For me, the decision to leave the safe and familiar and take the traveling leap was easy. Scary? Yes. Full of uncertainty? Most definitely. But traveling was something that was always important to me. I just didn’t realize how important until I found myself in a position where I could just go. No commitments, no responsibilities and a decent enough budget that once I decided that this was happening, all I had to do was pick my first destination and book the ticket. Ok, that’s a simplified version through rose tinted glasses. There were nerves for sure and a few tears too, but with great friends who helped me break apart furniture, moved and stored my things for me and provided wine when required…it really was as smooth a process as I could’ve hoped for.
The journey itself has been well documented and I have no regrets. After a few challenging years, it was liberating to be on such an adventure. Just me, my backpack and a very loose plan.
It wasn’t the going that made me nervous or being away by myself for an extended period of time. Rather, it was the thought of coming back. So much so, that it wasn’t until the final few weeks of the trip that I let myself think about it. What would I do when I got back? Where in fact was I going back too? Had I changed? And would I be able to settle?
As I was flying back from Guatemala City to New York JFK, it didn’t feel real. It just felt like I was enroute to the next place. Welcomed home by TSA, bag collected and to the Air Train. The bubble burst when the ticket machine ate my $20 bill I’d been carrying since Bolivia, the Sunday track maintenance meant it took forever to reach my destination and when I stepped off the train into New York winter wearing my warmest clothes (a hoodie and yoga pants) it felt absolutely Baltic. Welcome back to New York!
A warmer welcome was on hand a few moments later, when I showed up on my friends doorstep in my old neighborhood of Astoria. I thought I’d just stay a couple of weeks on her sofa while I figured things out…today marks 7 weeks that I’ve been here and I’ve become very fond of my living arrangements! A sofa to crash on for as long as I needed, a wardrobe/fridge and wine rack to raid, career advice, job referrals and someone to keep me sane as I transitioned into New York life – I’ve been incredibly lucky for sure. In fact, I’ve been met with nothing but kindness since I’ve arrived back. Friends have spoilt me, provided offers to help with absolutely anything and got me out and back into City life. A backpacker budget in NYC doesn’t really work all that well, but thanks to the generosity of friends this stress has been all but minimized for me. I’m not sure what I did to deserve such kindness but it’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.
Aside from the financial stresses, being back brings with it other issues of adjustment. For the first few weeks, my body hurt constantly, my head was spinning, I struggled eating and I kept thinking about pulling the escape cord and heading back to Antigua. I realized that I needed to do as much as I could to integrate. So I took myself out on daily walks, joined the local cheapie gym and started tuning my Spanish on Duolingo. Before I knew it, my days were jam packed and I stopped thinking about booking one way tickets and started seriously thinking about my next steps.
I’ve just completed my first week back in employment since August. Sitting at a computer screen in a large office environment, felt like an out of body experience. The first few days were exhausting, and it was an adjustment in itself. However, with a glass of wine on Friday night it dawned on me…within 6 weeks, I’d made serious steps in the transition from nomadic backpacker to reality. I still don’t have my own place, or a bed but I will have a paycheck soon!
I can’t quite pinpoint the ways in which I’ve changed but I know I have, and I think over the next few weeks these characteristic shifts will come to light. For now, NYC is where I am and with friends who are like family – I can’t think of anywhere else that I would’ve been able to make such a transition so smoothly. And in terms of whether I’ll settle? I’m not sure if that will ever fully happen. But for now, I’m okay with that.