9 Weeks in ‘Merica

9 Weeks in ‘Merica

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If you gave me a free ticket to anywhere, I probably wouldn’t go.  The anxiety brought on by packing is just too strong for me to overcome.  I still love the idea of travel, but I am all too familiar with the realities after sleeping in the same bed for nine weeks.  Rewind to ten weeks ago and we had averaged a new city every 3.3 days…for 930 days.  Until this July I hadn’t slept in the same bed for more than 14 straight days since October 2010.  How does it feel to be back?  What have we done to settle in?

Immediately upon returning we accepted where we were.  Within four days we unpacked and put away all of our clothes.  We did this because we felt living out of storage boxes would represent a state of flux, as if mentally we were prepared not to stay, instead of accepting our commitment to staying.  I practiced “normal” activities like grocery shopping by allowing ourselves to wander the aisles, when I actually didn’t need anything. We went to Wal-Mart and browsed nearly every aisle and watched fellow shoppers as though we were anthropologists (let’s face it, Wal-Mart is one of the most interesting places in the world).  We let the “normal” be new, an interesting and exciting thing.

The necessities…sorting through a pile of mail from supposedly “paperless” relationships.

Then we took care of the necessitates.  We needed to buy a new computer as ours had been stolen.  I analyzed my options and started price shopping until I found someone selling a three-month old deluxe Mac Mini for 15% less than retail.  After my years of travel experience I negotiated him down to 25% off retail and went to buy it.  He texted me to clarify that I was paying cash…that was a moment of culture shock. How else would I pay?  I had become so accustomed to paying cash for things that I hadn’t considered there was another way. As I had so many times before, I pulled the cash out of my travel belt and bought it.  I realized that keeping $1000+ in cash had it’s time and place, and Minnesota was not that place.  I’ve since paid for a cup of coffee on a credit card…several times.

Brunch, a staple of the old life, with good friends…and their new friends…

July was a blur of getting up and running.  Nearly every day was something new with something to do.  We had little time to consider that we had stopped because we hadn’t, we were still running at hyper-travel pace, we still went 24/7 with friends and activities.  The reality is that if reverse culture shock was going to happen, it wasn’t going to happen when we hadn’t had the chance to accept that we had moved onto another life…yet this new life was so familiar, so comfortable, because the new life was the old.  Not much had changed, friends were doing different things, but mostly the same.  The familiarity of it was refreshing, comfortable, and wonderful.

Then we got to work.  August was all about working towards applying for graduate school beginning in the Fall of 2014.  We created schedules for ourselves to study for the GMAT, scheduled meetings with those we wanted to write references, and made getting accepted our full-time job.  We dove into it with the same zeal as we did with traveling and returning, full-on.  We’ve been spending 3-4 hours a day studying our arithmetic, algebra, geometry and english for the GMAT.  What exactly does our new life look like?  Here are two sample questions:

This is a surprisingly easy high-level “data sufficiency” problem.  Can you figure out what you need to solve it?  Can you do it with statement 1, statement 2, or both?  Don’t try both unless you know that each one alone cannot solve it.

This is a sentence correction problem, there is a verb choice error here connected with tense, do you see which version of the underlined portion is correct?

From unpacking, to reacquainting, to relearning math, it’s been quite a nine weeks back home.  I think we’ve been able to fight off, or at least delay, reverse culture shock because we’ve kept ourselves so busy through self-driven activities.  The fact that what we’ve been doing is self-guided, as were our travels, allows us to control our lives. I think we would have crashed if an external force was pushing us, like applying for jobs or the need for income.  For people that are currently traveling around the world I think it’s essential that they have the time and money to have their return be relaxed instead of a crisis driven by need, such as needing income.  Trips and career breaks should be designed around a smooth reentry  instead of allowing the “I’ll figure it out when I get there” mindset to create a crisis.  Our reentry was as planned and thought-out as our decision to leave.

One thing that I am sure this post highlights is how busy we’ve been.  This is by choice and not for everyone.  The biggest part of why we’ve been so busy, just like why we traveled to so many places, is because that’s who we are.  We bite off more than most people can chew, then ask for more.  Knowing this has allowed us to make the first nine weeks an action packed adventure instead of a post-trip letdown.  That said, our action packed adventure would be hell for some just as our letdown would be heaven for others.

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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