The Last Day of a Trip
The sound of twittering birds filters in the window, occasionally interrupted by the screaming whoosh and rattle of an arriving or departing plane at nearby Heathrow. It’s 6:00 a.m., and the family is moving around in preparation to catch an Uber to the airport for our return flight to San Francisco (SFO).
We leave at 10:00 a.m. and deceivingly arrive at 3:00 p.m. SFO time, a much longer flight than five hours, but we’re heading west, so jet lag shouldn’t be too bad. Or, at least that's been my experience in the past.
What is running through my mind as I return home?
1 | My first thought is that it seems to have gone by fast.
Time does weird things as you travel. As you gaze at a red-orange ball of light dipping into the Arno River from the center of the Ponte Vecchio, time seems to stand still.
The sounds of the street musicians, the smell of old stone, and the colors reflecting off the waters make an indelible mark on your mind, and time seems to have no meaning.
Then you suddenly find yourself on the last day of your trip ready to head back home, and you wonder how you got there so fast.
2 | My mind also runs over some regrets.
I wish I had spent more time in that six-floor bookstore in Oxford. I wish we had learned earlier how to split our large group up a little more, so we weren’t struggling to get everyone together all the time. I wish I had engaged more Italians in conversation to practice my language more.
3 | But thoughts of successes exceed regrets.
Images of a hearty country breakfast in a Western Wales farmhouse, the light in my daughter’s eyes when telling us of the relationships she had formed at Oxford, the thrill of a lengthy conversation in Italian with a cab driver where my Italian flowed freely – these kinds of experiences filled our four weeks with rich life and relational glue.
4 | I know everything will seem strange when we return this evening.
The stores at home are too big and too generic, the highways too wide, the world too sterile. Friends’ lives have continued while we were gone, so many will not have noticed we were missing even though travel changes you, and the traveler longs to be heard by those left behind.
5 | It will be easy to just slip back into life at home as if nothing had happened.
To the people who stayed at home, they may not even have noticed that we were gone.
Of course, with social media, things are rather different now. Many friends and family have been tracking our trip. My wife has especially been documenting our trip on our YourGlobalFamily Instagram account. You might enjoy taking a peek!
It’s important, however, to spend some time of reflection in order to solidify the significant things that have happened in my mind. I have learned new things I don’t want to forget, and I don’t want to slip back into the days where I sleepwalk through activities I’ve done a million times before.
Perhaps I can even view the mundane things of my own land differently now that I have spent some time in another.
That, indeed, often is the greatest gift of a time away.
How do YOU process a time away from your ordinary life, especially when you travel?
Image credit: Stencil
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