We are back from our writing hiatus and back in the USA where the Chamborres Expedition began 15 months ago. Following its usual form, time has condensed itself and the long weeks away from home now seem like just the blink of an eye. As our plane landed in Florida, Amy voiced her feeling that it seemed as though our travels never happened. The human brain has an amazingly odd way of perceiving time. So what does it feel like returning to our home country after traveling for so long?
Since our first stop back in the States is New York, an international destination and a new city to us, it honestly feels like we are still exploring the world. In addition to that sensation, we are excited to catch up with our family and friends. We had butterflies of anticipation the night before leaving Panama. Mike’s dad, step-mom and siblings met us in Fort Lauderdale for our layover which was the perfect way to feel welcomed back home. We have been staying with friends in NYC, another way to have a “soft” introduction back to life here and yet continue to ride out the adventure. However, there are a few things that have caught our eye so far.
Our first observation was that despite many people’s image of the US, our country is not so “vanilla” after all. Standing in the line for US citizens & residents at the Customs and Immigration check, we were pleasantly reminded about the diversity of our country. The mix of people in line was as eclectic and varied as any international youth hostel that we stayed in, and it was even more diverse than the line for foreigners. The last few days in NYC have only further amplified this notion with the many different languages we have heard spoken on the streets. We may take a second trip “around-the-world” later this week by visiting each of the countless ethnic communities that make-up this enormous city.
The next thing we noticed is that Americans are loud. Perhaps it’s that we’re back in an English-speaking country which means we can again understand most conversations happening around us, therefore making it seems loud. And we are in NYC where people may in fact be more boisterous than the West coasters we grew-up with. Regardless, it’s something that caught our eye (and ears) almost instantly.
We’ve also become aware that people are glued to their “smart” devices. Americans, more than any other culture we have witnessed, are unequivocally addicted to technology (Japan comes in close second). People are constantly on computers in coffee shops, staring at cell phones on the subway, clicking photos with iPads, headphones glued to their ears. Is this constant connectivity a bad thing? We’re not sure, but it is something that has really stuck out to us during the past few days. When we tell people that we don’t have a cell phone where they can reach us, they look at us in astonishment. Some people comment on how liberating it must be, and others get a touch of fear in their eye as they imagine life without their phone.
It is glorious to be back in a country where we can get our hands on any cheese, any wine and any international food that our hearts desire. We have been seeking out our favorite dishes from our trip, have had wine and cheese nights, and enjoyed delicious American-made microbrews. For food and beverage lovers, the US has to be one of the best places to achieve a varied palate via international fare.
Although we’re back, in a way it still feels like we’re on the road. It is exciting to see friends and family, and challenging to begin processing the past 15 months. There is a lot of uncertainty in our future and endless possibilities. We want to remain conscious of our journey and continue to incorporate positive changes into our lives that we learned on the road. If there is just one thing that we have brought back from our travels, it’s the idea that you don’t have to separate your “life” from your “adventures” by taking a vacation. Life is an adventure; a different expedition for each of us, but all ending in the same place.