Portland Mural

Reconstructing Life After Travel

I’ve learned a big lesson since returning to the US after 10 months of travel overseas: reconstructing your life after travel is a lot harder than deconstructing it before leaving.

There’s something liberating about grasping the idea and belief that if you’re willing to take the risk and let go of your material stuff, your job and your home, which in most cases is replaceable, that it won’t be that hard to put it all back together again. It’s a freedom from the constraints we and our society put on ourselves that is desirable. You have to have a good job, you have to have things, and sometimes nice things, you have to look a certain way. It creates not only a deep-set sense of competition among one another, but also a sense that it’s the only way we can be ‘successful’ in life (I’m referring primarily to American culture here, but it certainly exists elsewhere).

So letting that go and absorbing the belief that you can not only live your life in many many ways, but that you don’t have to stick to one way of life is incredibly freeing. But let’s say you want to go and create the life of home+things+career+stable relationships? After stepping outside of that world, I see now how each aspect of that web relies on the other. Not that I really know at all what it’s like, but I have begun to have a glimpse of just how hard it is for people to lift themselves out of homelessness.

Take for starters the necessity of a mailing address. Don’t have one? Well then how to do you get or renew a drivers license? Don’t have a license? How do you get a cell phone? I’m sorry, but your amazingly stamped passport is not the sort of ID they want. Is your temporary mailing address in another state? Well then how do you establish residency? And let’s just say that you wanted to apply for food benefits, because the time it takes to get a job is longer than you expected. If you don’t have a mailing address that’s in your state of ‘residency’ – well – let me just say it creates a total cluster-$&*! of a mess with Human Services.

Let’s move on to the housing side of this equation. Don’t have a job yet, but do have savings to pay for an apartment? Good luck – no one wants to rent to someone without proof on income. Even as a freelancer, renters are wary. They not only want proof of income – and a lot of proof, they are going to want a seriously large deposit. In our case, one that would have depleted all those savings and made it impossible for us to have the time to find gainful employment.

Speaking of gainful employment, how do you become successful at finding and getting a job, much less showing up to work in a presentable and professional way, if you don’t have a home from which to base yourself. How do you show up ready to work, if you don’t have a steady place to make breakfast, get dressed, and feel centered? And how do you reach out to people in your profession in order to learn what’s happening on the ground when it’s difficult to know when you’re going to be in the same city?

Mush all that together with the strange phenomenon that is reverse culture shock (if you’re traveling it’s best to accept the fact now that this will occur) and you’ve got yourself full of some likely uncomfortable feelings. Not to worry, although the process of deconstruction was relatively quick, I have no doubt that the passage of time will take care of any roadblocks.

It’s not all bad of course. The long transition time of finding home and reconstructing the web has made for some fun experiences.

Namely, our home of Portland, Oregon, feels new to us. 10 months didn’t seem like that long, but stuff happened here. New restaurants opened, heck there are whole new city blocks of restaurants and shops to explore. There are new murals and public art pieces which I’m particularly excited about. There’s even a new lightrail line that opened while we were gone, and I can now get bus tickets on my phone. It’s just like being on a travel journey, except I don’t get lost and I can read the signs!!

I think the best part about this reconstruction is connecting with friends. For us, 10 months was the perfect amount of time to go off and do our travel thing but not be forgotten by the people at home. Their lives haven’t completely moved on without us. As many stories as we have to tell, there are equally as many to listen to. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share and get to know one another again.

Given the challenges, would I change anything? Mmm, no. Would I do it again? Yes! I’m ready to go right now! There’s no way that taking an opportunity to do something that sounds crazy outweighs the benefit of not doing it. It doesn’t have to be travel – for some folks that’s not their vice. For me, I would make the same choice again and again, no matter how hard it was to come back.

What are the crazy things you want to do but aren’t sure you should/could/would?

About the Author : Jess SternJessica has an insatiable appetite for travel. She loves experiencing culture in every way. She loves art, music, food and sharing stories.View all posts by Jess Stern

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