Anyone who’s traveled can relate to the disjointed feeling of returning to a place of origin to find that she doesn’t quite fit in the same way as when she left. It’s not commentary on the places we’ve left.
The things we learn about who we are, who we were, who we are becoming, and how that fits with who we thought we were when we started our journey are some of the most profound realizations a traveler comes to on the road.
The difficult part, of course, is what happens when we come home; and we all come home eventually.
How do we Honor the Lessons?
There’s no easy answer, is there?
Our journey to long term travel started with a year away and then slowly morphed into more constant travel. We really intended to be gone for a year and then come back to some sort of “normal” life. That our home became the road was a surprise to us, as I’m sure it was to some of our friends and family. We bounce in and out of North America and our home culture for periods of time. We’ve spent time back in our pre-travel community and are so thankful for the enduring relationships we find there. We have lots of family members who don’t travel and who welcome us with open arms. That’s a beautiful thing.
The internal angst was of my own making. All of it. You see, I was making the big mistake of trying to fit back in seamlessly, and to do that meant that I had to set aside much of what I’d learned and who I’d become for (what I perceived to be) the comfort of others. Really, I didn’t want to deal with the conflict, not with individuals, but with myself. I made compromises in the short term that went against my conscience. I pretended to be the person I’d been before, because it was easier; on the surface, at least.
At some point one of two things happens: either we return to business as usual, and the intensity of the lessons our journey has taught us fade like postcards on my grandmother’s fridge, or we realize that we have to live those lessons everyday, own the changes to our souls and find a way to honor what we have learned.
“So, how are you going to honor your Camino when you get home?” He asked as the road came to an end.
What a great question. It’s the question I’ve been asking for years without having the words to express it well.
- How are we going to honor what we have learned and how we have changed?
- How are we going to honor the people we’ve met and what they have taught us?
- How are we going to honor the experiences we’ve had and how we’ve grown as a result of them?
It’s not a question of whether or not travel changes us, it’s a question of how we honor those lessons in our daily lives, whether we ever return home in the physical sense, or not. If we don’t honor them, then what’s the point of traveling in the first place?
Owning Who I Am
It’s meant wading into immigration debates on the unpopular side. It’s meant taking up the cause of my Muslim neighbors with my solidly midwestern neighbours and accepting the accusation that I’m a sympathizer. Guess what? I am!
It’s meant taking a deep breath and having the hard discussions about what desperately concerned and loving parties perceive as my loss of faith, which I prefer to to see from the angle of a broadening of perspective.
It’s meant being willing to stand against the tide and raise my kids very differently and not apologize for that, to anyone. It’s meant owning my minimalist tendencies in an ocean of consumerism, and doing it with a smile that doesn’t demean my friends who don’t share my conviction. I can’t buy stuff that I know exploits my people on the other side of the world. I just can’t do it. I won’t pretend that I can. I’ll do without so many things before I do.
I might not be there quite yet, but I’m determined to honor what I’ve learned, even the things I’ve learned the hard way, because each lesson is precious and is a brick in the building of myself. To treat them as any less would be, from my perspective, profoundly ungrateful, a waste of my journey, and perhaps of my life.
It has long been one of my favorite questions to ask my fellow travelers: “What are you learning?”
The answers are always surprising and inspiring. I now have an even better question to follow that one up with:
“How are you honoring what you’ve learned?”
The answers to that one have the power to change the world.