My summer adventures came to an end in late September with one last stop in the UK. I spent a couple of weeks in London and Cambridge catching up with friends and family, relaxing, doing some parkour research, training, and wandering around one of my favorite cities.
It felt so great to be back in the UK and to be able to see some good friends, but it was also a bit of a reverse culture shock being back in a familiar English-speaking space. I spent so much time in countries where I didn’t really speak the language this summer, that when I finally landed in a country where I did speak the language, I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I went to a friend’s yoga class in London (Yoga for City Surfers), and as people started coming in saying hi to each other and chatting about their days, I just smiled politely. Then I thought to myself, what the hell am I doing? You can say hi, they will understand you. I was so accustomed to improvised sign language and having a language barrier, my go-to move was to not even open my mouth. Awkward.
Eventually, I started becoming more comfortable with, you know, speaking out loud. Naturally, I picked up a few Britishms along the way, and pretty soon I had no idea where I was from anymore. A woman at the supermarket told me I didn’t sound like an American and I was like HEY, WHAT’S THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?! Just kidding, I thanked her profusely, and felt ecstatic the rest of the day that I had managed to NOT sound like an American.
If you think that’s too harsh, I’ll give you another perspective. I was happy to give the world a different version of what they thought an American was supposed to sound like. Better?
The truth is, I love living in Europe, and I’ve become quite “European” (whatever that means) after spending so much time there. I had been told that I wasn’t American on so many occasions that I started to wonder, Are they going to kick me out when I get home?!
Well, I wasn’t kicked out, but the weirdness continued. My accent had become so confused that when I was in an elevator at BWI Airport with a man from the UK and I said to him, “You’ve got a lot of bags,” he asked if I was from Northern Ireland… I really don’t know how I pulled that off, but it happened.
The foreign-ness faded away after a few weeks of being back in the States, but I’m still feeling a bit out of place here. It’s a different kind of life, when you travel often, and it is difficult to come away from. You connect with people at an intense level when you’re on the road. You talk about life, love, sex, astronomy, religion, politics, and anything else you can possibly think of. You have nothing to lose so you can be yourself 100% of the time. You can even try on a new “self” if you feel like it. Every day is an adventure, a challenge, and a learning experience.
When I returned to the U.S. someone asked me if I was happy to be home. Home. I said it once, trying it on. What a funny concept. You know that cliché, “home is where the heart is?” Well, that’s kind of how I feel about it. I do feel home when I’m with my family here in New England, but I also feel home with my friends and family in D.C., where I’ve spent most of my adult life. I feel completely at home in Paris, where I lived for six months, and I feel home with my friends and family in London and Cambridge.
Occasionally this idea of home makes me feel restless, especially when my peers or society makes me feel like I am supposed to have a steady job, boyfriend-fiancé-husband, and a white picket fence, but my desire to explore the world soon takes over. I will always experience a sense of wanderlust, and I will never stop traveling.