Now that we’re back in the U.S. and beginning to reconnect with people face-to-face, I struggle to answer generous inquiries about our journey. I’ve experienced something I cannot easily put into words. I found it difficult to write blog posts for the same reason.
I'm not clear on the journey, yet. Talking with other long term travelers (though, a year is nothing compared to some), that lack of certainty upon returning is common. The journey was big, complicated, beautiful and challenging. It transformed us in ways we haven't yet discovered.
At this phase, I feel socially awkward about answering pointed questions about our trip. So, if you sense this when you ask, understand that we haven't organized our feelings or thoughts completely so it can be challenging to give a candid, clear answer. This is a phase of integration — the journey is nebulous and vast, with no clear edges. Stories arise organically in conversation but pointed questions tend to make me stammer. And depending on the day, I either feel grateful to be home or heartbroken not to be in South America.
But, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for asking.
Even after being gone for more than a year, we find that some people don't ask at all. Not even a, "how are you?" Which surprises us. It reminds me of when my mom died and some people said nothing. I understood it was because they didn't know what to say, but it was hard to connect with people who couldn't step towards me with a few words of kindness. I imagine for some people, they percieve something about our trip that makes them feel at a loss for words. I understand, but it is difficult to connect without, at least, a "how are you?"
I've started to consider our journey a relationship, rather than something static we did that has come and gone. It lives on in us. Just as the influence and memories of my mother, friends we no longer see, beloved pets who've died, or other life-altering moments do. Our trip is now a primary character in the story of our lives. A character that is still being cultivated.
Relationships are complicated, especially our most intimate relationships. There is love and growth as well as conflict and disappointment. A trip like ours required us to surrender plans and get comfortable with uncertainty, solitude, confusion and inconvenience. It invited us to communicate well with each other, often after struggling through crappy communication. But, we pulled it off every time. John's mantra, no matter how miserable a situation was, "we're in this together." Rough patches became opportunities for deeper connection. Undesirable, unplanned but incredibly rewarding.
Suffice it to say, please connect with us by asking . . . anything. It isn't just how we are that has been informed by our travels, but who we are. It is true that time changes everyone. A journey far out of the familiar accelerates change.
As far as updates go, we've been back in the U.S. since mid-December, staying with my dad in Los Angeles. Here, it is a mix of job hunting, reluctantly getting back into (some of) society's stresses and helping my dad get his apartment ready to sell in the near future. At the moment, John is in upstate New York supporting his mom as she recovers from a knee replacement.
Moving north hinges on a job offer. It could be next month or many months from now. While we're back in our home country, we're not yet home. The journey continues.
We're moving to a smaller town in Oregon. We love so much about Portland, mostly our friends. But, the city is changing in ways we can't relate to. We feel called to live in a quieter, less publicized town. After moving in and out of cities, nature and rural areas for the last sixteen months, we know our rhythm is much slower than the pace of a city like Portland.
After we get settled, my dad plans to move up and make a home for himself nearby. Which is pretty great. A whole new set of memories yet to be made.
Thanks for following along and for your patience as I posted less and less. Consider my lack of blog posts a sign of personal enrichment — as the journey rooted itself in me in such a way, I became the subject, no longer the observer.