The other night I sat in a bungalow having drinks with three groups of good friends—who I met in three different countries—and I realized that I was the only common link between them. I have made so many lasting friends, brought so many people together, had so many adventures, shared space and stories over and over again. It makes the thought of going back to normal life seem almost impossible.
I’m coming up on eight months of travel, and my heart is full of these people that I met, that I love, that I’m always heartbroken to say goodbye to.
I am leaving Asia, actually following through on my original plan of heading back to Europe, and then starting to think about jobs and homes and stability for the fall—even toying with the idea of maybe going back into a classroom.
He tells me that my heart is not in Houston and that I won’t last long there, but I’m not so sure.
I started this trip to find meaning, and so far what I’ve found is that everything worthwhile comes from people. I’ve had mediocre days on gorgeous beaches and hilarious nights in cockroach infested hostels. I’ve found more spirituality in human kindness than in temples or churches and more culture in tiny wooden shacks than in expensive museums.
I’ve found that my heart is with these people, wherever they are. My heart is spread across the globe, and my home can be wherever I drop my backpack for the night.
So maybe my home will end up back where I started, but I’m contradicting myself now: I don’t think that’s a step backward. Even if nothing else has changed, as I look at the people around me, I know that I have.
One day on the Camino we talked about the top five qualities we would want in a significant other. Among the usual mix, practical comes up on my list of necessities. To balance me out, I explain.
I have a standing offer to teach at the perfect school in Houston starting in August. No interview, no recertification, no need to even change grade level or subject area. It would allow me to continue traveling worry-free for the next three months, smooth over the curious yearlong gap in my resume, give me an immediate income, place me back in a city that I love, and give me a meaningful job.
I can’t find any practical negatives, but just thinking about it makes my stomach cringe. I feel like it’s a step backward, to a city far from family, to forgotten friendships, into a profession I wasn’t entirely satisfied with. And I can’t go back to teaching just because it’s the best alternative—kids deserve more than that and I’d rather spend all the rest of my money paying for my own health insurance than use kids like a backup plan. Then there’s the nagging fear that even if I go back and try my hardest, that I won’t be a good enough teacher. I’ve never worked at a school this good, and I’m terrified I’d be exposed as the mediocre teacher I probably am and let everyone down anyway.
I don’t know if I can do it.
I think I want to go to Myanmar as my last stop in Southeast Asia. I say think, because I’m not even sure if I really want to, or if I just think I’m supposed to want to since this—only a few years after they’ve opened their border to tourists—is the time to do it.
It would mean another stop in Bangkok getting a visa, a fairly expensive flight both in and out of the country, and much more research since there is no well-worn path to follow or many friends to ask. Pairing up with another American girl I met would share the stress, but that would require waiting two extra weeks, with nothing else left I want to see.
Tell me, what is the practical decision here?
The English boy and I decide to try it, this throwing practicality to the wind and being together despite a six hour time difference. It’s a bigger adjustment than I expect: learning to meet people while having a boyfriend, still planning the day-to-day while also looking at upcoming flights to England, Skyping on terrible internet connections and interpreting messages without tone or facial expressions.
And—most impractically—I miss him every day.