Returning home on a Transatlantic Cruise
We journeyed back to the States over the past two weeks on a Transatlantic Cruise - better known as a repositioning cruise. The journey took us from Europe back to the States where the ship would then prepare for its winter Caribbean cruises.
The ship was mostly filled with retired passengers, many of whom are proud to call themselves "Cruise-Aholics." Since we were on the ship for two weeks, we got a lot of practice answering questions about where we live (hmm...good question...), what our favorite place to visit was during the trip and if we cruised the entire year. I guess cruise-aholics think anyone who can travel the world can do it best by sea at the price of a luxury cruise line. Not so much.
It was a small shock to be around thousands of Americans again on the ship. It was a welcomed change to have no language barriers and we met some really nice people, but we soon found ourselves also bombarded with things like impatience, over-indulgence and a bit of entitlement. By the end of the first week, we noticed we were striking up more conversations with the International crew than with our fellow passengers. Talking with the Croatians about their beloved capital of Zagreb, chatting with the Indians about their homeland and potential arranged marriages and asking after families of the crew from the Philippines since they are so far away from their typhoon-afflicted country. Their stories just seemed so much more interesting.
To be honest, we couldn't have planned our re-entry to the States any better. We enjoyed two weeks of fun and relaxation while slowly being re-introduced to American life through conversations, observations and the constant stream of MSNBC and ESPN on the stateroom television. Our ship docked in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and we were welcomed with open arms by a two-hour wait at the immigration and customs line at the port. After a year with remarkably no travel delays or real issues moving through 16 countries, we threw our arms up in exasperation at coming back into our own.
I don't want this to come off too negatively though. I am happy to be back home (although we don't really have one) and starting to see family has been great. I am really looking forward to the holidays with our family and meeting my new little nephew in a few days.
But, it does feel strange to be back. I was at a grocery store today and found myself in the cereal aisle. Last time I looked at cereal it was in Italy and I had the choice of one type of corn flakes and a box of All-Bran. Today, I had my choice of no less than 100 different types of cereal. It really is amazing. So amazing in fact that I actually couldn't choose one.
My good friend was in the Peace Corps in Kenya and I was fortunate to be the first person he stayed with when he returned to the States after almost three years away. I remember finding him in the deodorant aisle in Target where he couldn't believe all the options he had and was completely overwhelmed. So much so that we spent a better part of our Target run in that aisle. Now I'm not saying my adjustment is anything like coming back from rural Kenya after three years, but I can better appreciate his feelings now. I don't know if I feel overwhelmed, underwhelmed or just simply boat-lagged by being back in the U.S.
The jury is still out on how this adjustment will go. We are trying to take it slow and figure out what may be next. As they say in Thailand, we are "same same, but different." We are pretty much the same two people who left a year ago, but we have returned a little bit changed and altered in a way that brings us some peace. It may seem like we spent the last 11 months drinking wine and hanging out in beautiful places based on our blog posts (we had to make you jealous somehow), but it has been so much more meaningful than that. Our world perspective has grown exponentially, we have a much softer spot in our hearts and motivation in our minds for the disadvantaged and the repressed, and we know we want our lives to be less shallow and materialistic than they were before we left.
This wasn't a trip to check off the list before we "grow up." It was a chance to live unconventionally, to invest in experiences and to explore the world and ourselves. That won't change now that we are home. Dave said the other day that he wasn't sad that our adventure was ending because he felt it really was just beginning. I couldn't have expressed it any better.