I have a few more things I want to post about, but in the interest of catching up to real-time, here are some final thoughts before we board our plane home tomorrow.
I am currently in a hotel room in Bangkok, about to go to bed. Tomorrow, we head back to the airport for the final leg of this trip: a three-and-a-half hour flight to Taiwan, and then 14 ½ hours more to Newark. After nearly seven months on the road, we’re coming home.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m very excited to see our families and friends, that’s for sure. Part of me is tired of sleeping in hotel rooms and living out of a suitcase – not to mention eager to have more than four pairs of underwear. And I’m looking forward to being back in a culture and place that truly feels like home.
But at the same time, I can’t help but feel a little sad. This trip – our big adventure – is coming to an end. Peter starts work on January 17th. I’ve already begun thinking about new pitches and story ideas. Sure, we’ve got the challenges of finding a place to live and settling into a new city to keep things interesting, but inevitably, a sense of routine is going to return, and with it will come the responsibilities of which we’ve been so blissfully free. Dealing with diabetes supplies. Getting car insurance. Selling story ideas. Paying the rent. This trip has been such an unusual, wonderful break.
I know that many people find travel stressful – which at times, it definitely can be – but I’ve been surprised to find that it’s also had the opposite effect: for much of the trip, I’ve felt bizarrely calm. Once you accept constant movement, you remove much of its potential stress. Since it would have been impossible to plan every step of the trip ahead of time, I was forced to take it step-by-step. We started seven months ago in Iceland and, moving day-by-day, have somehow ended up in Thailand. Everything worked out. There’s no reason to think that, if I continue to trust our abilities and accept what’s uncontrollable, it won’t continue to do so.
One of the other gifts of this trip is the sense of freedom it’s given me. Thanks in part to its length, I’ve spent much of the past seven months with a greater sense of excitement and possibility than I have experienced since graduating from college. Every day brought new options and opportunities, choices of what direction we wanted our lives to take in that particular moment. Did we want to bike sixty miles on an Estonian island? How about a dumpling-making workshop in Beijing? An overnight in a yak hair tent at the base of Mt. Everest? Every day brought an adventure – whether it was good or bad. (Fourteen hour bus rides would definitely qualify as the latter.)
I think the biggest thing this trip has taught me, though, is to have faith in our decisions. It was very difficult to decide to leave our lives in California, for Peter to quit a great job and for us to abandon our beautiful apartment and community of friends. I remember sitting in a cafe on the day I knew Peter was giving notice and, unable to concentrate, starting to cry. What were we doing? Was this the right choice? What if it was all a huge mistake? (Mom and Dad, you may recall receiving a phone call that afternoon.)
I still don’t know about Philadelphia – with no friends there and no place yet to live, the jury’s still out. But this trip wasn’t just the right choice; it has been one of the best experiences of my life. What makes me sad right now is feeling that this adventure – and perhaps most importantly, this opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with the person I love the most – is coming to an end.
But, of course, that’s one of the good things about having taken this trip when we did (not to mention, uh, being married): we can do it again. Perhaps we’ll never have quite as few responsibilities as we do right now – we could have kids and a mortgage; vacation time may be scarce; I could lose the rest of the cartilage in my knees – but the world will still be there to explore. Even if we stay home, we’ll always be creating new experiences to share with one another. And most important, if I may quote Peter, is this: we did it. We took this trip. And no matter what the future brings, we’ll never lose these memories.