We’ve been home now for nearly two months now. It’s been enough time to get back into the swing of things here, but we are still recognizing how different our lives are now that we’re back in San Francisco with a home to take care of, a job to commute to, social obligations to attend to, and a to-do list that never seems to get done. Frankly, it’s been a rough adjustment. Here are the top ten differences that we noticed between life on the road and life at home:
10) Speed it up! The pace of life seems like it’s on double-time compared to how we lived traveling through the developing world. We used to plan just one activity a day. Life in the States is structured by hourly activities, meetings, and events. We’re constantly feeling behind and exhausted. What happened to the four hours a day that we used to spend exercising, meditating, and doing yoga?
9) “I’ll take it to go.” To keep up with this fast-paced life, I’ve noticed how much people have to eat on the run. In the developing world, people sit down for meals at home. There is no such thing as coffee cups to go. I’ve found myself already eating meals in the car, on Muni, and while I’m walking. Jenni and I already dropped the 8 pounds we each gained by no longer having three two-hour meals a day.
8) Online all the time. Imagine walking around without a cell phone. Well, we did just that for a year. There were even times when we didn’t have internet connection for over a week. But as soon as I got back, I got my an iPhone and realized that I could check my email every hour if I wanted to. At any moment, people can call, message, facetime, or phone me. I’m trying to figure out just how connected I want to be.
7) LGBT Pride season. Coming home during Pride season was quite a culture shock after traveling last in Peru, a place where LGBT life is still under the radar. Even the San Francisco public buses had their LCD screens say “Equality for All” during Pride week. While we’ve been so used to being the only gay people around this year, we hardly stand out in San Francisco. it seems like everyone is a little gay in this city.
6) “Honey, I’m home.” Returning to work, Jenni now has an eight hour work day and a three hour round-trip commute. At best, we see each other for only a few hours a day. Going from spending all day together to three hours is quite an adjustment. Of course, spending time away from one another is a healthy part of any relationship. But, the thing we miss the most from our travels is the luxury of spending our days together.
5) This Costs How Much?@%&*!. For Jenni’s 31st birthday this July, I wanted to take her on a weekend getaway close to relax. I looked at my favorite websites: AirBnB, VRBO, and Priceline. I gasped that most places within a few hours of San Francisco cost at least $175 a night. We averaged $30 a night all year in the developing world, and many of our stays even included breakfast! My girl is worth every penny, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend $600 with food, gas, and hotels for a weekend. So, we had a dinner with friends at home and went to a concert. We’re saving the extra for our next vacation abroad where the dollar stretches further.
4) “What do YOU do?.” While visiting a friend I recently went to a happy hour and met a group of new people. Within the first five minutes of any conversation, I got the questions, “So what do you do?” When I answered, “I just traveled the world,” I got lots of questions followed by, “So what are you going to do now?” That’s when I would say,” I don’t know. I’m looking for a job.” Silence. Some shame even. I never realized how much our identity is formed by what we do and how uncomfortable it can be to say you don’t know. While I appreciated the uncertainty while traveling, the uncertainty now only produces anxiety back at home.
3) Back to Recycling. The developing world isn’t up to date with recycling. In San Francisco, it’s the law. We’re the first city to require residents to participate in recycling and composting programs. You can actually get fined for throwing away a can instead of recycling it. I felt criminal throwing my bottles and papers into the trash during our travels. I now feel good everyday I sort my trash.
2) Accessible Toilets. I really must say that I don’t miss the squatting holes in the floor in Asia or having to carry around my own toilet paper. Finding paper toilet covers and automatic flushers are a sign of the advanced world. Jenni and I rented so many rooms in hostels with shared bathrooms this year that it seems unimaginable that we have our own bathrooms (two even!) in our house. We’re totally spoiled.
1) Free Water: It’s really the little things that matter some time. This whole year in the developing world, we were warned not to drink the water. We’ve gotten so used to buying bottled water that we forgot what an amazing luxury it is to have clean water come out of a tap. Many times in restaurants, a bottle of water costs the same price as a beer, so it’s an easy choice to go for the beer. Basically, I spent the year dehydrated and drunk. These days, I walk into Starbucks or McDonalds and can ask for a tall glass of water and they’ll give it to me for free. A daily gift!