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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Going Home without Going Home

Fellow nomads warned me that I might feel reverse culture shock upon returning to the US after 15 months of traveling. I’m not sure what that was meant to them, but I didn’t have it. Possibly I avoided it since I didn’t go “home” per se and I already had an outbound ticket back to Europe.  I could treat it as another chapter in my adventure and not worry about it being an ending. (Spoiler alert: it was another fantastic chapter.)

It was comforting to slide back into a space with familiar language, customs, laws, and roads (built for big American cars on the right side). Plus - clothes dryers!  Europe really doesn’t know what it’s missing out on there. 

My mom’s family plans a reunion once every 3-5 years or so. Rather than having it in someone’s home or hometown, we choose a place where we would all like to visit. We pick a place with natural beauty and interesting attractions, then rent a place big enough to house all of us for a week.  None of this spend one day together and then go back our separate ways nonsense!  We genuinely enjoy each other.  This is not some obligation to be fulfilled so it was a no brainer that I had to say yes when dear “Aunt” Ginger invited me to Pacific City, Oregon. 

I have long appreciated that I am terribly fortunate to have such a great family (on both sides) but since traveling and hearing many sad family stories ranging from apathy to abuse, I came to this reunion with a deeper sense of gratitude and it was returned tenfold. 

We met up at a Portland Food Cart pod before setting out to the coast and cousin Ben (7 years my junior) exclaimed, “Hey look! It’s that lady from the internet!” 

Over the week, we touristed, we laughed, we shared stories, we took turns cooking and eating fabulous meals, we paid each other lots of compliments, we hugged, we played games, we sat around the fire and sang, roasted marshmallows, some played guitar, some played the keyboard. There were tears of joyful sorrow and gratitude at the end of the week. I am so proud to be part of such an amazing group of talented, inspiring, caring people.

Plus I got to meet someone I’ve had a HUGE virtual crush on since seeing my cousin post photos of her a couple years ago.  Sonny was even more loveable in person!  <3

I wish I could bottle up the joy, the stories, the laughter, the love from that week.

The rest of my time in Oregon carried on with the same momentum. I went to writing meetups, I attended parties, I helped throw parties, I hiked to waterfalls, attended festivals, discovered an unexpected romance, had my tarot cards read, got my fortune from Zoltar, made new friends, reunited with old friends, and was so fortunate to have visits from my dad and stepmom and friends from Kansas City, Southern Oregon and Texas.  A new friend observed something about being a powerful woman to draw so many. Ha!  

I got to see “my” cat, Miss Mia Pretty Princess Mole Slayer. I admit I was sad but not surprised when I picked her up and she looked to my brother with a face that said, “Save me from this strange woman!”

AND! I got to finally check an item off my bucket list.  I got to have a bonfire on the beach!  Even better, it was right before the Fourth of July so we sat back and watched the fire, drank wine and watched people light off fireworks on the beach while hearing the ocean tide rolling in.  It was even more magical than I’d imagined.

Some asked me why I didn’t visit Kansas City, but no. I wasn’t ready. Even in Portland I felt torn in too many directions.  I knew in Kansas City I’d be overwhelmed with scheduling visits. Plus, I envisioned questions that I haven’t found the answers to yet. I didn’t want to feel that I was going back “with nothing to show for myself”. I know that’s silly, but that’s part of my inner dialog. Logically I know that I have indeed accomplished things but not as many as I’d hoped I would by now. (I probably will never be able to measure up to my inner critic.)

It was hard to leave Oregon and all the amazingness it embodies. The wealth of natural beauty is hard to beat. Lush forests full of ferns, wildflowers, and moss; incredible waterfalls and coasts with some of the coolest rock formations I’ve seen in the world. The people there really value individuality.  Plus it’s a foodie paradise!  If I didn’t have a housesit in Slovenia lined up, Portland could easily have been the end of my amazing adventure and the start of a new one.


  1. Reading this gave me joy - joy to see you enjoying life to the fullest. Joy to see someone cherishing everything from nature to people to experiences. Sometimes the beauty that lies before us is shrouded by our own accord.

    1. ❤️ thank you Melissa! You're right that it can sometimes be difficult to see the beauty right before us. Writing has helped open my eyes and be more observant. I'm full of gratitude for my life.