I’ve done my fair share of traveling over the years. Now that I’m in New York, backpack stowed away, I can reflect on some of the culture shocks as I settle into the reality of western society again.
Here are nine observations:
Shop ‘til I drop
On the road with a variable schedule, grocery shopping meant buying what I would eat on the train the next day, splitting a box of crackers with a travel companion, and rarely purchasing anything family-sized. Now, not only do I have a much greater variety to select from, but I can buy what I need, confident I’ll give it a good home. A large bottle of extra virgin olive oil? Por favor! A four-pack of quilted velvet toilet paper? Bottom’s up!
A great shower was a luxury in my travels. The deep satisfaction I get from not using a strange shower is beyond words. Reliable hot water and no buckets make me feel as if I am back at Canyon Ranch. Not to mention the sense of freedom I have by not needing to wear flip-flops and knowing that if I leave my soap behind, it won’t be choked with rogue pubes.
Sense of Routine
I go into detail about this in a previous post, but suffice to say, my own practice is strengthened when I can structure my days and weeks. That predictable routine helps my own productivity, whether it be dedicating my mornings to yoga and sun salutations, or allocating a block of time at a specific café nearby where I can find the clarity of thought I need to write.
Diversity of Food
Abroad, I enjoyed the local cuisine – when it didn’t run off the plate. But it’s hard to beat the range of options in a city like NYC. Tonight I might have Mexican – tomorrow, Indian. I enjoy eating out especially as part of my scoping out the community. It’s nice to get some Nepalese momos now and again to take me back to Kathmandu. As if to emphasize the point, on Monday, an Aussie friend I met in Vietnam was visiting from Hong Kong, and we went to a South African/Israeli/Greek/Persian restaurant for dinner.
While stationed in one of the biggest and busiest cities of the world, thoughts do sometimes drift to the smaller communities and far-flung lands I visited.
People and experiences hang on my wall, immortalized in photo reminders. The diverse culture within NYC means my ear will tune to a language I recognize on the street, and if I’m able to, I’ll try to remember a word or two in their language and say what I hope means hello.
Friends I made on my travels sometimes drop by New York, a pit-stop on the way to other locations. We’ll meet for a coffee or dinner, triggering memories of our time together in a different place.
I carried a 35 liter backpack for most of my journey, and my limited wardrobe might best be described as nomad chic. If clothes were clean-ish, they were on me. There was limited chance that people would see me wearing the same thing everyday when I was constantly moving. Now that I see people with much more frequency, I find myself struggling to remember which of my two sweaters I wore last time we saw each other. It might be time to accessorize.
I’m no Marie Kondo when it comes to arranging my living conditions. However, I can take a little more pride again now that I have a base, a consistency in my routine which allows me to shape, pluck and organize my little nest to my satisfaction.
Who would have thought I would have missed making the bed?
Sense of Community
Covered in this post, I’ve found it vital for my spiritual health to be part of a community – something which is difficult to create while traveling. Within the little bubble I currently occupy, interactions at every turn helps my integration into the ecosystem.
No longer nameless faces, I’m slowly getting accustomed to my neighbors and people I encounter daily, and they have began to open up to me, each interaction deepening our connection.
Without the various stresses of travel, like finding a place to bunk down for the night, trying to catch flights/trains at crazy hours or the need to be at a given place at a given time, it’s nice to be back in control of my schedule again. And it’s a good thing, too, because New Yorkers are crazy about their calendars – even close friends schedule meals weeks or even months out.
I would love to hear from other nomads who have returned home. How have you found the transition, slipping back into normality?
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