| In physically re-entering my family life, I see now that the home-coming I imagined was egotistical. Not that I viewed their lives as being on-hold during our absence, but perhaps reaching my parents' was a greater milestone to me than to them. Sure, they missed me and now don't have to worry that I'm riding a bus with bad brakes, or in some country with stomach-turning sanitation, but they also got used to my absence, as I asked them to. They tracked our travels through our website and sent us messages, but nothing material in their lives changed. They had the same responsibilities, rewards and frustrations that come from living connected with other people - whether it is through their job, ambitions, friends, or family. They weren't 'waiting' for my return, so why should anything be different? I just came home. Actually, I walked back into their everyday lives.
A year away has pre-occupied me with new experiences, new people, new places. Gregg and I haven't had to contend with the things in a sedentary life that most people have to deal with, and which we will too as we reintegrate into our own society. As world-wandering nomads, we've lived in-between and on the surface, filled-up with feel-good or feel-bad emotions when we've gone deeper, but emotions which were not about us. We've had the luxury of time and mental space to allow for fresh experiences, think and write about them. We've had the external stimulation so as not to have to ponder our identities, our futuresóchallenging issues that are more slippery and uncomfortable than any 24-hour train ride. This extended ramble has given me the closest thing to unencumbered freedom.
People have been preparing us for the life that awaits our final return; even if we haven't changed, our home, San Francisco, apparently has. The dot coms, IPO frenzy, spiritual crises, lack of business ethics, unrealistic or unrealized expectations... all have seemed to leave everyone coping with phenomenal levels of stressóboth self-imposed and from outsideówhich they may think is 'normal'. Those in the industry are on edge, those out of it are being squeezed and have to deal with the unpleasant rub-off effects. We'll have to see for ourselves, but industry magazines I used to read with big color headlines sharing "15 ways to reduce stress" or "How to just say, I quit" do not bode well. All this on top of the predictable pressures of a society which defines the value of individuals based largely upon their accomplishments (and measured in not the healthiest of ways). Despite these pressures, I remember being generally happy with life before we left, and that we had friends who were content with their lives too. I have to believe that even if San Francisco has changed, certain good changes have resulted, and that we can find the same things that made us excited for an eventual return.
Those who have followed our travels have asked how we're handling our transition. Others we've met who've also embarked on round-the-world travels want to know how our reassimilation will be in order to better anticipate their return. In our last mass-email we confessed that we had no real epiphanies: 'It seems rather self-centered and pointless to try and sum up "our year". When we think back to the places we've been and the people we met along the way, it occurs to us that their day to day has probably changed little since the short moment our lives intersected.' I did not think about how the same applies for the people we left behind in order to have our adventures. Their lives have continued without us and becoming 'reconnected' in a sedentary community of friends and family is considerable. I'm still learning that life goes on, however we each choose to live it.