On Returning Home

I’ve officially been in the United States for almost three weeks now and in that time I basically jumped right back into everything. In some ways it feels like I never left; I’m back to work, getting into shenanigans with friends and annoying my cat with all the pent up love and affection I stashed away just for her. Don’t worry, she loves it. Claws are signs of affection, right? Just kidding, she still sort of likes me. Emphasis on the “sort of.”

In other ways it feels incredibly strange and perplexing to be back; men have beards, there are 30 bags of salad to choose from at the grocery store (and grocery stores exist…), people are pushing strollers and 97% of my town’s population is in a flannel. It’s a little crazy to be where phone service is fast, the showers instantly become hot and the beer is strong and hoppy (and blessed for that). Even driving is weird in the way that it is such a calm and docile task here. I mean, people just stay in their lanes, remain in the forward direction and even throw on a blinker every now and then. Essentially I’ve returned to all the comforts and spoils of everyday living in America.

Let it be known that my travels in Southeast Asia were phenomenal and I enjoyed my time immensely, yet for an introvert such as myself I definitely find solace in this small time-out from the Asian grind. Seriously, it is one bustling corner of the world over there. Plus, I can breathe. Metaphorically, yes, but really, I can actually breathe clean air again. As much as I love to  travel, there really is no place quite like home and it is nice to come back to a place that I love, even if only for a little bit.

All in all, my four months in Asia were especially eye-opening and I am grateful for all the moments I was privy to while adventuring about. I’m talking the good, the not-so-great and the downright ugly, and I had my fair share of them all. Since my return I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on my travels and made a list (duh) of the things I loved about Asia as well as the things I won’t exactly be crying over and having mass nostalgic about. But first…

 

MY TRIP IN NUMBERS

Days abroad: 114

Days volunteering: 30

Countries Visited: 6

Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam

UNESCO Sites Visited: 3

Ancient Town, Hoi An, Vietnam

Angkor Wat, Siem Real, Cambodia

Cultural Landscape of Bali Province, Indonesia

Planes: 24

Hostels/Hotels/Homestays: 32

Jars of Nutella Eaten: Shockingly only 5

Books Read: 22

Little Bee, Chris Cleave

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Watership Down, Richard Adams

The Gate, François Bizot

The Kiss: A Memoir, Kathryn Harrison

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafaiz

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson

Euphoria, Lily King

The Ledge, Jim Davidson & Kevin Vaughn

The Piano Tuner, Daniel Mason

Nelson Mandela: No Easy Walk To Freedom, Bryan Dengenre

The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama

The Assault On Reason, Al Gore

The Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto “Che” Guervara

Blink, Malcolm Gladwell

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redsfield Jamison

The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Stedman

The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

Mosquito bites: 1000 more than necessary and enough for me to be a proud advocate for the extinction of mosquitoes.

Countries of People Met: 31

Australia, Belarus, Bhutan, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, USA (or, ca, wa, mo, ut, nh), Vietnam, Wales

Cats I made friends with: Enough for 9 lifetimes

And now…

 

THINGS I MISS ABOUT ASIA

The Food. Delicious and filling meals for $1, fresh juices, curry from scratch… Oh, parting ways is such sweet sorrow.

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Animal Friends. There is absolutely no shortage of dog and cat friends in SE Asia and it is wonderful. Okay, admittedly it’s not that wonderful because it’s kind of a problem, but they are all so adorable and amusing and I just wanted to claim them all as my own.

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Markets. Back home we have farmer’s markets once a week or so, but Asia really has the whole market thing down and there’s nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of people, produce and snacks to start your day. Or end it. Or both.

 

THINGS I HAVE NOT MISSED AT ALL

Asian-Style Bathrooms. Can’t say I’ve been reminiscing about showering within inches of a toilet, squatting to pee, a lack of toilet paper or cold bucket showers. Nope, I’m good.

Sanitation. It’s nice to not have to question how long the food was sitting out or if those ice cubes were made with tap water. Otherwise…

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The Word “Lady”. I can go my whole life without hearing that word again, especially paired with the phrases “special discount for you!” and “so beautiful, where from?” or “taxi!”

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Mosquitoes. The. Absolute. Worst. I take pride in my uncanny ability to kill mosquitoes and would be okay if they just ceased to exist altogether.

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Honking. Incessant honking at everyone and everything and really at nothing in particular. Maybe they just like to toot their own horn?

Thieving Monkeys. Cute they are not, mischievous they are.

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Constant Selling. Massages, coconuts, taxis, their first born, their right arm… Anything and everything is up for grabs. One particular encounter in Vietnam ended up being equal parts annoying and amusing. While laying at the beach with my eyes closed I heard vendors pass asking if I wanted a massage or to buy ice cream. You see, if you don’t react they usually move right along, but this time I encountered a man that put persistent American car salesmen to shame. He spent, at minimum, three minutes uttering a continuous slew of words. “Excuse me. Lady. Hello. Miss. Miss. Hi, hello? Excuse me. Hello lady. Miss…” (repeat 18 more times). Finally, thinking maybe there was a problem, I opened my eyes and found a guy about a foot to my left staring intently at me. “Yes?” I asked. “You want to buy something?” He asked. NO. No, no, no, no. NOOOOO.

 

THINGS I’M UNDECIDED ON

Appearance Upkeep. I’ll be real, I’m essentially a peasant when traveling, which is great and also not; it’s nice to look nice at home, but it’s also nice to be completely unconcerned while abroad. While traveling (especially along the equator) it is all sorts of hot and sweaty and I just can’t be bothered to take the time to look moderately decent. Sure, while on the go I may closely resemble a lost child with a massive backpack, but really, I can’t say I care too much what I look like to a country full of strangers. I also don’t care if my outfit looks funny or if its day 208 of my hair being thrown up in an uber unsexy bun. Whatever.

Being a spectacle. Being of the lighter skinned variety basically made me a celebrity, which was mildly weird to say the least, but being treated like a rockstar for really no reason at all wasn’t all that bad. If you’re looking for an ego boost just get yourself to Southeast Asia, I promise they deliver. While the shy people would awkwardly stare and giggle, the more confident ones would ask to take pictures with me or, better yet, attempted to sneak a selfie (and these covert missions are not their strong suit). Strange? Yes. Awesome? Also, yes.

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“Excuse me miss, can I have a picture?” in pictures:

 

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Sloth enthusiast, Nutella extremist, and all around sassy human with a deep love for hoppy beer and discovering the world's many gems. Currently gallivanting the globe while drinking more coffee than necessary.

11 thoughts on “On Returning Home

  1. Nice story. If you love traveling you can still find sometimes to travel across Africa mainly in Tanzania and explore the best of Africa. We have huge mountain plenty of animals and so many attractions. Your welcome to choose chiqutita homestay for your enjoyments in Tanzania.

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    1. I brought a few with me and then bought a few and exchanged them at used book stores. I probably did that a dozen times while in Chiang Mai (so many good bookstores there!) I’m bringing a Nook with me on my next adventure though- I love real books but they get a little heavy haha.

      Any reading suggestions!?

      Like

  2. Great post!! I so know that feeling “you’re so white!” I have blonde hair, too, and that doesn’t help. I also know how weird it is to come home after being away for so long. People everywhere look so similar to each other and so different than abroad – here in the Nordic countries, pale and also slighly fat, to be honest! I always find it a bit disturbing how everyone else has just spent the time as they always do, watching tv shows and sitting in the office, while all that adventure happened to me! …oh, and I’ve read 5 of your 22 books, I especially liked Euphoria!

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    1. Seeing blondes is very strange in SE Asia so I can only imagine! I once saw a giant blonde guy surrounded by a dozen asians. It was very amusing haha.

      I don’t read a lot of fiction lately but I did enjoy Euphoria. I’m working on reading all the books off of Amazon’s 100 list and am around 30 or so! What’s your favorite book?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aw I love this post. Welcome home! I love that about traveling – you can read while in transit and you read a lot more than you would if you were staying at home with reliable wi-fi all the time. Haha. I need new book recommendations – what were your top 3 out of that list?

    I agree that travel is wonderful but there’s a reason there is that saying, “home sweet home”. It’s nice to have a little bit of permanency (so I’m learning as I unpack and pack my backpack everyweek in a new bedroom).

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    1. Hands down, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It was a topic I studied in college and so I may have enjoyed it more than others, but in general it is incredibly eye-opening and an important read for everyone. The Rosie Project was an amusing, easy and fun read! Not on the list that I just finished is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and I really, really recommend that one.

      Happy reading and traveling!

      Liked by 1 person

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