Monday, January 5, 2015

Out of the wild, domestication blues

It’s been a relatively inordinate amount of time since that fateful day you saw your hand, seemingly subconsciously, exchange a piece of paper to a uniformed employee, delivering you from one existence to the next. To your loved ones, it seems as if enough time has passed for you to have acclimatized. The honeymoon period is over. You have rekindled old flames, while letting others permanently lay to rest. You’ve scavenged through your pre-travel possessions, went to places you used to frequent, and finally found a “job,” that’s got you back on the “path.” For all intents and purposes, it seems like you have rediscovered your native footing. But for you, even if months have passed whose sum may be more than years, fully processing all you have seen, heard, felt, and devoured is not an easy task. Much like times irrelevance while globetrotting, how long it takes to ever fully process your journey is a subjective matter. 

For myself, I’m nearing the one-year anniversary of being back in the states after what seemed like a lifetime away. I can tell you with full honesty there are still days where I feel I’m relearning to walk. Where certain aspects of the day-to-day have gotten easier, others seem as if they are more foreign than the landscapes I was frequenting not so long ago. I still feel ferrel. Actions that seem completely normal will render me weird looks or comments, affirming that even if you try to assimilate in full, somethings will never change. Life here moves so fast, yet attaining an upward mobility seems be stuck with a dial-up connection. I may not speak for everyone, but I would be surprised to hear that others who have left for extended periods of time haven’t come in contact with similar phenomena upon their return.

A few weeks after I came home, I wrote about my experience with the honeymoon period. I remember missing the things that would seem obvious: close friends, travel romances, unabashed behavior, absolute freedom. While those are still regulars in reoccurring daydreams, it’s the smaller aspects I’m starting to yearn for. It’s the waiter at my favorite duck joint in Chiang Mai who would talk to me about Thai politics when the restaurant was slow. It was the street kids in Kolkata who, after endless hours of hustling, saw me in the streets and joined in my daily exploits just for the hell of it. It’s the produce lady in the market in Bali who wouldn’t let me purchase the delicious fruits of her labor unless I counted the money in Bahasa or Balinese. It’s all these small memories, which may have been overlooked while they elapsed, that are deeply missed. Much as travel changed drastically after the initial jolt faded, so do our needs and desires as time from last exposure expands.

As a believer in synchronicity, I found it fitting that I spent my nearly one-year anniversary in the last place I stopped before I came home. The circumstance in which I visited this time couldn’t have been any different. The people whom I traveled with, the places that I stayed, and the activities I engaged in all were of a completely different journey. For all that differed though, both trips found me at a crossroads. Both trips saw me hoping maybe this trip would render a romance that lasted longer than the travel. Both saw me trying to demystify a path that still is obfuscated. Both trips, so beautifully, illustrated a definite progression, as well as a confusion. Both trips provided a firm reminder that no experience is wasted if we allow it to shape us.

I may not know how long it takes for someone to return from the wild, or for that matter, if those who have experienced freedom can ever be domesticated. What I do know, though, is that there comes a point when each returnee is faced with a decision. Is this home where your heart is, or is that yearning for times passed enough to move you to action? After the honeymoon is over, does this new life satiate you in full or are you still enticed by the omnipresent desire to wander with the wind? 

Photos courtesy of author and friends 

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