One would think that after living abroad for two years and then traveling through SE Asia for 5 months, going home would be a much awaited experience. I must admit I was ecstatic to not be living out of a backpack, have a permanent bed to rest my head on and not have to rely on public transportation, but the actual prospect of being home for a few months scared me. Thankfully I knew that this return home was not a permanent one, as much as friends and family suggested I stay for a while I knew that I'd soon be on the road again.
My brother decided to lessen the blow of re-entering the United States with a visit to Estabrook beer garden, a great addition to the lovely city of Milwaukee, it even made a top 10 list. On the way there we made a stop for snacks: wraps, HUMMUS and veggies, yeah those were my requests, it's amazing some of the simple things I missed after years in Asia. So the food was good and even better we got large craft beers (again something that's missing in Asia), the first day back was not.too.shabby.
The novelty of being home (and drinking good beer) was sure to end sooner or later, the question was how would I adjust to life back home? After living in Korea for a year and a half I did make a [short] visit home in August of 2013 so I thought I knew what to expect as far as reverse culture shock goes, but I soon found out I was wrong. The major difference is that this time I wasn't only coming back from Korea but also five months in SE Asia, a much less developed and poorer area of the world. So there were a few things that I found hard to adjust to:
1. Road Rage I experienced this first hand in the backseat of my brothers car, a place I don't like to find myself on a good day. On my first day back in the country I was wishing I was back on a motorbike in SE Asia, it's that bad. I too used to drive at least 5 - 10 over and get mad at others who wouldn't do the same, but something changed me, maybe it was all the yoga. Oh and the use of horns, in Asia it's "Beep, beep = watch out I don't want to run you over" but here it's "Honk, honk = get out of my f@#%ing way", I don't know about you but I prefer the former.
2. Mirrors? are apparently still lacking here, but the people are growing (and I don't mean the population). Honesty when I lived [and traveled] in Asia people would ask me " is everyone really fat in America,?" I did my best to quash these beliefs but upon returning home I found that maybe I didn't have to. The longer I'm here the more I realize that people really are bigger, and I think it's the big portions that are to blame. I'm sorry but there is absolutely no reason someone should be drinking a 54 oz soda.
3. So many choices! I have a bit of a problem when it comes to making decisions, I just want it all (friends, experiences, foods, you name it), so believe it or not I was a bit o.v.e.r.w.h.e.l.m.e.d. when I got home. I actually decided to forgo going to the grocery store a few times knowing that the aisles upon aisles would consume me, and let's not even talk about Target.
4. NOISE. This was a bit of a surprise to me, honestly I'm not sure if any country could be noisier than Korea (well I haven't been to China yet) music pouring out of every store, high pitched voices of teenage girls, cell phones, restaurant opening celebrations, random trucks selling fruit and the list goes on, but the noise at home drove me crazy. The first time I went out to dinner I couldn't stand the amount of background noise I had to compete with and it wasn't only in restaurants, it seems everywhere I went I was wishing I had a pair of earplugs. While traveling I had to deal with noise but it came in the form of animals, other travelers, happy children and the buzz of motorbikes, here it's technology, televisions, radio, cell phones, cars and loads of people.
5. ME time. Okay so this is no surprise and it has more to do with the end of travels than it does returning to the USA, but I like to be alone (sometimes). As I gathered with old friends and family I was quickly overwhelmed with the sheer number of people I had to talk to. Weird because I had just spend years meeting people, building new friendships and putting myself out there, daily. But I found that as much as a language barrier can be a hindrance it also provides for a few moments of quiet in the conversation (something I've found, most people aren't comfortable with).
6. wanderlust is real, I have a severe case and am in no way shape or form ready to settle down. I don't think I gave myself two weeks at home before I was searching for flights and planning vacations. I booked two domestic trips, one to New York the other to California and started thinking about how and when I would next go abroad. While talking with friends that are doing the whole 'grown up' routine of dating, engaging, working and buying houses, at no point did I feel a tinge of envy. I actually have such little desire to stay that I actually had problems buying new clothes or books knowing I would only have more to move.