So it has been just over 3 weeks since I have returned back home to Vancouver. I still wake up each morning in a sort of daze, as if I’m still not sure where I am this time around. It’s as if I got up and was whisked away down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, and in true Alice-fashion, I woke up from dreaming. Except it’s not. The last 10 months really did happen. All I have to do is stare at the tattoo on my left foot and up at all the photos of my adventures abroad pasted on my bedroom wall to confirm it. Wonderland was a real place.
But as all adventures go, coming back home is the most difficult part of the journey. It certainly was for me. It took me a while to stop walking around the streets I knew well in a sort of strange awe; I half-expected someone to greet me in Norwegian or an Indian cow to pass me on the sidewalk. My bed felt like a nostalgic yet foreign marshmallow to sleep compared to the dorm and hostel beds I was now used to. It’s a sort of paradox, really: everything feels familiar but it’s not.
But reverse culture shock aside, it was seeing old faces that caused me the most distress. I didn’t know what to say when they asked me where I had been.
“So where have you been all this time?”
Sixteen countries. “…A lot of places.”
“Oh wow, which was your favourite place?”
In what way? “I don’t really know right now.”
“Are you happy that you’re back?”
Yes and no. “I’m not sure.”
Really, I didn’t know what to say. How could I talk about my trip without seeming like I was bragging? How could I talk about the stories I had – of which I could talk about for hours – to people at work where small talk was more appropriate? There was only so much I could say before the polite nodding would make me understand that there was no real way to bridge a gap between someone who just had not been there with me. Who weren’t completely interested because they had their own busy lives to live. There would always be things left unsaid.
For a long time, I struggled with that. I began to jokingly think that maybe I had just dreamed the whole thing. It’s a bit better now – my family and a few friends are quite understanding. But there’s only so much we can talk about my year. More often than not, the conversation always drifts back to the present and future.
The last 3 weeks for me have been a period of transition. I left Canada in January 2012 in order to step outside the small bubble called my life. Now that I’ve returned, I find myself in inside the thin membrane between these two worlds: my old life at home and the world outside.
But if I’ve realized anything this year, it’s that I can’t go back inside the bubble. I have to pop it. Travelling abroad – studying in Norway, backpacking Europe, and working in India – this has been my life for the past year. The extent of impact these experiences have had on me as a person are not crystal clear yet, but I do know that I have been shaped by them. I can’t discount them because I have trouble talking about these experiences with others. 2013 is fast approaching and with it comes my final semester at UBC. It’s the next chapter in this journey I call my life. And that’s what I’m choosing to see it as: a journey. Another destination. Another adventure.
See Vancouver is not in a bubble for me any more. The places I’ve been have shown me how to explore and Vancouver is no different. It is local but ultimately part of the global that I’ve only grazed the surface on. I want to see this city of mine with the eyes of a traveller. To marvel at all of the exquisite qualities it has to offer me. This semester, I’m discovering Vancouver.
Somehow, by still identifying myself as a traveller, my anxieties have been eased. The magic of the Wonderland I’ve discovered are waiting to be found here in this new place.
Down the rabbit hole I go again.