When we last heard from our super heroine, she was full of big plans for the future...has she followed through? Well, no, not exactly. But I'm working on it! What is the plan now? As the Thais would say, "Same, same. But different."
The original plan was to get my old job back and save up enough money to drive across country so I could take care of Grandma while she heals from the knee surgery she needs. Once in Florida with her, I planned to work on saving enough money to get back to Thailand ASAP to obtain my English teaching certificate. I wanted to make it back to the States afterwards in time for my high school reunion, and then immediately apply for jobs in South East Asia.
Well, first, my old job had replaced me. No biggie. I hadn't asked them to hold it, and I was not-so-secretly relieved to be forced to go elsewhere. Second, while talking to my other grandma, she let slip the big question, "What if Grandma doesn't have the surgery? I really don't think she's going to have the surgery." Since she had such a hard time healing from the first knee surgery, I knew my grandma had been putting off the second knee, but I didn't know she might not actually go through with it. So I called her up, and asked her, "Grandma, are you going to have the second surgery or not?" She said, "Well, I'll tell you what I told my doctor: I'll have the second surgery...when hell freezes over." With that being said, my grandma is a feisty old lady...uh, sorry Grandma...feisty young lady, and she sticks to her guns. So we talked it over and realized there was no point in me saving money in California to go to Florida to save money to go to Thailand. The jobs are even scarcer in her town than mine, so it would make the most sense to simply stay in California and save money for Thailand.
I am currently back together and living with Norm. It is definitely a big adjustment for both of us, but we are doing our best to figure it out. He has very generously been supporting me since I got back to America, while I ease my way back into the real world. I recently got hired at Macy's, and I still plan on saving enough money to get back to Thailand ASAP (my goal is February) to earn my English teaching certification.
I love travel, and I love Norm, and now we have to figure out a way for me to love both. We have tentatively agreed that if things continue to work out for us, that I will travel for about 3 months a year. It may be hard to find work overseas without at least a 6 month commitment, but there are definite possibilities, and I am also considering Mexico as a possible place for future employment, which would make occasional weekend visits to and from Norm, more of a possibility. And the biggest news for anyone who knows Norm...he has agreed to apply for a passport! I so want to share my new world with him, and although long term travel is not a possibility for him for at least the next 5 years (when his son graduates high school), I am more excited than even he knows at the thought of a tiny blue book with his name and photo in it.
So I'm home for now, and let me tell you, it's not easy. At the beginning of this adventure, I remember reading all of the travel guides and noticing that each one made sure to include a chapter about coming home. They spoke of reverse culture shock. They spoke about the lack of enthusiasm your friends may have about your tales. They spoke of "ways to cope." I laughed. But it's true, it's all true. You come back a different person--a person you love, a person you are proud of, a shiny, sparkly, happy person. But everything is as you left it, and as soon as you get settled it, you remember why you left it, and your glitter dulls. Responsibility comes rushing back, and the world starts revolving around money again. What's a girl to do? So what do I do? Hmm...well, I obsessively stalk my fellow travelers' facebook pages, especially the ones still out on the road. I arrange and rearrange all of my trip photos into collages. I take cold showers with my eyes closed and pretend I'm in a hostel (I really do). I pinterest like crazy hoping to find a hobby to make the time go by faster. And more than anything, I keep reminding myself that everything I do now will pay off later. This all started with "The world begins at the end of your comfort zone." Well, I'm as uncomfortable as hell, so bring it.
Thank you to everyone who has followed me on this incredible journey. Thank you to God for bringing me home in one piece. Thank you to everyone I met. A special thank you to my awesome Grandmas for all of their support and help through my trip and my life. Thank you to Jenessa for the occasional password reset when my email got hacked on the road (3 times) and the wi-fi wasn't good enough for me to change my own password. Thank you to Aunt Sandy for the occasional bank run. Thank you to Little Bird Hostel in Chiang Mai for attracting the biggest bestest group of friends I'll ever meet in one place...twice. Thank you to Asia Dave for all your pre-trip advice and inspiration (especially and most obviously, the tip about Little Bird). Thank you to the Vietnamese nurse and the flight attendants on the very first flight. Thank you to the guy at the airport in Bali for the five bucks.
Slowboat to Laos
Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand
The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) Thailand
Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand