After traveling for the past 3 years (mostly in Asia), I have returned to the place where I was born and grown: Connecticut, USA. I would have continued what I was doing: volunteering, teaching yoga, and exploring foreign places, but my bank account directed me back. Also, I missed my family (friends included) and the familiarity.
I thought that I would be overwhelmed by people trying to meet up and hear all about my adventures. That people were eagerly waiting for my return. But it wasn’t exactly like that. Just my mom crying at the airport. And seeing some friends and relatives here and there.
My 20-year-old brother is more interested in his new kitten than catching up with his long lost sister. And it feels like I have to twist arms to get people to make time for me. Unanswered calls. Delayed responses. Scheduling. It is not as easy to flow here.
People have gone on with their lives in the same manner. While I feel like I have been whipped around in a hurricane of rainbows and storms in lands far, far away that they could only fathom as a fairy tale.
And that’s what it feels like. Everything that I had experienced has been lost in the winds of time and I am stuck here, in cement, as I wait for the clock to tick forward. It is gray and quiet here. Like there are underground, rushing waterfalls repressed by designer clothes and cars and overpriced, rented apartments.
Americans pay a lot for everything. And what they don’t realize is that they are living in luxury. Air conditioning, potable water from the tap, washing machines, no sounds of geckos mating at night. But it comes with a price…
People are always working. And their head is barely above water with bills and expenses. And so people are drained. They are too tired to think about recycling or cooking or making time for themselves. Only enough energy to watch a show on their laptop and eat toast for dinner. Everyone is rushing around and forgetting their keys under a pile of laundry. Everyone seems to be stuck in a loop–the more they come around and arrive to Monday, the more they spiral downwards. The more they normalize this cycle. The more they become numb to their wants, needs, and purpose.
I have always scraped by. Sleeping on friends couches, ants biting me in my bed, eating a cucumber for dinner, walking instead of calling a Grab.
It is not comfortable, but I never know when it’s Monday. I am living authentically. Life is an adventure for me. Life is real. Things go wrong sometimes, but some magical things happen too. Like speaking only Thai in the market, seeing a family of 4 and their dog on a motorbike, petting a buffalo next to the hot springs, eating fresh as papaya salad from some ladies on the side of the road, and forming friendships with people from all over the world.
The budget travel life is not for everyone. You must feel called to go. Because it is challenging, terrifying, and uncomfortable.
For me, all I have ever sought is to be free.
To cultivate my inner world.
To understand life.
The way people live in America does not exactly align with what I am seeking from life and this is why I am so shocked and concerned. Jobs, relationships, kids, and houses are not important when one is unhappy on the inside. We all want joy and I don’t feel this in the air. I see people lashing out at the receptionist, sitting hunched at their desk, and complaining that they’re overweight and their hair is falling out.
There are dark energies inside all of us. Especially me. And coming home has reminded me of all the terrible shit that got thrown at me as a child, all the trauma that I have inherited from my ancestors, and even the dark histories of my country. Our environments have such a strong effect and the human brain is so malleable and innately receptive.
I am so thankful to be American. Sometimes embarrassed. Sometimes proud. But I cannot deny how lucky I am to be born on this soil and to have all the opportunities that I have. Being here reminds me of all the inner work that I still have to do. Of all that I have to learn. And of all the people I am meant to help and vice versa.
Coming home is never what you imagine. But it is an opportunity to re-connect, feel your roots, and cherish those family and friends who have known you since the beginning.