It’s been almost three months since I returned to America. After a year away in Madrid, I was both excited and nervous to come home, spending the grueling eight hour flight anxiously sipping a lot of free red wine, while incurring eyebrow raises from the Iberia flight attendants.
A zillion thoughts ran through my mind, especially with the uncertainty of whether or not I was returning to Spain. Some days it felt like I hadn’t seen my friends and family in years and other times it felt like my experience was cut too soon, right when I was getting settled.
I knew “the homecoming” would me smack me in the face: nothing was the same as it was when I left. Including myself. Whatever changes I acquired wouldn’t manifest itself until I started living my life. In America.
My parents had since moved to Cincinnati from Chicagoland, my best friends moved to various cities around the U.S., and everyone I knew wasn’t within my beloved “one mile radius”, like in college.
I anticipated my reaction to the silly, small stuff.
Oh, I forgot I have to tip. They don’t do that in Europe. Why are all the portion sizes so large? Everything in Europe is so small. Why doesn’t anyone walk? Now I understand why Europeans stay so small, but can eat so much cheese.
I apologize publicly to my friends and family who I annoyed (and am still annoying) with my abroadness.
Of course, I missed America– breakfast, customer service, organization, and macaroni and cheese. I enjoyed not having to schedule phone calls due to a seven hour time difference. I missed showing up at my cousin’s apartment for dinner.
The familiarity felt good. Sometimes. Yet I couldn’t shake how unsettled I felt. I hated to admit I was dealing with reverse culture shock.
I wasn’t sure returning to Spain was right for me, but I wasn’t sure staying in Chicago was right either. I felt stuck. Spain was, and is, one of my favorite places in the entire world. But there’s a price you pay to be so far– where people can’t visit and you can’t come home. A year is short, but it’s also long.
So I made the quick decision to move to Austin in order to feel like I’m moving forward, still exploring. While I love Chicago, I wasn’t ready to stay. I’m too antsy, too ready to jump into the next exciting thing.
Not returning to Europe doesn’t mean I can’t continue to travel. An old friend sent me an e-mail: “I hope you keep blogging about your travels because I am living vicariously through you. It’s oddly inspiring.”
My homecoming doesn’t have to be an ending. That much I know.