Adjusting is hard.
No, it’s not really. The thought of adjusting is hard. But the actual act? Easy. Cake. One day you’re in Colombia eating papaya and buñuelos for breakfast, in school every day, hearing mostly Spanish around you, and speaking it too. And the next, you’re back in the States. Getting ready for work. As if you’d never left.
You’re back to your old life, and the one you’d lived in Colombia for the last seven weeks no longer exists. The place you left, the people, the world you were a part of; it goes on turning. As if you’d never dropped in.
I’m always sad to leave a new place. I love the feeling of being away, free from responsibilities, from ties, from baggage. (Besides my rollerboard, of course.) But this was more than being sad for a vacation to end. I had enough time on this trip to settle in, to feel a sense of connection and belonging in Medellin. To get used to things; experiencing not the “Wow!” that comes with traveling to a new place for the first time, but instead the slow, steady building of a feeling—something more like “home.”
What always blows my mind is despite being sad to leave a place or bummed that you have to go back to work, the actual adjustment period when you get there is next to nothing. It’s mind boggling the way time slows down when you’re away outside of your day-to-day; days turning to weeks and weeks feeling like months. And then it picks right back up where you left off. And just like that you’re back to living life in much the same way you always had, with a new travel memory and, in this case, a beginner level of Spanish you’re desperately afraid to lose.
Life goes on. It shocks me every single time.
(I guess it would be good to take a look back at that next time I’m in some sort of crisis situation and need reminding, but I’ll leave the motivational speaking for another post.)
Life goes on. It shocks me every single time.
I expected this particular adjustment period after this particular trip to be difficult. I finished my last Spanish class on Friday, was then heading to the airport to meet a friend to travel with for another six days in Colombia before heading home Wednesday and then beginning work the very next day, on Thursday. I expected a whirlwind. To be exhausted. To maybe feel a bit disheartened or out of place back on the airplane.
What I did not expect was for my stomach of steel—the one I brag about constantly (“I could eat rotten meat and not get sick!”) – to be taken down with force…by an airport salad. I got food poisoning on my first night home, and since my friend did too, I could only logically trace it back to the salads we’d purchased in the Bogota airport. After throwing up all of the many snacks id eaten that day—the last of which made its appearance at 6am on Thursday morning, I called out of work and proceeded to sleep for 22 glorious, sweaty hours.
When I came to, on Friday morning I felt much better than the previous day. But was I really better? Like get-on-a-plane-for-13-hours-overnight better? I just wasn’t sure and the reward in this case did not seem worth the risk. I used a sick call for the second time in two days and laid in bed a while, glad for the noticeable absence of nausea, aches and pains. I mused to myself that my bout with sickness and the resulting starvation had been a good way to kick off the post-Colombia detox I’d been planning to undertake.
(Spoiler alert: Once I resumed eating I puffed right back up to normal size.)
By the time the afternoon rolled around, with no sign of sickness and having cleaned out my closet and gone through the mail, piled high in my absence, I decided I was well enough to make the drive up to Maine to see my family. My niece and nephew, on school vacation that week, were staying with my parents for five days. I hadn’t seen them in months.
If you’re wondering what food poisoning and a two hour drive for a family visit have to do with resettling, fret not, I’m getting there.
I was so sad to leave Medellin. I’m still so sad I didn’t have enough time to complete the full three-month language course. I’m still SO stressed about losing the language base I have.
There is no better way to adjust to being home than to hang out in sweatpants for three days, making big family breakfasts on an enormous outdoor griddle, going for a long walk in the trees on the first 70 degree day in New England, cozying up for face masks and movie nights with your people, and having two miniature humans (who love you to freaking death) spend the weekend asking you questions and telling you stories and challenging you to races and not being upset when you win.
The calm and content were so strong, so palpable, that I couldn’t possibly want to be anywhere else.
It helped. To not feel so sad to be back home. I got to spend time in my comfiest place with my favorite people. I got to take the few days I probably needed between traveling home from Colombia and going back to work. I even got a little Spanish studying in before bed each night!
And when I did go back to work the following Monday, I felt so rested and refreshed and had lost much of the sadness I’d felt in leaving Colombia. In real life, I love my job too.
It can’t always be an epic adventure. Sometimes we need to settle in, find our comfort zone and steep in gratitude and satisfaction and quiet joys. It’s not always easy. But neither is deciding to leave for a foreign country for six weeks alone. And neither is learning a new language. And I find with every new endeavor that the best things never are.