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I write this post from thousands of feet in the air, somewhere over China. My eyes filled with tears as I watched Thailand disappear from my window seat, just as they did when I left home. I’m on my way back to New York for the first time in nine months. For some, that will seem like an eternity to be away from friends, family, familiarity. For others, it will seem like but a blip in a lifetime of living as an expat or perpetual traveler. To me… it feels like an unanswered question.

Bangkok Airport

I almost didn’t come. An opportunity came up and I struggled whether to take it or not. I weighed and balanced the joys of seeing my loved ones and a city I adore against leaving the island that has finally, finally begun to feel like home. I felt anxiety about upsetting the delicate balance of my happiness. But in the end, a wise friend reminded me that the point of living my life in this particular manner was having the freedom and flexibility to carpe diem– so I seized that day by booking my round trip ticket.

I have such a rush of emotions right now. I’m afraid that I’ll miss Koh Tao terribly. I’m even more afraid that somehow I won’t miss it. I’m afraid Mark and I will miss each other. But I’m even more afraid we’ve forgotten how much we love long distance. I’m most afraid that the carefully crafted vision I have of home will be somewhat smeared by reality.

I was lucky to accompany Mark home to Scotland this summer- his first time home after two and a half years away. I was lucky for a lot of reasons, one of them being I feel more prepared for some of the shock of coming home after nine months away.

I’m not worried about culture shock. I think true culture shock is hard to come by in this modern world. Unless you are living somewhere in the desert or on a remote island and are suddenly plopped into New York City or some other major metropolis for the first time in years, I just don’t really believe in it. I’m not afraid of having a meltdown at the sight of subway trains or getting vertigo and walking into traffic. Though that would make for a pretty fantastic blog post.

What I’m worried about is the disconnect that will inevitably occur between the life that I left behind, frozen in my memory, and the living breathing reality that people and things change, even when I’m not there to observe it first hand. While I romanticize the life and friends that I left behind (as I tend to look at anything in the past tense through rose-colored glasses), they might not have had time to romanticize- they’ve been living it.

As Mark did, as I’m sure I will, and as a million people have before us, I fear looking at myself in the mirror and asking myself the question, Where do I belong now? Am I on my way home right now, en route to New York or will I be on my way home one month from now, when I’m on my way back to Thailand, to travel, to a life of the uncertain?

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24 Comments...
  • Dad
    March 1 2012

    pretty profound….but you are 22 and you should be a bit perplexed by life and curious to learn more….and you are. Love
    Dad

    • Meihoukai
      March 2 2012

      This comment made me smile. And it is very wise… I think its comforting to know that I should be perplexed by life right now.

  • Grandma Burr
    March 1 2012

    Hope you find just what you want in NY. It’s there and it is what you’ve left. And, they will always be there-where you are and where you’ve been, Relax, enjoy, Love, Gram. Wish I could be there to greet you, but age is a tarnished gold. Love, Gram E

    • Meihoukai
      March 2 2012

      I’ll have to come to you next time I’m in the States 🙂

  • sarah
    March 1 2012

    fear not…the flexibility of your lifestyle allows you to further explore where you ultimately what to be, a freedom that not many people get to experience. I remember leaving Denver and feeling the exact same way, with the fear that I didn’t have a home. But home is not a geographic place as much as it is a spiritual space in which you feel safe, confident, and unconditionally loved. Welcome Home.

    • Meihoukai
      March 2 2012

      Thank you for this beautiful comment Sarah… I have always found comfort in knowing that most any angst I feel in life is just a rite of passage that millions of people have survived before me.

  • Olivia
    March 1 2012

    Wellllll you’re here now so let’s party!!!

    • Meihoukai
      March 2 2012

      I can always count on you to lighten the mood!

  • Kathryn
    March 1 2012

    Wow, this is so hard to think about my head hurts. What comes to mind is that we associate home with a physical space made of bricks and boards, and of course our family. That works pretty well in childhood and young adulthood. But maybe as we grow older home expands to include any place in the world where we are hanging with someone we love and we are loved back by that person. We live in an era in which much is experienced virtually and work is increasingly location-independent. So maybe home is not just one location anymore, but something you can experience anywhere. The Family of Man(people!) and all that jazz. ??????

    Just throwin’ it out there…

    • Meihoukai
      March 2 2012

      I am definitely coming around to the idea that home doesn’t have to be a singular place…. there can be many places in your life that give you that “safe home” feeling.

  • Dani
    March 1 2012

    Every time I visit my hometown, I am always just so surprised that NOTHING has changed at all. But it’s good to have all the amenities & comfort foods you might have missed while you were gone 😉 I didn’t know you were going back to NYC – what are your plans after that?
    Dani recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 2 2012

      Believe me, food was a big part of this decision! 🙂 I’m just here for one month, after which I’m heading back to Thailand. I’m going to Phuket for a few days while Mark does a diving course and then I’m planning on spending Songkran in Chang Mai- can’t wait! After that I was planning on heading to Laos but recent readings have told me that this is a horrible time to go- sad.

  • Lauren
    March 1 2012

    Please write more about this and let us know how you end up feeling! I am about to embark on my own long term trip and, for some reason, the only thing I am significantly worried about is this- returning home, feeling out of place, and not being able to do anything about it.

    But I do hope you have a great respite from travel.

    • Meihoukai
      March 2 2012

      Yes, my hope is that I will return to the road renewed and with a bit of that wonder at the excitement of travel again. And I know how you feel- this was one of my biggest anxieties before I ever left! I hate the idea of being a stranger and a tourist in a city I once called home.

  • Sarahsomewhere
    March 2 2012

    I can really sympathize with this, and it’s a strange kind of fear isn’t it? A fear that you’ve changed, or worse, that you haven’t!! I guess nine months is a decent stint to be away, I hope you get what you need out of your visit home, and I look forward to hearing how you go. By the way, I love your Dads comment, that is so, so sweet!
    Sarahsomewhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 2 2012

      I love his comment too 🙂 I also love what you said about being afraid of your own changes/non changes. I’m so concerned about everyone else’s life shifts that I don’t take time to think about the fact that I too have had some pretty big ones!

  • Roy patterson
    March 2 2012

    🙂

  • Erik
    March 2 2012

    Pretty profound. I have a feeling you’ll keep the memories with you for a long time.

    I think you’ll find where you belong, and you’ll have these last 9 months of travelling to thank for that. But… be patient with yourself, it may not happen right away, but don’t lose faith that it WILL.
    Erik recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 3 2012

      Learning patience will oneself is a lifelong journey I believe… I struggle with it often! But I agree, its key to feeling at peace!

  • Fidel
    March 3 2012

    Hello, sorry I have been away (not that you missed me, lol). Been out to sea and working hard on this ship I call home.
    I read this post with an open eye because I too will be wondering where home is for me in several months when it may be time for me to leave Japan.
    The great thing about family is that they will always have a home for you. Even though I know I want to remain overseas, I also know that I’m never far from home.
    We are nomads. We call the world our homes now because the world is what we know, what we love, and where we live.
    I think you, like many others, found a connection to Thailand that feels impossible to shake. I hope you return and make it a happy home.
    Fidel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 4 2012

      Fidel, you underestimate how much I enjoy your comments… of course I missed you! In fact wondered where you had been recently and remembered that there probably isn’t great internet at sea 🙂

      I think my problem is I keep finding places that, as you put it, I can’t seem to shake my connection to. So now I have about a million places that have a little piece of my heart!

  • Meihoukaiis
    March 5 2012

    I’m going back to the Philippines for the first time since 1997. I was born there, but I moved to Arizona years ago, and I know how you feel. I can’t quite call Arizona my home as I love the tropics more than the desert ( I love the Filipino food and culture), yet the Philippines and I haven’t seen each other for years. I’ve concluded that “home” isn’t a place, but a feeling, where you feel comfortable and safe. I love your dad’s comment about being young and perplexed. I feel the same. Sometimes, I can’t wait for life to get less confusing, but it wouldn’t be as much fun that way. I hope everything works well for you!
    Meihoukaiis recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 6 2012

      Thank you Meihoukaiis! I’m curious to hear how your return to the Philippines goes… you’ve been away much longer than I have! I think the places we were born will always hold a special place in our hearts though.