Travel vs. the Old Sweater

I am home. Sort of.

At least, I tell myself I’m home. I am back in my house, with my family and my cats (one of which just proved he’s a true mouser this morning. That was quite the welcome home gift when stumbling to the kitchen for my coffee!). Back in the routine. My own bed, my own bathroom, a closet instead of a backpack. A garden, computer with Internet, and a job to keep me on my toes.

I’ll be honest. I am ecstatic to be in my own space. Seven weeks is long enough to live day-to-day out of a backpack and sleep in a sleeping bag, using earplugs to drown out the less considerate of hostel bunkmates. Long enough to figure out the intricacies of getting from place to place and always being on the go.

But I don’t feel really home. It’s that disconnect of rapid travel back to life before the journey. You come back, everyone expects you to be as if you never left, just with some fun travel stories to share and souvenirs. Back to work, life, family, the same person.

But that’s naive and impossible. Especially after seven weeks of travel. I’ve opened myself up to new cultures, new ways of seeing the world, new ways of living. Not necessarily better than how I lived and thought before, but different. Fresh, Challenging and worthy of pensive consideration.

The journey has unknowingly altered me. I am not the same person as when I left, not really. I have grown and changed, hopefully for the better, as I learned and absorbed and engaged with a kaleidoscope of different people. This is what I love and celebrate about travel. And I’m still absorbing everything, some changes in myself probably yet unknown. Can the people around me see them?

I developed a routine on the road in Iceland. Breakfast with healthy skyr and rye bread, a jet-fuel strong cup of coffee. Followed by a rejuvenating soak in the local geothermally-heated hot pots with the gossiping locals. Then walking or hiking everywhere. I have never felt so healthy since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. What of this routine is responsible? Everything? Nothing? I need to sort it all out.

The Faroes fed my soul in ways I have never before been fed. Why? This one may take years and several trips back to sort out. I just know to the bone that I came back changed and excited with life and practically dancing on the transient Faroes fog. I played one of my new CD’s yesterday, an ethereal Faroese folk musician named Gudrid Hansdottir, and suddenly rode a wave of longing and had to fight back tears and my credit card from purchasing a plane ticket now.

Here is what I do know. I am trying to fit my Wisconsin life back on like a favorite, old sweater, only to discover it has inexplicably shrunk and itches in places it never itched. So the next few days and possibly weeks may be a riddle to solve, of how to fit back into a life I left weeks ago.

This is the wonderous danger of travel and absorbing yourself in another culture. The answer may be that you can never go back, only forward.


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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