To those of you who have followed us over the past 19 months, you know that silence means difficulty—picket lines, roadblocks, cancelled flights, exploding rental cars, and sleeping in bus stations. For the past few months, our relative lack of communication can be attributed not to the unpredictability of travel, but to the constancy of everyday life at home. As summer blended into autumn and autumn collapsed into winter, we slipped, not without protest, into a domestic reverie, too concerned with homework, job negotiations, and yard maintenance to ruminate on our bygone traveling days. Now that we’ve moved on and are once again removed from our Atlanta nest, we are bombarded with reminders of what we were doing this time last year and the very real fact that we are not doing it now. You might remember that last New Year’s Eve we were in Chiang Mai, Thailand, one of our favorite cities, lighting celebratory lanterns and wandering through Buddhist temples. This year we are in Tom’s hometown of Orem, Utah, a city not without its particular charms, watching the snow fall and wondering how we have come so far and experienced so much in such a short time.
It is confusing and unsettling that we are now five months removed from our travels. In some ways it feels like five years. It’s hard to imagine the Andrus family of today–tethered by the logistics of selling and buying domiciles, withdrawing from and enrolling in elementary, middle, and high schools, and coordinating the relocation of all our worldly goods–hopping on a brood of elephants or floating down a remote Southeast Asian river with not a care in the world other than what delicious $1 meal to enjoy that evening.
We are neither the first nor the last to experience the difficulties of re-entry. Tara Russell, founder of Three Month Visa, spends her days counseling clients first on how to take long-term travel sabbaticals and second on how to move forward with their lives once they’ve returned. Tara shared many valuable insights with me and validated my belief that re-entry is in many ways more difficult than departure. I will share her words of wisdom in a future post (since I’ve left all my notes in Atlanta) but in the meantime, feel free to visit her website.
There is no doubt we accomplished something extraordinary with our trip. While it is hard to imagine that any of the six of us, even little Asher, is not permanently changed by the experience, our challenge in the coming months and years will be to keep the experience alive. We don’t want it to become that one amazing year we cling to, the exception in an otherwise pedestrian existence. Rather we want it to become the impetus that sparks us to fill every year with extraordinary experiences—learning, investigating, exploring, and most importantly growing closer to one another. And as always, don’t rule out more extended travel in the near future. A look at our Christmas gifts and the images Tom’s mom displays around her home reveals that no matter how absorbed we’ve gotten in life in the US, part of us continues to dream of the world.