I’m doing my best to not reintegrate. I suppose it is easy right now as I am couch-surfing at a friend’s place, until I find something more permanent. (Not that I really want to, but I do need to replenish the bank account before I get on the road again.)
It’s weird being home. Nothing has changed. Nothing. And that is disturbing. People still make the same old arguments in favor of or against just about everything, politics included. Fortunately my friends have accepted the fact that I won’t reintegrate (they actually seem to appreciate it, albeit from a vicarious perspective) and the question they all ask is: “when are you leaving again? And where are you going?” Even my mom is intensely curious to know where I am going next. That’s also weird. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to reconnect with my friends, that there would be a distance between us–but so far (and it has only been a week) they seem not to care. Weird, but wonderful. Of course, they all want to know about Turkey, “travel tips, please?” And they all are fascinated by Lake Toba and ask all kinds of questions about it, but when I tell them how hard it is to get to they lose interest, which suits me fine. I hope the place remains undiscovered.
I can’t help but to notice, however, that as a society America loves to pride itself in ‘individualism’ and ‘personal liberty’ but remains one of the most conformist places in the world. All the cars are the same (SUVs), all the music is the same, all the clothes are the same and all the TV shows are the same. Now, that’s not to say that other places in the world don’t share this society-wide need to conform. (It’s human nature in my opinion.) Many of the places I visited were just like this, especially East Asia (but not India, not by a long shot). Turkey had this to a degree, but in Istanbul, a city of 15 million people, it was pretty easy to get lost amidst those in the Turkish counter-culture. Scandinavia had this on one level, but also the level of tolerance and acceptance there of differences was pretty profound too.
It’s also quite expensive to re-integrate, even as little as I have. I got the paperwork for my car up to speed (including insurance) and got a cell phone number (but only a pay as you go, as the telecom companies can go fuck themselves if they think I am going to sign up for a two year plan!). I’ve reintegrated in a few other minor ways, but all in all, my life isn’t so different than it was three weeks ago. And that is good. It leaves me hopeful that I’ll be able to stay put for a while, complete my writing project and then head back off into the world.
Lastly, as much as my friends missed me, it’s obvious that life went on without me. It’s odd, beyond words, really, to sit down and catch up with them and see that their lives didn’t change at all–and in the grand scheme of things mine probably didn’t change so much either–and also to realize I was gone for a full year.
It felt like it was yesterday I was catching that plane to Singapore. Just yesterday I was floating down the Mekong. Just yesterday I was sailing across the Indian Ocean.
And tomorrow? Tomorrow looks as bright as it did six months ago. Full of promise. Full of joy. And full of friends.
That is right and good. As it should be.