There’s a story that my mother likes to tell about me. When I was 10 years old, I went to sleepaway camp with the rest of the fifth graders at my school. It was my first time away from home, and I shared a cabin with five of my giggliest girlfriends. We relished our newfound freedom, staying up late, gossiping about the boys’ cabin next door, and rolling our eyes at the counselors whose sole job was to keep us mostly out of trouble. The weeklong adventure ended, and as I climbed off the bus and greeted my mother, I had tears streaming down my face. She immediately panicked, demanding “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” to which my (surely heartbreaking) reply was, “I don’t want to come home!”
Turns out that 17 years later, not a whole lot has changed. As I rode the escalator down to the baggage claim at the Pittsburgh International Airport two weeks ago, I again had tears in my eyes. Yes, I was ready to come home and begin my next chapter–but saying goodbye to the trip of a lifetime was bittersweet indeed. I was greeted by a familiar man in a khaki trenchcoat, who had thoughtfully brought a martini shaker and few bottles of booze to ease my transition. The cocktail was much appreciated, and a big hug made being home feel good.
I’ve now been back in the United States for more than two weeks. In that time, I’ve already slept in six different beds, so re-entry doesn’t exactly spell relaxation. When I first returned, I immediately had two friends come visit Pittsburgh, and we spent a whirlwind few days seeing sights and catching up. Then I went and visited my parents for three days, before scooting over to Philadelphia to formally apply for my Italian citizenship. I took the Megabus back to Pittsburgh, just in time to hop on a direct flight to the Dominican Republic, where I just spent an absolutely lovely time relaxing in perfect weather and true luxury.
With all this moving around, I’m finding it hard to grab on to the last handholds of the trip I just finished. Hong Kong and Vietnam still seem within reach–like I could close my eyes and be there, really capture those places in my mind’s eye. But any further back than that… Laos, Thailand, Cambodia all feel like eons ago, and like they might not actually exist. And nevermind the first stops of Russia and Mongolia–those places feel an eternity away. The trip is over, and while some fragments remain tangible, most of those six months already feel like a dream.