December 20, 2012

Completing The Circle

The only thing standing between us and home was a 30-hour travel day.

It's funny: would our "around the world" trip have felt incomplete if we had flown west to come home instead of east? Who knows, but we completed the circle nonetheless.

From Saigon we took a red-eye to Tokyo. Even though it was only 8:00am when we arrived, we managed to find a sushi restaurant serving food. We tossed back some oh-so-fresh raw fish for breakfast and sighed at how expensive food will be from now on.

We had been hearing reports from family and friends about the big winter storm hitting Denver and on its way to Chicago. We stopped by a gate counter to see if we could move up our Chicago to Columbus connection, and somewhere in the middle we wound up being upgraded for our 11-hour flight! We didn't even ask for it. I guess the ladies of All Nippon Airways were feeling generous that day.

We settled into our comfy section of the plane, ate strange Japanese airline food, and sipped on lots of red wine. Steve made friends with one of the flight attendants who secretly smuggled him extra ice cream.

Somewhere over the International Date Line we hit about 30 minutes of rough turbulence. It's moments like these when I'm glad I travel with an aerospace engineer. Steve would calmly explain to me why it was okay that I could look out the window and see our entire wing flapping like cheap plastic.

Flying east across the Pacific is always so strange. We technically arrived in Chicago before we even took off in Saigon.

Even as we entered American airspace and flew over cities that are so familiar to us, it still felt so surreal. I guess it's because we've been living the last year largely focused on the day in front of us. We're good at leaving countries, but our next destination never really hits us until we're actually on the ground.

In Chicago we had a sweet customs lady welcome us home and received lots of strange looks for wearing a tank top and flip flops in the dead of winter. We were able to move up our last flight to beat the storm and woofed down some Chicago pizza – our first American food in nearly a year!

Would you believe that we went all the way around the world without a single piece of lost luggage…until our final 1.5 hour flight from Chicago to Columbus? United Airlines reminded us that there's no place like home. 

Several people have asked us what we're most excited about when we get home. There are lots of trivial things: electronic toothbrushes, cheering for our favorite sports teams, using a foam roller, holding a dog, lying on a couch, the Today Show, leaving our shampoo and soap in the shower, having a wardrobe, throwing everything we own into a washing machine, putting our water bottles and toothbrush holders in the dishwasher, our favorite foods, a consistent pillow, and going to sleep in the same bed every night.

We're excited to find out what all we missed this year – we can count on two hands how many times we've watched TV. We're excited to find out what surprises us about our own country. We're ready to be out of the sun! I can't believe I'm admitting this, but we've been known to sport an umbrella on extremely sunny days. We knew it had gotten bad when we found ourselves walking in the shadows of power lines.

We want to go home and have our moms' cooking. We want to hug our families…and be hugged back. We want to take good care of our friends and show them how much we appreciate them. We want to rebuild our home again. We have been deprived of these things for a year, and we have fresh perspective about what matters to us. We have so much living to do!

In the past couple of weeks we have done a lot of reading about reverse culture shock. We wanted to prepare ourselves for some of the feelings we might experience when we get home. Honestly, it all sounds really depressing. I'm depressed just thinking about how depressed I'm told I'm going to be.

According to a bunch of other people who have come home after RTW trips, we will encounter the following:

(1) Lots of inconsequential observations like how big and bright the grocery stores are going to be, how expensive meals will seem, and how loud the conversations will sound.
(2) The realization that not much at home has really changed.
(3) A disdain for obligations and accompanying guilt for not wanting to commit ourselves so far in advance.
(4) Wanderlust.
(5) The realization that most people simply will not care about our trip.

This last one probably scares me the most. We promise not to start every sentence with, "When we were on our trip..." if you promise to sympathize with the fact that this trip HAS changed our lives and the experiences we've been through are not something that we can just turn off. Deal?

This reminds me how much I want to thank every person who has commented or written to us this past year about the blog. We have received so many sweet and encouraging notes from people letting us know how much they enjoyed following our journey. This really has meant so much to us. I have saved every single one of those notes and will reference them again on days when I'm feeling #5.

I suppose the prevailing piece of advice has been that, “It will be hard to get sympathy when everyone thinks you've just spent the last year having the time of your lives.” If you've read this blog then you obviously know about all the good times. But I certainly hope that you've also come away with insight into how much work it took. Maybe everyone pictured us like this:

But we felt more like this:

We did have the time of our lives, but the last year didn't feel like a vacation. Maybe after time has passed our perspective will change, but at this moment with the memories so raw, we feel like we should just be congratulated for “making it”.  

We've read that one of the best ways to curb post-trip blues is to plan another trip. We're actually really excited about traveling around the U.S. Yellowstone is at the top of our list, and it's only a 10-hour drive from Denver. Is it sad that 10 hours doesn't seem like a big deal?

We'd be lying if we said we weren't scared of the changes ahead of us. Even though we've been leading an unusual life, it's still our normal. We often wonder what life will be like when we get home. We've spent too much time thinking about it lately…too much anticipation. It's time to just get on with it!

What's next for us? We will be spending the holidays in Ohio with the Bremers. After New Years we'll be relocating from San Diego to Colorado to be closer to the Naumans. Katie received a sabbatical from her company and starts a new work-from-home position on January 23. Steve will begin looking for jobs in the Denver/Boulder area as soon as we get back. If you know of a company looking for a talented, charismatic, and hard-working aerospace engineer with a good suit, please let us know!

It's important to me that I also write a few sentences about how proud I am of my husband. Before this trip Steve had only been to three places outside of the United States: 
(1) Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – basically no different from the U.S. if you don’t leave the resort 
(2) Canada 
(3) U.S. Virgin Islands

He jumped into this trip with his eyes wide open. He took a bigger leap of faith than I did, and I am so proud of him.

We feel like people are waiting for us to say how this trip has changed us or our outlook on the world. We can't help but feel that we've changed, although it's hard for us to understand how or how much at this point. I think it will take some time back in our "normal" surroundings to get some perspective on what we’ve been seeing day-in and day-out. But if there's one thing I do know, it's that we've never been closer.




  1. Congratulations and welcome home!! Looking forward to seeing you in Ohio!

  2. I think I might get depressed now that there are no more new blog updates :( Honestly so happy for you did it! Have fun readjusting to "normal" life again and we can't wait to see you both when you make it out to San Diego again!

  3. I hope you continue with the blog post trip! See you soon in Colorado!

  4. If you want your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you must watch this video
    right away...

    (VIDEO) Text Your Ex Back?