For all my good intentions, I clearly did not manage to keep up with my blog on the road. My backpacking trip around South America was about living in the moment, and while that meant I was photographing my experience and writing in my journal, it did not translate into checking in here. 🙂
So what is going on right now? I have been back in the US for two months now; I arrived back to Boston on November 18, after changing my flight to the last possible date so that I could explore even more of the continent and spend quality time with loved ones in Lima. Within days of returning to the US, I had been offered a job substituting at a local language institute, which gave me semi-stable work through the holiday season and my first paychecks in nearly 1.5 years. In the meantime, I kept interviewing for a permanent position, and ending up choosing to work at a small but friendly language school. I started at the beginning of January, and things are going well. All of this has been possible due to the generosity of my friends, who have let me stay for free at their house, and my parents, who provide me with lots of food, continue to store my belongings, and let me stay with them to give my friends a break. In February, I’m moving to a new apartment in Cambridge, happily with a flexible month-to-month lease.
Those are the official details of resuming life in the US. I am really happy how well things have turned out, though it’s been a lot of work to get here. At the same time, returning to the US has been a huge struggle emotionally. I’m sure you’ve heard of reverse culture shock, and I was expecting to experience it on my return. However, I thought I would reject US culture, reject the food, and reject American attitudes and habits. Not at all – I actually appreciate a lot of things about this country. Instead, I have been suffering from intense grief over leaving Peru, leaving my travel life, and leaving people behind. After wondering what was going on with me, I finally looked up the stages of reverse culture shock and read about other people’s experiences.
It’s normal to think you can just resume a typical stable life in the US, and there are things appealing about life here, especially if you’ve been, oh, I don’t know, living in a shared room in a shantytown or out of a backpack for a long period of time. It’s normal to want to share everything about your experience, and find that people just aren’t that interested. For most people, your experience was just that, a fascinating, exciting temporary experience, but for you, your time living and traveling abroad was your life. It was your everyday reality. How do you reconcile that experience and who you were while traveling with your current situation and who you were before you left? What does that mean for who you are now? It’s an on-going process.
I’m lucky to have very patient friends who have listened to me cry, helped me puzzle out decision making that seems simple on the surface, and been genuinely interested in hearing my stories. I’m also lucky that I love practicing yoga, because it reminds me to be present in the moment. I have decided to be generous with myself and not rush the process – my new job is wonderful, but it’s not a long-term career move, and my new apartment seems equally great, but I’m not committing for any specific length of time. I am here while I decide what I want my life to look like going forward. As a dear friend said, this time right now is a bridge between what I was doing and what I will be doing. I want to be present with my family and friends while I’m here. I want to live in the now, and appreciate Boston for everything it is, even in the cold, snowy winter.
As I’ve said before, I feel certain my time in South America is not over. I’m exploring my options and taking in all the possibilities. At the same time, I recognize that what I have here is very good too. Volunteering and traveling reminded me not to take anything for granted, and I don’t.
One of the good things about being back and finally having a job and apartment is that I can focus on the many post-travel projects I have, such as sifting through thousands of photos and updating my blog with travel details and tips to on how to get to the amazing places I visited. As always, there is more to come.