Our time in New Zealand is coming to an end. Some days, it feels like that end is way too far away and others, like today, it seems quite near. In just under one week, our epic journey from China all the way down to New Zealand comes to an end and we begin our travels back “home.”
When we come across NZ locals asking us about our travels here, we tell them that soon we will travel back home. With this always seems to follow with their statement “wow, back to reality then huh?” I never know how to respond because it’s not really like that and I don’t think they would really understand.
My reality is what I do every day. It’s not on some version of pause until I go back to where my family is and pick up on my old life. In fact, going back to my home town is a huge source of anxiety because I’m actually leaving my reality and headed straight for the undetermined.
The truth is, even though my family is there, it’s not really my home anymore and I have a lot of work to do to get a life there established again. It’s not the easiest place to set up a life and I will be returning without knowing where I will live or how I will make money.
I am heading back to a place where I won’t have a car (in the suburbs no less), a working cell phone, a bedroom, health insurance or any clue how I will integrate and fit back into the lives of my friends and family.
It’s scary as hell actually. More frightening to me than getting off a plane in Vietnam and just figuring it out. I’m nervous about having reverse culture shock ( I mean, I cried out of happiness in an Australian grocery store upon first leaving Asia when I saw the berry and cherry display) and if I will be able to relate to the people I used to spend time with before leaving.
Before I left, I always had my life neatly put together. I was always propelling myself forward and constantly making progress. I had all of my bills paid on time, a handle on my taxes, a completely paid off vehicle, my own apartment and pets. I had everything I needed and was doing everything “right.” Now, I will be returning technically worse off and more dependent than I was as a high school student.
I am currently trying to determine if my younger sister can get me a job and if my family members can drive me around until I save enough money to buy a car. It feels a little bit like when you spend hours building an epic sand castle and just when you’ve got a killer moat and an on-suite bathroom for a seashell princess, the tide comes and washes it all away. Do you even have the energy to start over?
I don’t want you to think that I ruined everything I built because I decided to travel. Because, that’s really not the case. Yes, I did sell my car, dropped my health insurance, nearly drained my bank account and put myself into even more debt, but it has been my own fault. A lack of planning, life/work balance and poor financial strategies.
Actually, I could fly off to Japan right now, get a high paying teaching job, complimentary apartment, build back up my savings and pay off a lot of my student debt in an exotic place. I could do that if I wanted to. However, it’s been nearly three years and I’ve missed graduations, birthdays, births, weddings, holidays and quality time with the people I care about. So, going home is what I want to do, even if it means starting from the ground up again.
I’m not going “back to reality,” giving up or claiming defeat, I am simply starting on a new adventure, one that involves my family, friends and a new take on planning, finances, career and travel. Maybe part of the reason that I’m going back is to prove to myself that I can leave again. To prove that even when my sandcastle gets washed away, I can build it up even better than the last one.