As we sat in the transit lounge of the Seoul airport in October 2009, existing for a few hours in the in-between, in the interim between our round-the-world trip and the life that awaited us at home, my thoughts went only in one direction: home. I thought of catching up with my family and friends. I thought of the jeans that I hadn’t wiggled into in a year. I thought of homecooked meals and good Tex Mex and a refrigerator stocked with cheese. I thought of the adventure of moving to a new city, one that we had never even visited before. Perhaps it is because I am a person that tends to look forward rather than backward, or perhaps it was because the round-the-world trip was not yet far enough in the past to be worthy of reminiscence, but either way, my mind did not flit to memories of our adventures or pull up images of favorite moments. After one year on the road, I was ready to go home.
Fast-forward to February 2010. We are deep into winter, snowed-in in the south, which everyone knows is worse than being snowed-in in the north, where at least people are prepared. After a year of full-time summer, winter is worse than I remembered. It is cold, dreary, gray. It seems like it is always dark. Some days, I open my bookmarks page and pull up all the travel blogs I had so loved to read in the run-up to our trip and in the year we traveled. I try to make myself read, but I can’t get into it. Though there are certainly travelers, who like us, have taken a substantial trip and then returned home to other adventures, it seems to me, in my state, that everyone has become a “digital nomad.” What I take away from everything I read is that a RTW trip is not enough; what real travelers do is cut all ties and live their lives entirely on the road. We came home. We go to work. We spend Friday night running errands at Target. I feel like we failed. For months, I try to figure out where we went wrong and how we can join this crowd of digital nomads.
Jump ahead to Summer 2010. I get to go home to Louisville every month. I go shopping with my mom and laugh at my dad’s jokes. I road trip with my brothers. I share enormous pieces of chocolate cake with friends. We read haikus at Jeff’s sister’s wedding. We grill out and then sit with friends on our back porch and talk until even the cicadas have quit singing. We eat hamburgers and watch the Durham Bulls play under the ferocious North Carolina sun. We go to the farmer’s market and chat with the men and women selling us yellow lemon heirloom tomatoes and rounds of goat cheese. We try out new recipes in an effort to keep up with the okra and cucumbers taking over our garden. We ride our bikes down the Tobacco Trail. In short, we rediscover the pleasures of the ordinary, of growing roots, of having a place we call home. We renew friendships and make new ones and remember how it has always been the people, and not the places, that make our time on earth count.
It takes almost a year, but I return to the blogs. I read the words again and hear something different this time. This time I enjoy reading the blogs for what they are, accounts of travelers of all different types trying to figure out their place in the world, offering suggestions and ideas but not claiming that their way is the only way. I have accepted the fact that it is okay to like your job, even if it’s not the type you can take on the road; that there is no weakness in wanting to be close to family and friends; that adventure can be found anywhere so long as you keep your mind open and adapt the personality of a yes man. I have decided that you can love home and love to travel, that the two are not inherently contradictory. A year after our plane touched down on American soil, I realize that not only can you go home again, but also that’s it okay to do so.