There is an incomplete gap in leaving the country you have traveled in for hundreds of saturated hours and returning home to the life you used lead.
Because you can never travel to faraway lands and return to the exact same cloth. Fold yourself in the exact same pattern.
Instead, there is a gap of wonder when you can witness the life you have without attachment. With an empty schedule.
How amazingly cool.
We left Thailand two days ago, but because of the magic of flight and an international dateline, we had 38 hours of the same, longest Wednesday imaginable. We started with an early morning taxi midst the streets clogged with the “Shut Down Bangkok” tents and sleeping protesters, and took the final ride of our journey to the Bangkok airport.
Alexander Fuller wrote about returning home after a long journey. "It should not be physically possible to get from the banks of the Pepani River to Wyoming in less than two days, because mentally and emotionally it is impossible. The shock is too much, the contrast too raw. We should sail or swim or walk from Africa, letting bits of her drop out of us, and gradually, in this way, assimilate the excesses and liberties of the States in tiny, incremental sips, maybe touring up through South America and Mexico before trying to stomach the land of the Free and the Brave. ...."
I think it is true for any journey. The shock of returning home in a frantic series of generic boarding passes and irrelevant plane food is simply too much. The modern technology which mechanically whisks us from one land and culture to the next outpaces our biological rhythms without the natural cadence to slowly re-acclimate and re-assimilate.
And I now found myself abruptly in my living room with two bags of dirty laundry and a pile of souvenirs wrapped in Thai newspapers which inadequately explain the transformation of our journey.
And, the limbo which also allows me the space to not have to explain.
Because, time will slowly sift the stories out. Time will also allow my home to reabsorb the new possessions, and time will also let us quicken our pace and step back in to our life at home.
And, some of that is joyous.
Cooking my own food. Petting my dogs. Connecting with my community of family and friends. The boys played with their buddies today and they stripped off their clothes and played together naked with the raw joy of being together again.
And some is nostalgic.
We spent our final days in Thailand talking about things we would miss. Fresh mango shakes. Warm, salty breezes. The saffron robes of the monks. Chaotic tuk-tuk rides through narrow streets. Bargaining for exotic items and paying in colorful baht. Open days filled with the time and space to fill them however we wanted.
And now, our sun soaked skin will slowly dry and flake off in the winter cold. The reptilian shedding replicating the new selves that we bring home with us.
My Montana home seems unreasonably vast when compared with the small duffle bag I have lugged for the past six weeks. My closet is overwhelming with the choices of color and texture compared with my four travel T-shirts. The first world abundance we have is something to truly be grateful for - the boys played with their toys today like a ToysRUs ad – relishing every plastic guy, every dress-up costume, and every colorful Lego.
I want to keep some of the powerful magic from our travels with us as we journey back to our pace at home.
I want to keep some of my time with my boys screen and technology-free.
I want to put my phone down and have uninterrupted conversations with them. I love the new dialogue we have developed and I want for them to keep talking with me about the things that truly matter. And, I want to have the quietness of my mind without interrupting myself.
I want to maintain my commitment to simplicity.
A simple schedule. Not overfilled with too many activities that drain me instead of fulfill me. I want to balance the necessary tasks - the laundry, the food, the work – with the activities that bring me authentic joy - reading, writing, talking to new people, and learning more about the world.
I also want to have less stuff.
The first world bounty that can toe the line on excess. I want enough, but not too much.
And, I want to keep writing.
Writing again has brought me so much joy. It’s been years since I wrote something because I wanted to write it. During our journey, the boys fell asleep exhausted under a mosquito net each night at 8:30, and I stayed up and wrote on the front porch of each bungalow most nights until past midnight.
I love writing.
During my journey, I started writing a book. It’s ridiculously fun. I feel alive and inspired and strong. I feel like I have another four books stacks up in my brain behind it. And, what I want to do is to try to publish my book.
And, if that works, I’d like to publish another.
A good friend of mine, Puma, a shaman in Peru, says the most important part of travel is to make sure to take your soul with you at the end of a journey. He says your soul gets scattered when wandering around this world. You can carelessly fling around and leave pieces of your being unless you concentrate on who you are and call your soul back to yourself.
He calls it a soul retrieval.
I have been with him as he has guided soul retrievals for individuals and groups. You shut your eyes and, with intention and conviction, say, “Huanpui” three times to call your soul back to you.
You can’t have pieces of your soul sprinkled around and expect to be able to do anything that is true for your raw self.
And that is what I want to keep. My uninterrupted attention to what is important to my soul. Happiness. Family. Intention. Friendship. Integrity. Love. Passion.
In any order.
And, as I sit with two half-unpacked bags and two gleeful dogs at my feet, in front of my home computer with my reliable internet, I feel good about the steps to reintegrate back into my home. My community. My life.
And, keep this new chapter of me as part of the fabric of my life.
Huanpui. Huanpui. Hunapui.