There is a shift that happens when one leaves and returns, especially when that space is over the span of a year around the world. Some of the friends you missed so much still seem far away during first conversations. You become a short-lived novelty, a talking point that lasts for an intro and then it’s back to the latest local gossip or next best thing on Netflix. The clothes that hang in your closet remain there and when you try to find an outfit in the new abundance of options, you end up falling back on the familiar clothes from your trip. In my case, I even found that my shoes no longer fit, as if somehow walking new cities every day for a year stretched me out of my old form. Like through metamorphosis, I had shed my prior skin and now the new me slid her way into life back home. Except home had changed or maybe just the person viewing it had, making it seem like a foreign place to learn all over again.
I spent the summer not in reflection, but in the growing pains of starting a new business. I spent weekends hauling my travel photos, now in large canvas form, to art fairs. My booth was always full and I enjoyed the conversations my photos inspired, yet I could not live on compliments alone and struggled to make ends meet. I started an online etsy store, did portrait sessions for friends and began selling off my wardrobe that no longer fit to pay my bills. I’m still working on purging my material items in order to remove the clutter from my life and add meaning in other ways. From time to time, I reflect not on my trip but what the meaning of success is and what the magic token is that will make my life feel fulfilled at the end of it. For some it is holding their first child in their arms, for others it’s having a great love in their life. There are also those that yearn to create something new to share with the world whether it be a craft, business or volunteering their time to those in need. While travel certainly filled a lot of what was missing in my life, I still yearn for more.
When looking at my life in financial terms right now, success is far from achieved. Yet, I am not tethered to society’s norm. I don’t wake to an alarm clock and trudge off to a job I don’t enjoy. I no longer sit in a drab cubicle and complete projects that have little meaning. I went on a job interview and for the first time, walked into it carefree and with no nervousness. The end result didn’t matter to me because I was happy where I was. I’ve explored parts of Michigan I have never seen, have a sense of accomplishment and joy from the the photography work I do and still feel a connection to the readers on my blog that sometimes write me. In many ways I am free, and as a friend put it, no longer plugged into the Matrix.
Coming home and exploring the wonderful state I live in made me appreciate how truly special it is. I traveled to the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan during the hot summer days and gazed at stars during the nights. Camping under the familiar constellations, kayaking around lighthouses, hiking cliff-lined trails and driving through tunnels of trees all filled me with a great sense of connection to this place I call home. After a splurge of summer scenery and a reset of my inner travel clock, I’m setting off once more this winter.
Up next is a trip starting in Nepal, traversing the country of Bhutan and ending in India. It will be a much smaller journey in regards to time, but I think one of the biggest trips in regards to what I will take away from it. Another change on this new adventure is that I will not be traveling solo this time. It will be great to finally be able to share my experiences with someone along the path and also provide my mother with a bit of relief as I go to these far off destinations with someone by my side. While my family wishes for me to travel to “normal” places or to just stay home for good, they weren’t surprised by the news of a new trip so soon. The world is a big place and I’ve only scratched the surface. As long as I’m able to there will always be a new place to explore, a new culture to experience and a place in me willing to grow along this journey called life.