, July 22, when we will board a plane to Barcelona, and then Charlotte, North Carolina. I must be grateful that the flight will not take us over any war zones, civil or international, to my knowledge.
What will it feel like to be back in the US again? I don’t know. I have been excited to return for weeks and months, thinking about our dog, our friends and family, and everything familiar we are aching and yearning to see. I have been excited about moving to a new place, a new community, starting my graduate degree and learning things again. But at the same time, I think things that Steve and I have come to love about living abroad and dislike about living in the US will come into sharper relief, illuminated by our experiences of different ways of life. I’ve been very impressed with how many people around the world have been easy to talk to, kind and generous of spirit. I have enjoyed the benefits of different systems of taxation, healthcare, social welfare, service and hospitality, transportation, immigration, and the list goes on! Some of those things the US do very well; some of those things I wish they would really change. On a more mundane level, I’m going to be stunned again at how much things cost (cheap compared to Europe, expensive compared to Asia!), how many people drive, how much food I’m getting in a serving, how far away things are, and how incredibly easy it will be to do or buy anything I want. Steve meanwhile has made ominous predictions about how long we may be detained at immigration. Though neither of us have ever been seriously interrogated about our journeys outside the US, the longest conversations we have with immigration officials is undoubtedly with US customs when we come back into the country. Nobody anywhere else (with one or two exceptions) cares; at most, we get asked two questions about how long we are visiting, and less than a minute later, are stamped and sent on our merry way.
Truth be told, I am a little scared about going back home. During the past eleven months, we have traveled to broaden our horizons and become acquainted with more worlds besides ours, and we don’t want to return to find ourselves constrained and caged. For me at least, I’ve traveled to gain a deeper appreciation for everything we have, and I don’t want to go back to using resources and spending money the way we did before. We’ve traveled to get away from the same old same old grind of jobs and weekends, but what does that mean if we’re heading back? Essentially, I am unsure how exactly we’ll be synthesizing the elements of our travel life, which we mostly loved, with our life back in the States.
I won’t stop writing for the moment, however, as we have a bit of travel left to do back in the US. After we arrive back in the States, we will stay with Steve’s parents in South Carolina, then visit my parents in Boston, before going to Chicago and reuniting with our friends there. Finally, we’ll drive to Durham through Cincinnati with all our worldly belongings and settle somewhere before I start school in mid-August. There’s still some travel left for our circumnavacators! And of course, one more day in London. I’ll write again soon.