I’ll never look at peas the same way again.
I just came home. Again. This home coming was quite different from all the others I’ve had in my life. This time, it really meant something. Although I have traveled around America in my life, coming home from my first year living and working abroad seems to be having a more profound impact on me.
Three hundred and seventy days away from the comforts of life will not only make you appreciate it more, but it will also make you appreciate the simple discoveries. The let down from a year working and traveling abroad is inevitable. What you learn about the world and yourself can be so profound, it is sometimes difficult to explain. To put so much into words others can grasp is next to impossible.
But that’s all over now.
Back to reality; home, the computer in the extra bedroom. I was never particularly excited to get home. Starting a new chapter in life that will certainly not be as high as the previous, I obviously had my trepidations. I live in Montana, and it provides wonderful things, people, and a beautifully unique culture I am quick to love. Along my travels, I happily offered descriptions of the strength I find from the snow capped peaks, the calm of distant valleys and streams, and the freedom of its wide open scale. Even though I yearned for these places and emotions when I was abroad, I still wrestled with the dilemma of my newfound traveler spirit.
Coming home conjures up numerous emotions, many of which are as individual as the person experiencing them. For me, there was no closure and little anticipation; returning home was just what needed to be done. My teaching contract was completed and I had to come back to my dog and mortgage – the decision was already made for me.
Indifference followed me through the routine of moving – the change of address forms, pricing different internet providers; and, although I missed my dog dearly, I thought I’d be more excited to wrestle around the yard with her. I sat with friends and retold the many stories of wandering through intimate hutong neighborhoods in Beijing, overcoming a case of the Southeast Asia stomach bug in the Philippines, and learning of tribal village life from my trekking guide in Vietnam.
Those are experiences I will never have in Montana. They are stories of a different place, a place I was walking away from. The emotions of that realization bubbled up inside me.
During a dinner, I was in the middle of explaining a fascination with Japanese ‘bullet’ trains when I was interrupted by my friend.
“Dang, these peas are awesome.”
I paused, midsentence, looked down at my plate, and it hit me. With that innocent comment, all was cured.
Not futuristic Japanese technologies, not a poverty stricken Manila, or the Venetian in Macau – it was the simple pleasure of eating canned peas that took precedence over these stories. I was too blinded by past experiences to see the good staring me in the face. The epiphany exploded in my head like a bolt of lightning. The sense of ‘being in the moment,’ which I had so thoroughly cherished abroad, is what I somehow lost coming home. I was caught in places I had been, without being where I am.
With newfound self-realization, I looked up from the plate and said, “You are absolutely right, these peas are amazing.” I meant every word of it.
A quote came to mind from a book I read years ago, “Blue Like Jazz,” by Donald Miller. At that dinner table, these words rattled around my head. It seems they carry more meaning now than when I first read them.
It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?
Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.
This passage isn’t about leaving – it is about the return home. Traveling will change you. You will gain experiences and knowledge that will have immeasurable impact, but it is your friends, your family, and your home that will welcome you with open arms. They will want to hear your stories. They will want to tell you theirs.
I found myself being critical of home because it can’t offer those experiences. Montana isn’t Hanoi, just as your home isn’t a romantic far-off destination. They offer different lessons and experiences, but valuable lessons just the same. It is the traveler’s spirit in us that makes us more able to recognize these important things. Traveling for everyone eventually comes to an end, or evolves into something different. It is what we can take from our travels that enriches our lives and honors our experiences.
I have chosen to live in Montana, which is much different than landing there by chance. Coming back here, after a year abroad, I can tell it is me who has changed. From the unfamiliar comfort of my dining room, it is with new eyes that I see these mountains, the people, my friends, and our culture. For the first time, I even look at canned peas anew. I see all these things not for what they lack, but with an openness to seek and appreciate what they provide.
photos by Jon Wick and may not be used without permission