One year after leaving New York, we arrived back in the city on a bitter, cold-ass February night. My husband and I had spent the past year chasing summer across 23 countries on 6 continents during an amazing round-the-world trip, and this was the first time we'd felt this level of cold since leaving the States. It was the first of many shocks to the system.
That plane ride back to New York, for me, was a complete 180 from the one on which we'd flown out at the start of our adventure. I was numb. I dreaded landing. I loved our trip so much, and couldn't believe it was actually over. The cab ride from the airport, the drive up our street, walking into our empty apartment, all felt so familiar, like nothing had changed. But I had.
I couldn't come to terms with the fact that a year had already passed. And I felt like we were right back where we'd started, both metaphorically and physically. I got more and more agitated as we moved back in and unpacked boxes, realizing I'd made it around the world without any of these things and never missed them. Why the hell do I need a cheese grater and a serving tray now?? I got rid of piles of clothes and boxes of housewares and supplies. We sat on the newly-moved in sofa and stared at each other. I stared out the window. I avoided calls and invitations from friends to see each other after so long. The two of us tried playing cards and taking walks like we did so often while traveling but it didn't feel the same.
So after a week of unpacking and a few half-hearted job interviews, we got the hell out of Dodge. We took a road trip to Vermont. And just like that, we were back. The road felt like home. We wandered through the state of Vermont, without anywhere specific we had to be or a date by which we had to leave, past hundreds of farms and dozens of churches and small town after small town. We loved it. We were happy again. The card-playing resumed. Too late I realized we should have brought our passports, as we were only an hour from the Canadian border, but maybe it's better we didn't, as we may not have come back.
After a week, we decided to return to New York and face the music. We are slowly acclimating to being back, and I'm starting to feel a glimmer of normal again. It's not that I don't love the city, or my friends, or being able to call my family without doing algebra to figure out the time difference. It's great not having to pack and unpack twice a week. It's just simply surreal to be here, in one place, not on our adventure, not on the road. Big grocery stores are jarring. Our apartment, with no prospects of leaving it for a trip anytime soon, makes me anxious.
Worst of all, I'm still avoiding my friends and anyone, really, at all costs. Somehow seeing them makes this too real and I'm not ready to answer their well-meaning questions and talk about normal, everyday life yet. Most understand, saying, "I thought this might happen. I get it. Tell me when you stop spinning and come up for air." And for those people, I cannot quantify my huge amount of love and gratitude.
It's not that traveling didn't have its issues -- it had plenty. But it was also amazing, and to have it all come to a stop with one plane ride home seems almost unreal. Everyone tells you how great your trip is going to be, but no one warns you that re-entry might be rough. I'm sure this is experienced by many travelers, whether coming back from a 2-week honeymoon, a summer abroad or a year traveling the world. I just wasn't prepared. I don't expect sympathy from anyone. I would be the first to make fun of me, in a past life: "Post-round-the-world-trip depression is real. See your doctor. Then shut the hell up." But this is currently where I am. It's simply one leg of the journey I hadn't anticipated.