After a hectic day of packing and last minute fiascoes, I found myself sitting in the Austin Bergstrom Airport catching my breath and gathering my thoughts. Here I was, about to start stage 2 of my Round the World trip....a moment that seemed to be in the distant future. Crazy how time passes so quickly.
It was the first time in the past month that I had time to center myself, re-group, and get back into "traveler" mode. After a crazy 4 month roller coaster ride through South America, I came back to the USA to visit with family & friends and chill-out for a bit. Visiting family and friends I did do....the chill-out part...well, not so much.
It was definitely a culture shock coming back to the states. First of all, it was pretty ridiculous to come home to all of this stuff (clothes, hair products, blow dryer, lotions, perfumes, makeup, shoes, etc) that I had packed away before I left. And to think....I lived out of a backpack for 4 months with none of it. It's amazing how little you really need to live.
Besides the over excess of crap that I was now keenly aware of, culture shock numero dos was the constant rat race, planning, scheduling, hustle & bustle world that we call America. America...the world super-power! Capitalism at its best....urrrr...so we think? It turns out that I came home to one of the worst recessions in our country's history. Every news show, magazine cover, radio channel discussed how bad of shape we were in.....and for good reason. Things are not looking good and my country has a rough road ahead of it. It was in every ones face no matter where you turned. In a country where people love their "stuff", it seemed that people just stopped buying things. What will the future hold for our economy??? No one really knows. We have a new President with a lot on his plate....only time will tell.
From a traveler's standpoint, the US dollar is stronger abroad because everyone's economy has collapsed as well. People outside of the States LOVE Obama and have high hopes for him....so that meant a better image for me as an American...an image that has been negative the last few times I have traveled. Those things, combined with lower gas prices, has made this one of the best times to travel in the past 20 years. However, I must say, there is an underlying pain in my gut questioning whether I should have quit a well paying job....and if I will be able to find work when my travels are over. But who wants to be a Debbie Downer? I'm jobless in the worst economical situation....traveling the world. That is just how it is. No regrets....no looking back. I am just going to enjoy this time in my life.
Even with the recession in full swing, it didn't take long for the rat race to surround me again. With all of my family and friends working hard to make a dollar and keeping up with the Jones's, I soon found my schedule filling up with happy hours, lunch dates, dinners, and quality time to be spent with loved ones. I was balancing friends and family and trying to absorb as much as I could before I had to say goodbye again. Also, trying to plan the next stage of my trip on top of that and I soon felt like I had a full time job of....being home??? It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it was a little overwhelming coming from South America where I hardly had any plans and rarely anyone to check in with.
However, despite coming back to the craziness of America and feeling the culture shock, it was wonderful to see my loved ones and be home again. It actually didn't take long for my South American mentalities to fade away and start to embrace the comforts of America again. Laptops, itunes, queen-sized beds, hot showers, CLEAN showers, tex-mex, queso, mexican martinis.....the list goes on.....it was nice to have the unnecessary necessities again (if that makes any sense at all).
In fact, for a lot of the reasons that my country (government) frustrates me, there are double the reasons why I am fortunate to be an American citizen. I am a well educated, respected single female. I have choices and freedoms that many woman (or men for that matter) can't even imagine in other countries.
If it weren't for the hardships of my parents and my parent's parents, and if it weren't for my hard working ethics and determination that I learned from this capitalistic mind set, then I would not be doing the traveling that I am doing today. I have determined that it is a catch-22. Unfortunately, I had to quit my job and take a huge risk to do this trip, since our workforce doesn't cater to long term travel. But at least I have the choice to do so.
The one month that I was back in the states was really good for me. It went by too fast. My friends claim that nothing has changed since I have been gone, but I see many changes. I will miss birthdays, weddings, baptisms, and many more important things that I would love to be a part of. There is a whole world out there to see and I often wonder if I could live abroad the rest of my life. But family is way too important and I can see that I will miss them greatly these next 10 months.
So....here I am ...heading to LAX (my first time in California). I have had so many great experiences in the past 5 months...so many thoughts of the world running through my head. I can't even imagine what the next 10 months have in store for me. What places will I see and what characters will I meet?
I start the next venture heading to New Zealand. I have a layover in Fiji and have decided that I will stay a day there just to check out the island. I will be surrounded by honeymooners and lovers and then there will be little ol' me hanging out on the beach. I figure I will use one day of beach time to relax and get centered before I head in to the wild and crazy world of the "backpacker" lifestyle. Once I get to New Zealand, I am not sure what my itinerary will be....the plan is....there is no plan. Here we go again!