I really don’t know where to start, aside from stating the obvious from the title of this post. As of April 26, I’ve been back home in the USA for 12 months after spending a year living, traveling, working, and eating(!) in Australia.
One year ago, I was scared of coming home. I was afraid to leave friends I had met in Oz. I was afraid of returning home and not feeling “at home”. I was fearful that I would return to the US and forget everything I had learned and the goals I had for the future. I had no clue what I was going to do next.
When I said goodbye to Australia, I had no idea I would also be saying goodbye to a like-a-brother friend within minutes of landing on US soil. A mutual friend contacted me before I boarded my flight from LAX to Baltimore to share that John had passed away. I was shocked and devastated but had to get on a plane and try to keep my emotions in check.
The first three months
Where do I go from here?
The first three months home were the worst. I ached to be back in Australia.
No amount of distractions during the day could mask how much I missed Oz. During the day I stayed busy, catching up with friends and family, networking with former colleagues, and trying to find answers to “what in the world am I supposed to do next”. At night, tears flowed freely as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Reverse culture shock hit and it hit hard.
I was very fortunate to find a handful of odd jobs that were flexible and helped me pay the most basic of bills. I used my flexible schedule to chat with people and brainstorm ways to work toward a remote work lifestyle that would match my skills, interests, and values. No answers came immediately, but I hoped, prayed, and trusted that I would figure it out over time.
And then I met him + I LOVE the fall
There’s no place like…home?
At the end of month three, I traveled to London to spend 10 days with a great group of friends I’ve had since the end of 2006. On day two, I met Gavin, one of three new additions to the group. He just happened to have that week off from work, so we spent lots of time walking, chatting, and eating together. When I returned home, we continued talking on a daily basis.
Back in the US, I secured a flexible part-time job for the academic year at the local university, which also happens to be my alma mater and where I worked for four years before leaving for Oz. Fall brought football games, Saturday tailgates at the football stadium, colorful leaves, fall smells and colors, and FINALLY a sense being “at home”. I was grateful that the sadness of leaving Oz had lifted and the awesomeness that is Charlottesville, Virginia had worked its magic.
I only worked in the career office Mondays-Wednesdays, so I had big plans to develop remote work the remainder of the week. But something better happened. Gav and I talked and Skyped constantly and he visited three times by the end of the year. Within a few months, we went from new friends, to being in love, and on to excitedly chatting about getting married. Remote work took a back seat!
In early 2012, Gav made a perfect Valentine’s Day even better when he proposed six weeks earlier than I expected. Of course I said yes. Well, I said “absolutely”. But only after I asked “are you serious” three times — hey, he had totally surprised me by asking on his February visit versus my end-of-March trip to see him!
Where I am now…
Remember that flexible job I mentioned? I’m only making about 2/3 of what I used to, but the schedule is perfect. So perfect that I’m able to spend the entire month of May with Gav in London. When I return, I’ll continue working with the same office but with more hours. More hours might mean less time to build up remote work, but I have a wedding to pay for
Along with all of the good, there have been some challenges like feeling lonely. I have acquaintances and friends around the world, but I often feel alone in my own hometown. Some of the relationships I had before haven’t returned to their former glory, even 12 months later. Friends who live 1-2 hours away or in a different state altogether understandably are difficult to see. If we’ve been able to get together since I’ve returned, it’s only been once or twice. I miss having several dear friends that you see, hug, and talk to weekly. For all of the good things a year in Australia gave me, I think it also contributed to the distance that now exists between me and various friends. It’s no one’s fault. It just is.
Beyond the loneliness, there are a couple of things that my family is experiencing that I won’t share here. But they’re no fun. In fact, they’re very stressful and heart-wrenching. Every person and every family has their troubles.
After one year back home, have I figured out what’s next?
Sometimes I feel a bit disappointed in myself that I didn’t work harder this last year to find a remote work path. I haven’t put much thought into the USA road trip I wanted to do or when in the world I’m traveling again with the exception of England. But that’s all okay.
I can’t tell you when I’ll travel again. I have only the slightest ideas about how I will eventually transition to a remote work lifestyle. But I do know the answer to the dreaded interview questions “where do you see yourself in five years”.
I see myself with Gavin.
Where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing is something I can’t quite predict, and that’s okay. We’ve talked about the future of course, but I don’t want to plot it all out now. Wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, we’ll be living life together.
I read an article this week on A Practical Wedding about letting go of plans. And the bride in the article was able to tackle her uncertainties about the future with the certainty she had about being with her partner. Knowing the “where we’ll be living” and “how we’re paying for it” is important, and we’ll figure it out. Together. Both the 5-year and 10-year plan.
So that’s what’s next! Gavin. I’m glad I can finally answer the question that everyone asked me when I returned home one year ago. And Oz, I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ll be back with Gav.
Featured image from creative commons