Brief Return to the Divided States of America
Chicago & Northern California: September 15 – 29, 2016
It’s been almost exactly 2 months since the day we stepped foot back in the US after the first 5.5 months of our nomadic adventure. For a variety of reasons, it’s taken me this long to simply collect my thoughts regarding our initial experience of what’s usually called, “reverse culture shock.” Our shock was a bit lessened given that we’d spent the previous 7 weeks in Montreal, Quebec, which in many ways felt like being back in the States – except that we were exempt from the political divisiveness and media noise. Yet, there’s an obvious difference between coming back to the Americas versus actually going back home – to one’s roots, friends and family, and familiar surroundings.
During our two-week swing across America before heading out on our Asian adventure, we spent 4 days in Chicago (my hometown) and 8 days in Northern California – our most recent home. Those first four days in Chicago were immensely relaxing, as it felt much like every other trip home that I’ve taken in the last 20 years since I’ve lived away from home in Arizona and California. My Chicago peeps are used to my annual trips home and scheduling time to see everyone is easily completed in about 1-2 hours over text messages. Unlike California, all of my close peeps in Chicago live no more than 20 minutes away from my parents and so that, coupled with the slower pace of life in the Midwestern suburbs, made the entire trip very relaxing and welcoming.
Much of my time in Chicago was spent visiting friends for lunch, dinner, or just hanging out in their backyards shooting the breeze on those gorgeous Chicago summer afternoons and evenings. Yet, my most cherished moment was spending a Sunday at my dad’s house with my parents and my wife simply watching football, eating, and making each other laugh. Anyone that knows me well fully understands how much this simple life moment means to me. It will probably be one of my most lasting memories with my parents for the rest of my life. Though other relatives were supposed to show up (only my aunt Ann came by), I was perfectly content with simply maximizing quality time with my parents – something that I cherish more and more as the years pass.
Our time in California was a vastly different experience – though not in a negative way, simply pure overload. For the previous several months, I was operating on a different time zone than my clients (anywhere from a 3-9 hour difference). That time difference allowed me time to structure my day for both personal pleasures and professional pursuits. Yet, coming back into the Pacific Time zone, I received the rude awakening of how I no longer had “my time” in the day. Almost from the moment we arrived at SFO late that Monday night to the time we returned our rental car 8 days later, I felt rushed, tired, and overwhelmed.
Essentially each day was spent in a car for at least 2-3 hours – mind you, I hadn’t driven a car since we left the States back in April…so I was no longer accustomed to wasting so much of my daily time in traffic – visiting friends for lunch or dinner or visiting clients. Drives of no more than 15-20 miles took 45 minutes to an over an hour – a far cry from my days walking the streets of Southern Spain or the beaches in Coastal Croatia.
I honestly never had more than an hour to myself and as someone who is used to having personal mental time throughout the day, I simply resigned to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen during those 8 days. The purpose of this time was to reconnect and enjoy home-cooked meals with those near and dear to our hearts, handle a few business matters, and meet the 4 newborns that arrived during our time away.
Not Ready to Settle
For a childless couple in their mid-30s, it’s pretty obvious how much being around all of our friends and their newborns (some on their second child) affected our emotions during our quick return home. Strangely, though, for as much as we miss our friends and certain aspects of our life in Northern California, it became apparent pretty quickly that we were not ready to return home permanently anytime soon. There is still much more that we wish to see and do in the world, and a few more places that we’d like to call home before we settle down again. Yet, it was special to “check-in” on the lives of those back in California and remind ourselves of why we both love the area yet decided to take a temporary break from its hectic life.
After our brief return home, we were more than ready to get back on the road and begin exploring Asia – first stop: Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Read more Tales from the Nomadic Adventure and find out where we’ll be in the coming months.