As my time in New Zealand began to wind down I realized that I was a bit on the crispy fried side. A year of solid travel, a new place every few weeks (often every few days), countless conversations that required years worth of back stories to complete and the constant sense that I couldn’t completely rest because change was right outside my hotel room door, weighed on me. So that last in week in NZ, I stayed mostly to myself. Just me and my Campa van.
I wasn’t rude, if someone addressed me I returned the greeting, but I wasn’t my normal engaging, outgoing self either. And somewhere in that week I stopped writing.
I got back to the US and settled into a low-level state of culture shock. Sure I am used to completely changing cultures, currencies, languages and alcohol contents in the snap of a finger, but the U.S. is different. This is of course not news, we Americans pride ourselves on being different – in fact we founded our country on this basic principal… one Nation, indivisible in our individuality.
Maybe it is the palpable fear caused by the economic situation, or the depression associated bleak job forecasts, or the death and subsequent media saturation of all things King of Pop. Or more likely it isn’t you (my fellow Americans) that are making me feel this way, but rather it is the reality that despite all that has changed about me this past year, when I hit American soil the overwhelming urge to eat something deep fat fried and drink cosmos while watching a television show about New Jersey housewives is so compelling that I put down my yoga mat and my traveling altar, belly up to the Comcast beast or new ‘IT’ club and revert directly back to ‘That Girl’.
Now don’t get me wrong… That Girl is a good time! She wears 4” heels as a trademark. She flaunts her yoga-toned ass in the $300 jeans she once thought she could not live without. And, she can out-caddy, out-crass, and out-last most of her contemporaries, but she’s like a new puppy…she’s fun, cute and entertaining, but after a while you are like, “alright, enough chewing things up, grow up and mellow out already!”
This is the constant state of push and pull I feel myself struggling with when I come ‘home’. On the one hand I am yogi Rachel, I’m calmer, I’m more secure and self-assured and I am willing to freely share all that I have learned. On the other hand, I am all the things I value less in myself in larger doses than when I am traveling, and perhaps this is the real crux of the issue.
Can I be who I want to be in the US or am I, and therefore those I come in contact with, better off if I am a full-time wandering gypsy? Abroad I am ridiculously, joyfully productive. In the US I sleep in, I watch Le Tour de Frace nonstop, I plan my days around meals rather than my practice. You get the drift.
So rather than dwell on this, I decided to allow myself to embrace these habits while I was home. I accept that while I am in the US I am different than when I am abroad and that’s okay, it’s great in fact – it is genuine. The US has become my vacation destination, the place where I can take a few days or weeks off from the full-time job of improving myself.
While ‘home’, I realized a few other things. Firstly, that I spent the last decade plus of my life striving to be one of the guys. In sports, in my career, in drinking prowess, in pretty much every aspect, (albeit in 4” heels and $300 jeans). This year, I became one of the girls again. I reconnected with all of my best girlfriends and forged new sister-hoods for the first time in years. Ironically enough, as I shed the heels and the hot rollers, I became MORE feminine.
I also realized that I don’t need a ‘home’. Coming back to the US was in large part a necessity because the time had come for me to re-establish my base in such a way that I could really begin thinking of traveling as a lifestyle and not a ‘gap year’. My best friend/ex-husband had very kindly housed all of my worldly possessions over the year, allowing me to mentally still claim Colorado as my home – actually to still claim his home as my own, but it was time to remove the ghost of me from his domain. So like all 35 year-olds aspire to do, I moved ‘home’ to Ohio.
After a few wonderful weeks in Colorado my beloved father flew out to keep me company as I loaded all I still hold claim to, into a U-Haul for the 24-hour drive from Aspen to Cincinnati. Memorable moments surrounding this journey include the heartbreaking final severing of all things marriage-related in my life (best friend relationship notwithstanding) and a traffic stop in Illinois where the K9/Drug patrol separated me from my U-Haul and father while asking me questions like:
Are you trafficking drugs?
A: No, my substance abuse councilor father up there frowns on such things.
Are you transporting guns? No? You don’t hunt?
A: I am a vegetarian yogi.
Have you ever smoked Marijuana?
A: Uh, yeah… who can honestly answer no to that?
According to my father there are a few people left who can actually answer no (knock me over with a feather) and in his opinion the proper response to that final question is “my answer is NO.” I blame Satya- the yogic non-lying rule for this lapse on my part.
Two days of unpacking into my parent’s basement and it was time for another road trip. This one to all the U.S. summer vacation staples. Cleveland, Ohio - home of my beloved grandmother. Detroit, Michigan – where I had the honor of leading a workshop with my Mysore sister Shelly. Chicago, Illinois – Cousin Shannon and her husband Craig (of Ireland and my 35th birthday fame) and Angie (life-long friend and famed for her recent visit to Bali).
And then it was back to Ohio for the finale before heading out for year two on the road. Last weekend I attended a high school reunion of sorts. No monumental round numbers here, just the very infrequent event of many of our group being in town at the same time. The parade of people I have not connected with since the early 90’s was staggering and comforting. Among all these old friends, mostly women, it hit me... I am again, one of the girls. I LOVE being one of the girls.
Now I set off again, year two or just my normal state of being however you'd like to look at it. The plan for the next nine months is as follows:
July and August - Italy, Spain, France, Croatia
September - USA
October through February – India
March - Bali
Begin at the Beginning
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