When I took off on this trip, I was nervous no one would understand the depth of my love for travel. When I got home, I worried that no one would understand why I wanted to go back so much.
But perhaps it makes perfect sense to you, maybe you know the feeling of the colour of your heart changing with the colours of the flag flying overhead. Maybe you too have gone away, and come home, only to find that “away” is home, and “home” will never be the same. Perhaps, you too, have a heart divided.
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My flight from Miami back home had been missed. This was because one very stubborn man had refused to sit down, causing a four hour delay and an arrest. No worries, American Airlines covered it after a two and a half hour wait in the customer service line in Miami. At this point, it was 11 o’clock at night. I was completely done with airports, but my volunteer group was with each other, so being alone wasn’t another stressor. We laughed it off, and headed to our hotel, where we faced the daunting task of sleeping before finally leaving one another for good.
Next day: I’m still in Miami; it’s 5 PM, and I’m getting a $45 pedicure to distract what demons I felt lurking. Baby blue was being painted on my toes, as our band of 22 travelers separated, ending a journey that had changed our lives.
“Just hours from home, I felt empty. And lonely.”
I was sitting in the electric massage chair, with 40 minutes of some hardcore think time. Time to think about the ninos and the cholitas. Time to think about how the trip, which started with a delay, an arrest and a missed flight developed camaraderie in our team. Time to think about how a woman named Cici would make me food and tell me to go where God needed me. Just hours from home, I felt empty. And lonely.
I woke that Sunday morning to realize that I wasn’t in Santa Cruz, but home, and I felt the tears swell up like a tide. A really violent, confused, Atlantic-coast tide. In spite of this, I took the remote of my heart and paused “Shark Week” for three hours so I could go to church, pray, and tell people how happy I was to be home.
Except that I wasn’t.
There was no more stale bread for breakfast, or sand blown into my mouth for lunch, or Rocky’s for dinner. There wasn’t Spanish being spoken everywhere, and there definitely weren’t little ones calling me “Tia Grace.” For a blinding moment, it felt like there was no more space in my heart– no space for another life like the one back home.
My family was confused, sad, torn, and conflicted– just like me. All of their reactions hurt, but despite this, I wouldn’t be mad at them. I wouldn’t blame them, seeing myself like this. I questioned whether or not I should be feeling the way I did, which in turn, caused more distress and loneliness.
A divided heart
“HOW?!” I screamed inside my head. “How the heck could you not be okay with first world plumbing, the lack of stray dogs everywhere, and general obedience of traffic laws?!”
“Because you fell in love. You fell in love with a country and with a people. It is rare and indescribable, but you did,” answered my heart.
I laid in my bed while my two sisters panicked at my martini of tears and laughter. Laughter because they were panicked, tears because I was, too. I was too confused in those first few days to see my life in a broad perspective. It was almost as if I was hungover on the happiness I knew in Bolivia, the happiness I felt would never return.
“I felt guilty about feeling happy, about experiencing the kind of happiness I did while traveling. Because as much as home has made me, that trip also changed my life…”
Feeling guilty is something I’ve accepted now. I felt guilty about feeling happy, about experiencing the kind of happiness I did while traveling. Because as much as home has made me, that trip also changed my life and flew me to heights I couldn’t have fathomed before this “fall.”
Being so conflicted with myself was incredibly difficult. I had never previously been asked or challenged to create my own bliss. In a way, I was like a little baby learning to walk. Except I had colic, and would not shut up. I hoped God, or the Universe, didn’t get annoyed, because I was sure screaming a lot.
I have no regrets. My heart is pretty dang full, and my eyes still get that way, too. But not of wishes and of past wants. It’s full of sadness and joy, light and awe. Every step I took forward after the sadness brought me closer to happiness, even if I didn’t recognize it at first. Honestly, I believed every step was a step farther from the happiness I clasped so tightly to my heart in Bolivia. The Snickers and coconut ice cream was a kind of elation that wouldn’t be there anymore, at least not physically.
“You did go! You did wonderful things! But no, you will never be the same.”
The drunkenness of joy was coming out of my system, and there were major withdrawals. The phrases “Should I have gone…?” and, “Will I ever be the same?” crossed my mind quite a few times. “You did go! You did wonderful things! But no, you will never be the same.” was the response I received most of the time. Whether this was a good or bad thing was up to me.
“Adventure changes us, my friends. It splits us up, and gives us wings.”
When a life changing journey comes to an end, each step off of the plane hurts, every breath in and out feels mediocre and bland. But trust the people, the blogs, the letters which say “time heals everything.” It does. Do not leave the passion you felt, you savored, in the sunsets and sunrises. Home is just another life we need to learn to live again. It will not restrict us, it will not harm us, unless we decide it will. Adventure changes us, my friends. It splits us up, and gives us wings.