Today is one month since Liz and I touched down on US soil.It is strange to think that it has been that long already.The time has gone by much faster than any of the months we spent in South America.Even stranger has been the rush of american culture and society that has hit us like a tsunami.The strong sucking vortex of our pace and "values" we hold in this country seems to have already begun to try and reclaim us.
Upon touching down in "george bush international airport", we were greeted by the old red-white-and-blue, and naturally, a patriotic looking sign, "welcoming" us to the united states of america. We picked up our bags and, to both of our amazement, walked effortlessly through the infamous customs checkpoint without so much as a second glance. We proceeded on to get our passports stamped, bewildered as to why things were going so smoothly, and were done with the process in what had to have been only ten minutes (this included a restroom stop and Liz's first flush of TP down the commode in over 7 months)!
We still had another connecting flight to catch that would carry us on to Boston, and we had plenty of time to grab our first meal state-side.Ruby's Diner was our choice for a good old fashioned burger and a REAL beer!Upon saddling up to the bar we were overwhelmed by the fact that everyone was speaking English and we didn't have to converse or order in Spanish.The feeling that I was in the "Twilight Zone" only enhanced and continued when i listened to the bartenders opening line, "…Hello, my name is _______ and I'll be taking care of you today.Would you like anything to drink to get you started…".
i ordered the biggest beer they had of course, remembering quickly some advice that i may need a psychotropic to help in a successful reentry. As the bartender walked away Liz abused her power of being more in control of her emotions to mess with me a little bit and quipped, "…so, you ready to do that?"The truth and reality of her question crushed me like an ant under foot.i, still in shock by her quick and unbelievably truthful wit, pondered open-mouthed for a bit, forgave her, and proceeded to down 1\2 of my beer.Our first great burger in months went down much easier than Liz's reminder of what could come all too quickly in our near future and we enjoyed spending our layover conversing about our surreal experience of being freshly back "home".
After arriving in Boston and the north shore, the experiences didn't start to feel any more "normal" and of course most of the people we saw through the proceeding weeks most often threw the question most difficult to accept, and much less answer… "So, what are you gonna do now?!"…or, the somewhat easier to stomach, "So, what was your favorite place?!"We certainly don't want to offend anyone reading right now that did this to us, but i think it may take doing what we did to fully understand how this kind of questioning is problematic.We were fortunate enough to have a couple of good friends to stay with while we were in the Newburyport area that kept us pretty insulated from the quite frightening general population and any further barrage of questions, which allowed us to lay pretty low for those couple weeks.We never even got the nerve to be able to walk up State Street as it was much too early for such brazen moves.
And so began our state-side continuation of our travels.We first made a stop in Connecticut to visit some of Liz's relatives and attend a high-school graduation party for a cousin.Then we continued southwards to North Carolina, following Liz's sister back to their new residence in Apex, outside of Raleigh, where we currently are now.Our general plan for this summer is to mooch off of friends and family until we have to actually face the reality that our travels have, for now, come to an end.So, Liz will be finishing out the rest of July helping her sister by taking care of and teaching her 3 yr. old daughter.By August, she'll join me in my hometown of Cincinnati, OH to spend time with my parents and i until the waning summer days at the beginning of September, upon which we'll return to the New England area with, hopefully, some sort of a half-baked plan to make some rent money.
So, we unapologetically have no concrete answer for all those hopelessly curious about what Liz and i have planned, but we at least now are able to answer it without contempt (or bulls***)!The sincere answer at this point is we don't know, obviously.We have a few ideas kicking around our head, but nothing that is worth using for an "answer" to that fateful all-american question.
The state of mind one enters into after doing something that Liz and i have just done is difficult to put into words.The very act of trying to do so, for me, is almost a disservice to the experience.Making sense of the shocking transition between such different cultures is difficult.We knew it would be, and we are grateful for the lasting memories we have to remind us everyday that life is happening elsewhere on this planet.It is funny to remember conversations i'd had in the past that spoke of places elsewhere in the world, without ever having gone elsewhere.Now when we hear news about the dead in Iraq, or earthquakes in China, or more tribal war in Africa (seldom do we hear the positive from the news) we can see those faces clearly in our minds eye.They are just like the many faces that we saw everyday while traveling through South America.They are just like the face we see in the mirror.We are forever changed and there is no way to see through our old eyes any longer.The belief that travel will broaden your perspectives and open your eyes to new realities is a severe understatement.It will change your life.
Liz and i now have an experience that we'll carry to the grave.As an old friend of mine put it…, "…some people buy a new car, or new furniture…i choose to travel."Once one makes the choice to travel, the abyss dividing those things mentioned becomes abundantly clear.I guess i can see why some people can't help talking about their experience with such pride, however arrogant they sometimes may seem.The very act of going elsewhere on this planet should help remind us about the importance of humility and the actual smallness of ourselves.We are lucky to be in the position to be able to travel.We must realize that and never take it for granted.We can't recount how many indigenous people we met on our travels that have never even been to the places we had visited in their very own country.
Before it wasn't as clear or real, but now it is quite easy to see why so many people want to come to this country.We saw many faces over this past seven months.While observing countless of those faces i dealt with a certain kind of collective shame, that whoever i was looking at would probably never see the US.And those that someday might, would probably do it under the stigma of being "illegal", risk their very lives to come, and pay more money for getting here, than they can make in a many years where they're at.The next time you see an immigrant, think twice about what you may be thinking about what immigration means to you.We can get a passport, apply for a visa (or not even have to) and go to any country in this entire world.Not everyone in this world can say that.
Some may buck that statement based on the difficulties of getting into some Asian countries, or the exorbitant cost of a visa to Bhutan, blah, blah, blah.Yes, Liz and i had to pay well over $200 per person to get into all the countries we wanted to see.However, our friends in Brasil could offer $2000 and that won't sway any official in the US embassy down there for their entry.One of our mountain tour guides has a friend here he just wants to come and climb in the Rockies with…"sorry, we don't want you here".Lets be honest, most of us in this country, if we wanted to, could travel somewhere if we wanted to.In general, we have the opportunity to make money that some don't have, even on the most basic levels to provide for ourselves and have a relative "luxury" of "things".Even in the "projects" you'll see a "Direct TV" sat. dish pointed to the sky.
This isn't a "rant" about immigration, most of you know my feelings about americas schizophrenic hypocrisy over immigrants.What i'm trying to make clear is that not everyone in this world has the opportunity to "go where they want".Not everyone in this world can turn the faucet and get nice, clean, drinkable water.Not everyone in this world has some huge grocery store to go shop for their food in.Not everybody has the "luxury" of b****ing about gas prices.i do however think that everyone in this world does just want to live their life, provide for themselves the best they can, and try to make things just a little better for themselves and their families.It isn't confusing to me why there would be an opinion like, "…I want to go to a country where even the homeless are fat".Be honest with yourself…If you have an opportunity to improve your life and provide better for your family, don't you act on it?
Our rich lifestyle and monetary opportunities have come upon the backs of many peoples throughout the world, now, in recent history, and over a longer history of imperialism and "looking after our global interests".Let's not forget that truth.Instead let us better ourselves through striving for broader understandings and learning from others, not conquering them--helping them, not forcing our ideas or markets upon them.Upon returning to our "real life" we are foolish to forget the import realities learned and observed elsewhere.Liz and i have been changed for life.However, we need to remember not to be too arrogant to think that this culture we live in can't wear us down and make us behave and make the same choices as before we left.
In the risk of sounding too repetitious, we would like to thank everyone that participated in our website for coming along with us on our journey.i know i've said this before, however, we can't stress enough that having everyone "along for the ride" made things psychologically different for us.i presume it is a similar feeling to how people felt getting "real" mail back when travel was different.Although we weren't sharing feelings on paper, written with an actual pen, the feeling of everyone sharing in the same place replaced those tangible things with something intangible.Not too mention the correspondence that we were able to receive while we were down south wasn't just an email, it was like sharing our time amongst a group of friends at a gathering or party.Also, technology now also allows us to save what we created, together, forever just like a photo album.Sincerely, thank you to all of you for participating and helping create a lasting memory. Thank you as well for all your countless other messages and emails that let us know someone was there, it kept our spirits up along the way.You all had us laughing or crying in the middle of many internet places…an experience we hope to return the favor on someday!
After some recent reading, i have been reminded of the Bo tree under which Buddha sat for weeks to attempt to collect his thoughts after a soul-searching trip, and eventually reaching enlightenment.Now, not that time is a determinant, but Buddha's "sabbatical" from his everyday reality, in the effort to soul-search, lasted a supposed six years, much longer than our seven months!i don't feel that Liz and i are even close to any realizations like Buddha, as i couldn't imagine how six years would to alter ones mind anyhow.Our trip, as i've attempted to explain, has brought us great joy, realization of new realities and much self-knowledge.However, now that we are back under the spell of american culture, i don't think we'll be able to reach enlightenment as Buddha did under his peaceful Bo tree.Nor do i believe "making a living" will provide us with that kind of solace.So, i think our intention is to take one step at a time, act as this is the only life we have to live until we die, and keep our focus on joy and happiness.Hasta luego…until we can save enough for our next trip…to Mexico,…or how about Southeast Asia,…or maybe India,…or maybe………