My Decision to Go Home

I knew I wasn’t staying overseas for the right reasons, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy decision to make.

When I first left Australia, I spent an entire weekend doing math (yes, I am that bad at math) figuring out my budget so that I could route out a couple of ways to keep me overseas. I left Australia with under 7 grand to my name, and it was March 2014. My goal was to travel my way to my older brother’s final World Cup tournament in September 2015 in London. That was my goal: Get myself to London.

And at first, I was excited. I had applied for heaps of jobs, both in Southeast Asia and in a couple of places in South America. I was accepted into a few different teaching programs. There was an offer in Colombia, an offer in Ecuador, and an offer in Thailand. I even had a part-time offer at a newspaper in Chile (though I embellished my Spanish skills in the hopes that I would learn Spanish before starting the position).

There were opportunities, and my head was spinning. But the thing was that none of these positions paid me well enough to save money while living abroad – I would just be living abroad. My brain works pretty simply: money = travel. With any job opportunity, any freelance article, my first thought when I learn about the pay is how much traveling I can do with that money. I don’t think about saving for a house I want to buy or investing in my 401K. I just think of travel.

But these jobs wouldn’t put me in a position to do that. Friends I was meeting asked me what my plan was, and I had no idea. Literally. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, and for the first time in my life I was wandering. I felt pretty damn lost.

And the truth was that I didn’t really know that I wanted to keep traveling; I just started to feel like it was expected of me. Who was I if I wasn’t traveling?

When I really thought about it and sat in my own peace and quiet, I realized that I didn’t really want to keep living this life (at least not right now). I started to realize that I felt like I had something to prove and like I was trying to live up to this expectation that perhaps I had created for myself – like I was this traveler who had been overseas for so long without really coming home. How could I suddenly just move home after all that I had done?

Part of me was really and truly scared because I wondered whether I would fit in or whether I would get home and immediately regret it. Another part of me feared I wouldn’t find a job. The possibility of being 27 and living at my parents’ house and waiting tables while facing rejection letter after rejection from job after job was overwhelming. It was just easier to stay abroad, teach and freelance.

But at the end of the day, an overwhelming part of me knew that I really, really needed to go back to my family and friends. What was the point of struggling to make ends meet living overseas? Just because I can or just to say I did it – to prove that I was this fearless traveler who can just live life on the cusp of her sleeve? I have nothing to prove to anyone, including myself, and deep down I know that if taking a teaching job somewhere was something I really wanted to do, and if my heart was really in it, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

Yet going home to New York, and staying home, was truly long overdue. I wasn’t really in a good place. Sure, I was doing heaps of writing, I was really concentrating on building my brand, I was getting good freelance opportunities, I was still having fun and meeting some great people on my travels – but something about me was missing, and I felt like the only way to get it back was to be with those who loved me most.

I still have my days when I think it wasn’t the right choice that I made. Show me a photo of the Salt Flats in Bolivia and my heart races, and I get anxious. I’m turning 28 soon. People are getting engaged and getting married. I feel like time is running out, and what the hell am I even doing?

And then one of my best friends who I have known since I was 4 years old calls me, and we go to lunch. And all my other childhood best friends are there. And we order heroes big enough to last us for days but we eat them in one sitting. And we order coffees. And we laugh. And I laugh. I laugh and I laugh and I laugh. And I feel like me. And I see a side of myself that I haven’t seen since I first left home in August 2010.

And then I go home to my family, and everyone sits with smiles on as we watch my 8-month-old niece crawl across the floor. And we watch her bop around as my brother sings songs from the Beach Boys. And my family smiles. And my family laughs. And then she smiles. And she laughs. And then the world around me just melts away.

It wasn’t an easy decision to move back home, and I know that the day will come when I can no longer resist the urge to stay away from Bolivia or buy that plane ticket back to Indonesia or finally tick off the Philippines. But for now, I know deep down that this was what I needed, and I’m okay with that.

Category: Random

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