The question du jour: “what’s it like coming back home?” The honest answer is that its been an emotional rollercoster; some ways its been easy and in other ways, hard. It’s been two weeks since we stopped traveling and I wanted to share a few thoughts about ending long term travel and getting back to it…
The Welcome Back
The best part about coming back home is the people. I want to give a huge thank you to all our friends, family, and coworkers who have welcomed KC and me back, hugged us, and told us we were missed. It was hard to end such an amazing trip. I especially had a hard time with the culture shock (or whatever you call the shock of transitioning from a traveling lifestyle to a planted lifestyle) and readjusting to having a schedule (and alarm clock) and figuring out the logistics of what comes next after a year away. The support you gave made a huge difference and made re-entry much easier. So again, THANK YOU!
While traveling around the world, I thought that I would be able to do some good in volunteering as an engineer, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. So I spent the last year without doing any engineering, observing engineering as we traversed the planet. I have to admit that I missed it. Once, while we were helping to construct concrete beams to seismically retrofit a mountaintop village school while volunteering with All Hands Volunteers in Nepal, I got to look at the engineering plans for the beams and I almost (literally) started drooling. I even found that I could scratch the engineering itch a little by expanding our budget spreadsheet to be able to do some extra statistical analysis (yes, I’m an engi-nerd).
So when we got back and I was offered my old job back, doing civil engineering work for government agency I worked for previous to traveling, I accepted my old job back gladly. While I miss the freedom of traveling the world, I’m happy to be doing engineering work again. I missed it.
As much as I missed engineering, it seems that taking a year off refreshed my mind and has given me a fresh perspective. Doing engineering work now seems easier than I remember it being before I left. Part of this, I think, was having the time away from the work and coming back renewed; the other part, the inspiration from engineering projects around the world. I honestly believe taking time off and traveling around the world has made me a better engineer.
I was surprised by how easy it was to slip back into work. By the end of my first day back, I felt like I had never left and the last year was a wonderful dream, which was a surreal feeling. In retrospect, I guess that’s not too surprising I felt that way since I have worked for the same department for a decade (minus the last year) and I was placed back with my old team and given back my old desk, just the way I left it.
It was great to see my old coworkers again. Everyone at work has been awesome in welcoming me back and made the transition back to work easy. These last two weeks reminded me that my coworkers are one of the reasons why I liked working for my department.
We climbed during the first six months of our trip (there’s even a menu tab you can click on to see climbing related posts… which are a little behind right now, but I will work to update), but we didn’t take any climbing gear with us when we traveled beyond North America, giving us a six month break from climbing.
Before and during the trip, I was having climbing mind-game issues (not being able to get over the fear of falling) when I was lead (sport) climbing. It didn’t matter if I was leading a 5.10a or a 5.6 route, when I got up past the first clip, I would freeze because of a fear of falling that I couldn’t get over, no matter how any deep breaths I took or how many lead falls I forced myself to take (a common suggested solution to getting over the fear of lead falling).
When we came back after travelling abroad, our friends wanted to go climbing with us. I was nervous about lead climbing again, thinking that maybe my fear has gotten worse over time. Well, we went climbing and my friends convinced me to try leading an easy sport climb again. I got up on an easy 5.7 route, made it to the first clip, and, to my happy surprise and relief, the fear was gone. After that first climb, I did more climbs, moving up to more difficult routes and, even though the fear wasn’t completely gone on the harder routes, it was no longer keeping me from finishing a climb.
Somehow, taking a six month break remedied my fear of falling.
Coming back to California has us asking what’s next. Honestly, we aren’t sure what’s next. Traveling around for a year takes you away from the minutia and gives you a fresh outlook and new perspectives that makes you re-evaluate what’s possible and question what you want in life. That’s where we are right now, re-evaluating where we are and what are goals are. However, I guarantee that this isn’t the end of our traveling adventures.
I’ll be trying to update this blog as often as life will let me. Stayed tuned for more stories from this last year.