Be Here Now

Steph and Tony 20YH in Canada

When we launched 20 Years Hence, we called it a travel blog because that was what everyone else with a blog similar to our own was doing and the mantle fit well enough. What else would you call a site meant to document the adventure of a lifetime?

Very quickly, however, we realized that as incredible as our Big Trip was, the thing we most wanted to capture and share with others was larger than travel: it was about our journey, one that traveling the world was just a piece of (an integral piece, but a piece nonetheless). To that end, we’ve written not just about the places we visit and the experiences we have had while traveling, but have also made room to document the personal growth and struggles our travels have prompted as well. We try to write about things that are universal to people seeking to live their best lives, no matter where we happen to find ourselves, whether we’re traveling the world or taking a break back home.

Facing A Long-Term Traveler’s Greatest Fear

I’ve always felt, throughout our entire adventure, that it was important to be as open and honest on the blog as we could manage. Rather than sugar-coating the realities of our situation, whether it was the upswelling of grief I felt when I quit my job or sharing mistakes we have made in our travels (and some we continue to make…) or learning a hard lesson from a really bad haircut, I always believed it was important to honor the reality of what this trip has meant and been for us, and that meant sharing both the good and the bad. Truthfully, it’s probably the bad moments that have done the most to shape our characters and have taught us our biggest lessons. Sometimes we can’t know how strong we are until we are tested. (And sometimes we don’t even pass the tests that are given to us, but that too can be a valuable lesson!)

Even though we spent nearly two years on the other side of the world, we still had moments that stressed our relationship, we still got sick, we still felt sad at times, and we still worried about the future intermittently.

Bohol, The Philippines

Bohol, The Philippines

Traveling the world for 23 months gave me many things, but one thing it didn’t give me was a foolproof antidote against fear and uncertainty. I often felt scared before we left on our travels, and I hope no one is surprised to hear that I still felt scared occasionally during them as well. I have tried to be honest about the sources of my fear in the hopes that bringing them into the light will diminish (if not banish) them, but I have learned that truly the only way to deal with fear is to identify the things that scare you the most and then meet them head on; that is what is to be brave.

Throughout our travels, I got pretty good at identifying things that scared me and addressing them as best I could. But there was one fear that was so big that, although I could name it, I never wanted to face it although I knew one day I would have to:

For the past two years, the single thing that has scared me the most was the thought of wrapping up our travels and returning home.

I couldn’t bear to face the reality that our travels were winding down, and when praying/wishing/begging/scheming didn’t seem to work, I tucked my tail and turned to the cowards’ best friends: denial and diversion.

If you follow us on Facebook and Instagram, you know that the last five weeks of our travels saw us jump from Asia for a whirlwind jaunt through Europe. We traveled hard and fast, in part because we wanted to make the most of our dwindling travel time, but we also did it because we couldn’t bear to let reality catch up to us. We met a lot of incredible people as we raced through five different countries (happily, some of them now old friends!) and invariably, in addition to remarking on how long we had been traveling, people would ask if we were nervous about returning home, if we were counting down the days.

London, England

“Oh no!” we protested. “We are running ourselves ragged and exploring each city for 10 – 12 hours each day so that we don’t have time to stop and tally up the days until we head home.”

Our plan kind of worked: We were thoroughly exhausted—emotionally & physically—by the end of our time in Europe. But the fact still remains that no matter how much we pushed ourselves, no matter how much we resolutely denied that the end was nigh, there is only so much we can do to slow (never mind stop) the passage of time. We could run but, ultimately, we could not hide. Eventually the time remaining on our incredible adventure shifted from weeks, to days, to hours.

I don’t think I can find the words to adequately express the wide-eyed terror and misery I felt whenever I thought about coming home. For all the rough spots on our travels, the last two years have been the most incredible ones of my life (so far!). Despite all we gave up to make them happen, I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I most definitely did not want them to end.

And then the buzzer sounded. We were out of time, we were on a plane, and then—after nearly 2 years away—we were home. Despite 21 countries visited on our journey, it still boggles my mind that you can get on a plane and a couple of hours later, walk out into a completely different reality, a completely new life.

The End’s Not Near, It’s Here

We’ve been back in Canada for just over a week now. In the days leading up to our return, both of us tried our best to brace for the reverse culture shock and sense of deflation we had been assured we would feel. We expected the transition to “travelers not traveling” to be rough. We anticipated feeling alien and disconnected, strangers in a strange land. I worried that I would feel trapped.

As is so often the case with these kind of things, the reality is so rarely as monstrous as we build it up to be in our minds, distorted by fear. Although there have been a few stumbles as we’ve tried to find our footing on the unfamiliar soil of home, I have to say, being here has been fine. Life has even been, dare I say it, good. Vastly different, but good nonetheless.

This is true even though we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface and take advantage of all there is to do in Toronto. Since our return, we’ve purposefully laid low, seeing family, but otherwise, we haven’t really strayed from the comforts of my parents’ home in Scarborough. We haven’t set foot in a shopping mall, or hopped on a bus or street car, or wandered the downtown core, gone to see Shakespeare in the Park, or even seen any of our friends yet. Instead, we’ve slept and set up a makeshift office at my parents’ dining room table. We’ve slowly stumbled our way into something resembling a routine, one where the day begins with a shower: not to sluice the sweat of Asia from our skin but rather the sleep from our eyes. Then we have breakfast. No more fragrant bowls of soup or even flaky pains au chocolats but bowls of crunchy granola instead. When we really miss Asia, we top it with some fresh mango.

Tony and the dogs

Then it’s my favorite part of the day: puppy time. We take the dogs for walks through the park and past the school where I spent my girlhood, a place filled with years of memories in my mind. Now, compared to the cacophony of Asia, even as children frolic about us and tennis players huff as they pummel their next serve across the courts, both of us remark on how quiet the sounds of play, the sounds of life, here are. We walk through a nearby hydro field that has been transformed in our two-year absence into a beautiful meadow blanketed in wildflowers. Of all the things I did not look forward to about our return, this time back with our dogs was the one thing I clung to, the beacon that brought me safely into shore, and I’m happy to report that being with them has been every bit as good as we dreamed.

At night we sit down to home-cooked meals, something I admit we never missed while in Asia but came to crave once we hit Europe. Being the ethnic hodgepodge that Toronto is, our first meal off the plane—our first taste of home—was a plate full of West Indian curries at my Nanny’s house, and we’ve since enjoyed banana-leaf-wrapped feasts from our Sri Lankan neighbors, and Filipino, Greek and Polish desserts from our other neighbors. For my dad’s birthday, we went out and tried a local Vietnamese restaurant. Then there’s the taste of Canadian summer: meats grilled on the barbecue, fresh salads, and plenty of corn on the cob.

West Indian food

Incredible West Indian food… the first we have had in nearly 2 years & our first meal home!

The Present of Being Present

Sometimes you travel far and wide, circling the globe, in search for something you only find once you’ve returned back to the place you started. During a moment of clarity in our travels, when I was reconciling myself to coming home, I said that even though I didn’t know exactly what awaited us here, that there had to be some opportunity, some gift, that would only make itself available to us when we arrived. I hope there are many to come, but I think that I have already identified one of them.

When we left on our trip, I hoped that being untethered from the daily stresses and frustrations of ordinary life would allow me to shift my focus to the here and now, that I would learn to revel in the moment and find the peace that only comes from lodging your feet firmly in the present and letting time slip between your toes. My dedication to this pursuit waxed and waned like the moon, and although I think I stretched and changed a lot during our time away, I never achieved my goal completely. I would not say that I never achieved blissful moments where time slipped away and I got lost in a moment, but my curse as a traveler was that more often than not I was skipping ahead, trying to anticipate and plan for what might come around the corner. It was so easy to get caught up in the minutia of wondering which city (or country!) we’d hit next, where we’d sleep, where we’d eat, how we’d get there, what we would see and do that it was even easier to forget that we were already somewhere and that we should maybe invest our time in enjoying it.

Emmy Lou Rory

When we came home, we needed a soft place to land, and thankfully my parents have offered us that. For the first time in nearly two years, we don’t have to worry about where our next meal will come from, what to order or what to cook, where we’ll lay our heads, where we’ll wake up tomorrow, what we’ll do; someone else is taking care of all that stuff, ourselves included. For two years we have thrilled on the high of uncertainty, of never knowing precisely what the next day will bring. And now we are home and we find ourselves oddly comforted in the knowledge that there is a predictability to our days, and tomorrow will look an awful lot like today.

The days here have the kind of rhythm that, were it to last forever, would eventually lobotomize travelers like Tony & me. I know it can’t last forever; in fact, I’m banking on the fact that it won’t. We have a lot of goals and plans for both this time while we’re home and what we’d like to do afterwards. We know that we are meant to wander and that this place we call home is termed so more out of convenience than accuracy. For us, home is the road. This is just a prolonged pit stop: one day I will wake up and my feet will itch and I will know it will be time to start planning in earnest for a new tomorrow. For now, however, right now is all that matters. And right now we’re happy dwelling in the moments that take us from minute to minute and allow us to simply be here now.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me,
And I’m feeling good.” – Nina Simone, “Feeling Good”

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About Stephenie Harrison

In another life, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Nashville, TN to pursue my doctoral degree in Psychology. That chapter of my life is now finished, but I did earn the right to demand you call me Dr. Steph (though I respond just as well to plain old Steph). I am an avid reader whose book collection is rivaled only by my many pairs of cute shoes. I also like to knit, hold impromptu karaoke parties, and try new and unusual foods. Generally not all at the same time. I also really love to learn languages, which may explain why I took 3 years of Latin in highschool. I'm turning over a new leaf, so instead of looking forward, I'm going to work on enjoying the present, so the country I'm most looking forward to is whichever one we're in right now!

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54 Responses to “Be Here Now”

  1. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown July 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm # Reply

    When I contemplate going home this fall (not for good, but for a few months to save up before heading off somewhere else) I am filled with similar dread. Although to be fair, I think most of that is the SK winter that I haven’t had to deal with for years! I’m glad you guys are settling in slowly, and that you’re reunited with your pups.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..5 Things I Love About Roatan

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 9:01 am # Reply

      Ha! Yes, Canadian winters (especially the most recent one!) are definitely something to fear! I did say to Tony that if we had to come home to Canada, then at least we got to do so in the summer (read: the 2 good months of the year! :) ).

  2. Kim July 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm # Reply

    Guys, I’m so so SO glad that the transition has been great for you. It sounds like you are doing it the right way- taking it slow, not going out, not seeing friends yet. I wish we had done it that way! The next time we face the transition again I will absolutely make sure we do it that way! I think that it was maybe a good thing that you were dreading it so much? Like, the reality never is as bad as we imagine in our heads (like you said). For me, I thought the transition would be fine, I was even excited to head home, and then I got walloped. HA. Another lesson learned. Enjoy the routine, the home-cooked meals and those beautiful doggies. :)
    Kim recently posted..Lately

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 9:15 am # Reply

      We were lucky enough to meet up with other long-term travel friends while in London and they gave us the advice of giving ourselves at least a week of laying low; one of them actually headed back to work the day after they returned home and she said it was an absolute nightmare, so we heeded their advice and I’m glad we did. It can get overwhelming at times just talking to neighbors about our trip, and while I know it will be different with friends, the last thing we wanted was to feel like we needed to “perform”. We know this adjustment will take some time and we’re ok with that!

      I’m sure my exceedingly low expectations did help somewhat, but I also think that spending a few weeks in Europe helped a lot too. That first day in London, I was reeling because everything was SO DIFFERENT… transitioning from Europe to North America hasn’t been nearly as much of a shock as Asia to Europe was. Also, I’ll write about this later, but truthfully, we were pretty bored in/by Europe so there was definitely part of us that was looking forward to home following our time there. Plus: PUPPIES! :)

  3. Lauren @Roamingtheworld July 7, 2014 at 6:59 pm # Reply

    Nice reflection and taking time to absorb everything. It’s a huge transition!
    I’m happy you have a place to stay, good food to eat because it certainly makes the bumpy transition easier. Who knows what awaits you but something great, I’m sure. Stay open to possibilities…

    I’m still in a bit of transition myself, despite being home for 1 year after 2 years in Spain. Certainly takes time, patience and kindness towards yourself!

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 9:20 am # Reply

      Having a soft place to land has been invaluable, no doubt. It’s also early days for us and right now, I’m sure the true reality of our situation hasn’t completely sunk in and everything is all shiny and new (after all, I haven’t actually lived in Toronto for almost a decade now!) and so it’s easy to look at Toronto as we would any city we stopped in on on our trip. I know there will be struggles on the horizon that we’ll have to work through and I do hope that when they come we will be able to be patient & kind to ourselves & each other as you say!

  4. Cassie July 7, 2014 at 7:06 pm # Reply

    Beautiful… welcome home!

  5. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling July 7, 2014 at 9:33 pm # Reply

    I’m glad to hear you’re adjusting slowly. For all your wanderlusting, it is actually nice to be back “home” (even if it’s not really home) and being taken care of. I’m sure your parents are enjoying taking care of you, after not seeing you for 2 years. :)

    Also, I know I’ve said this on Instagram, but your dogs look SO HAPPY. They’re like, “What’s the problem, Mum? You’re back, you’ve got us, we’re on a walk. What more is there to life?” lol, we should all be so lucky as to live in the moment the way dogs do.
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted..9 Of Melbourne’s Coolest Laneways

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 11:19 am # Reply

      My parents did get to see us for about a week back in December when we all met up in December, but I take your point. ;) My mom is one of those super mom’s who lives to mother so as much as she loves to baby the dogs, I think she is happy to have us home.

      I think you’re absolutely right, by the way, about how much we could learn from dogs. Whenever I felt guilty about leaving the dogs to travel, I told myself that for them, the only moment that matters is the present. As long as they are happy right now, then that is all that matters. And if they’re on a walk, even better!

  6. James July 7, 2014 at 9:43 pm # Reply

    Although I’m more of an expat now than a traveler, I still feel weird going “home” to Texas. It feels more like a trip than anything. When I think of my life back in the US, sure there was so much to be thankful for (Home Depot and Costco!) but I do not miss the commute, seeing empty neighborhoods during the day, $5 coffees… I don’t think I’d handle it well if I had to move back. So… instead, I brought my aging parents here to Saigon to live. Eeeeeeeeek. Sigh. The things we do for “travel”.

    As your “bestest friend EVER in the whole wide world” that you met on your journeys (I totally KNEW that comment was directed at me… and ONLY me), I wish you all the best. I know you’ll still display the indomitable joie de vivre back in YYZ. And just remember: sob-inducing haircuts will be waiting for you when you return. SAIGON FOR THE WIN, BABY!

    • Sarah Somewhere July 7, 2014 at 11:31 pm # Reply

      I love you James and will be your bestest friend in the whole wide world if they say no :-)

      • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 11:23 am # Reply

        James, it looks like you might have a fight on your hands regarding bestest friendship! Things could get ugly here in the comments… ;)

        I think because we have already started scheming about future travel plans and are looking at this time as a period during which to make those plans a plausible reality that has really lessened the blow of being back. I have no doubt that if all we could see of the future was being fixed here, I would not be handling this transition so well. But because I expect this time to be finite, I’m more able to focus on the good and know that the things that drive me crazy are only temporary. And there are definitely a lot of things that are wonderful about spending a few months (especially over the summer) here in Toronto…. we have yet to find acceptable Vietnamese food, however! That could be a problem, but then again, we do have a kitchen at our disposal again, so maybe the next time you see us we’ll be whipping up some of your favorites (Philly Cheesesteaks are your favorite, right? ;) ).

  7. Sarah Somewhere July 7, 2014 at 11:29 pm # Reply

    I am going to send you some Ram Das, I think you guys are on the same wavelength! Welcome ‘home’. You are absolutely right, Steph, and I have NO doubt that you are exactly where you are meant to be. Happiness, joy and fulfillment are available to us here, now, wherever that may be. And often, being still enough to hear the voice of our inner selves is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. I hope you stick around in Canada long enough for me to come visit! xxx

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 11:28 am # Reply

      I have never heard of Ram Das… I will have to look into him! I have a feeling that the coming months will be a great test to see how much my mindfulness meditation over the past two years has “rewired” me (and let’s be honest, I could always use some more zen in my life!).

      We’ve learned so many times on our journey that we always carry with us the things we need, and that if we are somehow lacking, the universe always provides. Sometimes in unexpected ways, but it’s yet to let us down.

      Not sure when you are planning to hit up Canada and if Toronto is on your travel itinerary, but we are planning to be here until at least November. And, of course, there’s always the potential that if we don’t wait for you to come to us then we might come and find you… at least we’re all on the same continent now!

  8. Katie @ The World on my Necklace July 7, 2014 at 11:40 pm # Reply

    I am so happy to hear that you are settling in well so far and it isn’t as bad as you thought it would be. I found it really tough for the first couple of months but I have found my joy again, especially in the simple things.
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..Uluru: That big red rock in the middle of Australia

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 11:31 am # Reply

      “So far” is probably the key, isn’t it? I know we still have a ways to go and that we probably won’t fully come to terms with the reality of our new situation for a while yet, but at least the first few hurdles back haven’t been too bad. I think it really helps that Tony & I have each other to commiserate with (and cheer each other up when one of us feels low). I’m so glad to hear that you’ve managed to find joy, especially in the simple things, in your post-travel life. One of the best things travel taught me was how to appreciate the small things that are so easy to overlook but are really so precious.

  9. Colleen Brynn July 7, 2014 at 11:57 pm # Reply

    When I was in New York, a friend said to me “You must be happy in a way, not to deal with the travel guilt now that you are going home.” I wasn’t sure what she meant and brought up the constant spending of money (which I do feel guilty about) and she said, “Yes… that… but also that feeling that you need to be doing something all the time.” … Travellers talk about having a hard time winding down and relaxing (and I know I fall into that category), while others are natural relaxers. I think it is good to just stop from time to time. That is why I know I would never be a proper nomad. When I travel, I rarely stop, and that is just not sustainable for me.
    I’m happy you have a soft place to lay your heads at night and the therapy of animals too. I am so happy you are surrounded by your childhood (it is what I come home to as well) and good food. Food so often makes all the difference.
    Sending you big hugs. xo
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..The Only Sunrise

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 11:35 am # Reply

      We got pretty good at dispelling travel guilt since we were gone for so long… it’s impossible to always be “on” for 2 years, and we told us ourselves repeatedly that the only way our trip would fail is if we didn’t do the things we really wanted to. So if we needed a day or two of lounging around reading books and watching movies, then that’s what we did. It was a bit harder in Europe because we were under such a crunch, but honestly, some of my favorite memories from our time on that continent were from when we were simply lazing about in parks watching the world go by.

      Food really does make the difference, doesn’t it? I’m excited to explore Toronto’s ethnic food scene and see how the restaurants stack up compared to the dishes we came to love on our travels. It’s also really nice to know that in addition to the many international restaurants, there are all the ethnic grocery stores too so that we can try our best to create some of our favorites here in the kitchen!

  10. Gillian July 8, 2014 at 1:48 am # Reply

    I think the ‘be here now’ mantra will serve you well. It is how we also tried to manage being home – to look at the here and now and appreciate what it brings. For us, it has brought more travel and opportunities, during which we also still try to maintain the ‘be here now’ philosophy. Enjoy being home!
    Gillian recently posted..Cycle Tour Europe: Not All Flat Is Not Created Equal

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 11:38 am # Reply

      I will have to write more about the beauty and importance of being present, I think, because it really has been such a comfort to me as I’ve faced this big change. For the first time in my life, the acute understanding that nothing lasts forever has actually brought me a huge amount of peace and allowed me to enjoy the present all the more. It makes difficult situations easier to parse, but it also makes good moments sweeter too. I didn’t want to be here, but now that I am, I know it will be ok. This isn’t my forever, but for right now, it’s good.

  11. Franca July 8, 2014 at 2:12 am # Reply

    I’m so glad it hasn’t been as traumatic as you were expecting. I think it has to do with your way of dealing with it by taking everything slowly, doing one thing at time and make sure the transaction isn’t too strong. I guess knowing that this is a long pit-stop as you said, it helps a lot and keeps your travelling mind active and hopeful for the future :)

    For now enjoy your time back home, the relaxing and well deserved brake and recharge the “batteries” for your next adventures :)
    Franca recently posted..Mercado de Motores – Madrid’s ‘Other’ Vintage Flea Market

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 11:43 am # Reply

      Sometimes it feels like the number of things we have/want to do while we are home is really overwhelming and never-ending and that can be hard. But I remind myself that if we do little bits every day, we will chip away at it and have achieved something great by the end of it all. I’m also trying really hard to be mindful of the fact that we are not necessarily racing out the gate in top form, but need some time to really find our rhythm and reclaim our momentum. Being kind and gentle on ourselves and keeping expectations realistic is probably one of the best things we can do right now. We definitely need some time to recharge our batteries, but you’d better believe that it’s only a matter of time before we hit the road again!

  12. Ali July 8, 2014 at 4:02 am # Reply

    This is so beautifully written! I can totally relate to your rush through Europe as a way to ignore the coming changes and end to your trip. It’s amazing how we all know that physically running away from something doesn’t actually get you farther away from it. When I started my RTW a few years ago, I was miserable. I thought I’d be ok away from Andy because we spent the first year of our relationship on different continents, I was used to the distance and the separation. But after moving to Germany to be with him, I got used to having him around, and traveling solo through SE Asia sucked. So I kept moving. I tried to blame my misery on my physical location, so I thought maybe I’d feel better in the next place. And on I went. After several weeks of this, I finally admitted that I just needed to see Andy, and I booked a flight home for 2 weeks. Not the same as your situation, but it did remind me of this.

    I kind of always feel like a traveler not traveling when we’re home. I hear people’s stories about long term, eternal nomad style travel, and I think it sounds amazing. But then the few times I’ve done something approaching that, I was not happy. I’ve told Andy that maybe it’s because we didn’t go for long enough, that we never get past the initial misery and uncomfortableness, and into a place where being on the road feels more normal and manageable, so maybe we’ll try something longer in the future. But for now, I don’t think it’s for me.

    Enjoy your time in Toronto, enjoy your dogs. I can’t wait to see where you guys end up next on your journey!
    Ali recently posted..Traveling is Just Doing Laundry in Other Places

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 11:56 am # Reply

      Interestingly, as much as I did not want to come home, there were actually times during our Europe leg where I wished we could just “get it over with” and hop on a plane to Toronto rather than to whatever country we had lined up next. I’m one of those people who, once I’ve accepted that something must happen, I just like to face it and be done with it because I know that it’s always worse in our minds than it will be in reality.

      I do think that it took us at least 3 months to really get into our long-term travel groove and we continued to grow as travelers long after that as well. To be perfectly honest, those first few months were by far the roughest of our trip and we really needed time to get used to our new way of life. From other travelers we have talked to, this seems to be true for most people. But of course, this way of life is not for everyone and as much as we got used to it, wasn’t ever 100% sustainable as it was. Eventually we would have needed to slow down and base ourselves in places for much longer just so we could catch our breaths and also so we could get work done to support ourselves!

      Very excited for the time to come when we have new travel plans to reveal… In the interim, we still have TONS of stories to share!

  13. Heather July 8, 2014 at 4:02 am # Reply

    Relaxing at your parents house with your adorable doggies sounds like the perfect way to reacclimate. I wish I’d gotten to do that when we first moved back to the States last fall! We started classes the day after our plane landed so there was absolutely no down time, I had to wait until Christmas for that! But “home” was just an extended pit-stop for us, too, and we tried to make the most of it. We went to the movies. Shopped at Target. Did touristy things in our hometown that we never did when we lived there. Reconnected with friends. It was lovely! And when my feet started to itch, I didn’t have any guilt for leaving again. I hope it will be the same for you!
    Heather recently posted..7 Reasons You Should Visit Cleveland Right Now

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm # Reply

      I think our natural inclinations would have been to dive back into life here with both feet, full steam ahead. But we met with friends while in London who had done exactly as you did when they returned from a long-term trip and they said it was a HUGE mistake and advised that we give ourselves at least a week of doing nothing/hiding before really beginning to ease ourselves back into regular life. While we certainly haven’t been sitting on our behinds twiddling our thumbs (my parents have all kinds of home improvement projects for us to accomplishment while we’re here), I’m glad we’ve been taking it slow and not rushing around.

      Now that we’re back, I do look forward to seeing friends and taking advantage of living in Toronto, even if it’s only for a temporary period. I know that no matter how we spend this time, I won’t feel guilty about it!

  14. Amy July 8, 2014 at 5:12 am # Reply

    I’m so glad to hear that this transition hasn’t been as painful as anticipated and that you’re both enjoying life and the small comforts of home. It’s so interesting to hear about your experiences as we’re in a similar place right now, albeit with the luxury of flights booked back to Asia in August. While we were way more excited than you to come home I know what you mean about the comforting rhythm of life and how nice it is not to have to worry about constantly finding somewhere to stay every few days. Enjoy being back in Canada!

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm # Reply

      If we had tickets booked back to Asia, I can assure you that there would not have been any sadness over this return home. For a long time, my biggest fear in returning is that it would mean we’d find ourselves in a position where we couldn’t travel anymore and would be stuck living a life we didn’t want. Now I believe that does not have to happen and because we’ve already started to develop a new travel plan that we can make work given our new constraints I’m actually excited (I’m one of those people who likes having goals to work towards…). The knowledge that this is only temporary keeps me motivated to enjoy the time that we do have here because I know it is only a matter of time before we hit the road again!

  15. Tyler July 8, 2014 at 8:07 am # Reply

    First off, this post is so well written I nearly missed what it was even about. Great writing.

    Second, I’m terrible about being in the moment as well for the same reasons you are. Traveling involves an immense amount of work and the planning involved has taken the Top-Stressor position that my job did before our trip. It’s easy to know what needs be done, but making the right choices about this guesthouse or that, bus or plane, noodles or curry – it can add up quickly and I get stuck in worry-mode. It’s happened quite a bit recently and your post has helped remind me of the benefits of letting future-me deal with the future – thank you!

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm # Reply

      Thanks for the kind words, Tyler. I was worried I was feeling a bit rusty having taken that blogging break, but it actually felt good to sit down and write again. :)

      Traveling helped me ease up on my Type A tendencies a lot, but I will always love planning and researching and have accepted that as part of who I am. I think the problem is only when I would go down the “rabbit hole” (as we call it) and spend hours agonizing over one hotel over another or how to get from point A to point B when not much info about the route was available online, rather than accepting that if it’s such a hard choice between two places, then they are both probably fine, and even if we don’t know exactly how to get to Point B, inevitably someone at the bus or train station will. Things really do work out and so while I think it’s ok to make plans for the future, it’s equally important to not let the present pass you by at its expense!

  16. Jackie (Farm Lane Books) July 8, 2014 at 8:11 am # Reply

    Welcome home! I’m so pleased that you’re settling back home well. I look forward to your continued adventures, even if they are more local. Good luck for the future! xJ

    • Stephenie Harrison July 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm # Reply

      Oh, there are plenty of adventures to be shared, Jackie, don’t you worry! I hope we’ll be able to have some local ones here in Toronto/Canada, but even if we spend the foreseeable future hunkered down here in Scarborough, we have so many stories from the past 2 years that we won’t be running out of material any time soon!

  17. Charlie July 8, 2014 at 3:41 pm # Reply

    So happy to read that it’s good to be home. It must have been really hard to have had the life of travel pulled out from under you but home is home. Isn’t it always good to go back to? At least for a little while. I’m sure there will be hard moments to come while you adjust but it seems clear that you’ve set in your mind that this is a temporary period of staying still. The road will still be there when it’s right for you to head out on it again. I understand the dread of returning home. I’ve yet to even leave on my trip but there is a part of me that dreads that moment when I have to accept I can’t travel forever. But you take the travellers perspective with you even when you return home; there’s so much to see in Canada and Toronto (which is one of the best city’s in the world in my opinion) which could keep you busy until you travel again.
    Charlie recently posted..6 months until my RTW trip!

    • Stephenie Harrison July 9, 2014 at 10:23 am # Reply

      It’s so true that the traveler’s perspective can apply even when you’re back at home or sticking around one place for a while. For the moment, we’re enjoying NOT being travelers—after two years of it, it’s nice to turn our brains off—but I know eventually we’ll tackle Toronto with the same gusto we did other parts of the world. There is actually so much of Canada that I’ve never seen or really explored that if we have the chance to do so while we are home that would be really wonderful!

  18. Rhonda July 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm # Reply

    I enjoyed this post, knowing how upset you were at your “forced” return home. Although, I must admit, we did have some serious reverse culture shock when we returned (and still do sometimes!). We are spending our time focusing on what is great right now. We have a fantastic life and it would be a terrible shame to waste one day of it wishing for something else. We continue to work towards our goal, while thanking the universe each day for hot showers, comfortable beds, and home cooking…. I say have a good attitude, appreciate what you have for now, and know that nothing is forever! And hug those adorable pups!
    Rhonda recently posted..Help us WIN!!!!!!!!!!

    • Stephenie Harrison July 9, 2014 at 10:27 am # Reply

      I’m sure we will battle reverse culture shock on some level in the weeks and months to come, but I think that in some ways our being gone for so long has been a blessing because, quite honestly, we are used to being disoriented and confused most of the time by our surroundings! The unfamiliar is where we feel most comfortable these days, and even though I do call Toronto “home”, I generally think this is more from an official capacity rather than a psychological one. I haven’t lived here for nearly a decade so although certain aspects are familiar, I am fully aware that I barely know the city at all any more. I think because I didn’t return home expecting it to feel familiar and like a well-known embrace, that has minimized the REVERSE aspect of the culture shock. There are certainly things about life back in Canada that now seem very strange to me (visiting supermarkets in the west is a really unsettling experience for me, actually), but so far at least, I’m just rolling with it.

  19. Carmel July 9, 2014 at 5:42 am # Reply

    Huh. I would have never thought to lay low right away. We originally planned to go straight to Portland after our US travels, but now we’re going to be hitting Seattle first for about 2 weeks. I guess it’ll work out well to just spend some time with my family and figure out what’s next. We still have travels ahead, but they’ll be *much* different than what we’ve been doing.

    Like you, I am still in awe that we can be on one continent in the morning and a completely different one in the afternoon. Flying, what a trip. ;)
    Carmel recently posted..FOR THE LIVING

    • Stephenie Harrison July 9, 2014 at 10:29 am # Reply

      I think if we had returned to Canada with the goal of continuing our travels for another few months we would not be lying low… but because we don’t foresee getting out on the road again for quite a while, we decided to take a different route and I’m glad for it. Truthfully, we’re exhausted so given that we have no immediate travel plans, we haven’t been able to find the motivation to do much but try to develop a routine here at my parents’ place. It’s going to take time, but… thankfully we’ve got that in spades!

  20. Tim | UrbanDuniya July 10, 2014 at 8:36 am # Reply

    Good on you for confronting the truth of being back, and for being brave enough to blog about it! I went through a similar thing a couple of years back, although mine was complicated by the fact that I never really felt “at home” when I was at home (the reasons for which are more worthy of a book than a blog post!!). Anyway, my solution was to have 2 homes – the place I want to live, and the place where I end up every time I run out of money abroad. I now never feel far from my adopted (and preferred) home, as I’m always just a couple of months away from returning. Best of luck for the next weeks, months or years – however long it is – and I look forward to hearing more from you in that time :D
    Tim | UrbanDuniya recently posted..Stories from the ages in Athens

    • Stephenie Harrison July 13, 2014 at 11:52 am # Reply

      I think we’re in a very similar situation to yourself, Tim. We will always have “legal” homes here in North America since this is where our parents & families live and there is something nice about that, but for right now at least, the place that we personally feel most at home is definitely elsewhere! We definitely look forward to getting back out on the road and continuing the search for home, but in the interim, we’re excited to continue sharing plenty of travel tales!

  21. Casey @ A Cruising Couple July 10, 2014 at 8:47 am # Reply

    I’m so happy to hear that you are settling into life back in Canada! I’ve been thinking about you guys, even if I only just now got around to commenting :) We’ve been home multiple times since we started traveling full-time, but each time we had a firm date set for when we would turn around and fly off again, and our time home was normally limited to a few days to a little over a week. I had a near panic attack when we were in Belgium though thinking about what we would do with our lives if we had to go home for a long period of time, mostly because of all the uncertainty that would surround it. So anyway, I definitely understand your greatest fear, but I’m so so glad that you are finding peace in the present and enjoying things like spending time with your pets and home cooked meals. Sounds like you were very right to settle in slowly and take your time with the transition :)
    Casey @ A Cruising Couple recently posted..Romance and Relaxation at Hotel Heritage in Bruges, Belgium

    • Stephenie Harrison July 13, 2014 at 11:54 am # Reply

      Tackling this transition slowly has definitely been the best tactic for us, especially since we don’t have an exit ticket booked (although we are working every day towards a long-term departure strategy!). It was definitely fear-inducing to contemplate getting stuck in one place, but I think now that we are home we realize that we still have the power to lead whatever life we want. I think these coming months will be really great for replenishing ourselves and building a foundation towards the future that we do want. And there are certainly some home comforts (like home-cooked meals, video games, and puppies!) that we are really happy to be indulging in these days!

  22. Lauren July 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm # Reply

    If this winter coming up is anything like our last winter, you’ll be heading out of Toronto as fast as you can! ;) Glad to hear that you’re settling in back at home nicely, and your dogs are so adorable! I’m glad you’re giving yourself some time to rest, relax, and reflect!
    Lauren recently posted..Foodie Friday: Vegan Thai Lemongrass Tom Yum Soup

    • Stephenie Harrison July 13, 2014 at 11:56 am # Reply

      Our “best laid plan” right now would have us departing Toronto before winter really hits, but… we might wind up in Minnesota for a while which, to be perfectly honest, actually has way worse winters than Toronto! All the more motivation to keep pursuing our business ideas and diversifying our income portfolio so that we can head out sooner rather than later! (But while we are here, we are definitely enjoying it while the weather is nice!)

  23. Victoria July 14, 2014 at 11:28 am # Reply

    Pleased to hear it’s going well. I’m so curious to see what you might do next!

    • Stephenie Harrison July 21, 2014 at 9:39 am # Reply

      We’re kind of curious ourselves… We have some plans that are slowly solidifying but I think part of the fun now is knowing we have the time to really pick a path that works best for us.

  24. Victoria July 17, 2014 at 7:04 am # Reply

    What a lovely, thought-provoking post Steph, and very well written! It isn’t easy “coming home.” It’s never easy, but you’ve managed to come to terms with the change of direction. Travelling is all about what you learn and seeing other places, no matter where they are. And you guys have a lot to give and we look forward to reading all about it!
    Victoria recently posted..How to be a part of the new fashion set: Berlin Fashion Week 2014/2015!

    • Stephenie Harrison July 17, 2014 at 9:39 am # Reply

      You’re right that it’s never easy to come home, but I think we’ve been managing pretty well… certainly better than either of us anticipated! I really do believe that traveling helped us screw our heads on straight and that has persisted even though we’re home. :) So glad to have you along for the ride, and we’re really excited to share more of our adventures… we’ve definitely got a lot to tell!

  25. Marisol@TravelingSolemates July 18, 2014 at 10:03 am # Reply

    Hi Steph, I’m glad and admire that you are dwelling at the moment and not dwelling on disappointment from your aborted travels. Hone is definitely a good part of the road.
    Your doggies are adorable. They seem happy (the one on the last shot seem to be smiling on the camera -so cute!). They’re absolutely worth going home for.
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted..Beautiful, Romantic Bora Bora

    • Stephenie Harrison July 21, 2014 at 9:43 am # Reply

      I’ve always prided myself on being someone who picks herself up and dusts herself off fairly quickly, even when I’m dealing with a situation that is far from my ideal. Truthfully, although I really didn’t look forward to returning home, there has been much to look forward to and celebrate since we’ve been back. I still believe that things generally do work out, and sometimes the best thing we can do is stop fighting but to instead stop and listen to what the world is telling us. All signs we received were saying we needed to come home. Now that we are here, I see that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared and the next few months here will undoubtedly be good to (and for) us!

  26. NZ Muse July 20, 2014 at 5:14 pm # Reply

    “When we left on our trip, I hoped that being untethered from the daily stresses and frustrations of ordinary life would allow me to shift my focus to the here and now, that I would learn to revel in the moment and find the peace that only comes from lodging your feet firmly in the present and letting time slip between your toes. My dedication to this pursuit waxed and waned like the moon, and although I think I stretched and changed a lot during our time away, I never achieved my goal completely. I would not say that I never achieved blissful moments where time slipped away and I got lost in a moment, but my curse as a traveler was that more often than not I was skipping ahead, trying to anticipate and plan for what might come around the corner.”

    A million times yes to that. Most days I would feel insanely grateful and pinch myself – is this real? – but so much of the time I also had that underlying stress, thinking ahead, and that is the part I don’t miss one bit.

    I know that T sometimes struggled being in alien places, but for me no matter how hard it got I always appreciated it knowing when the end date was. I never once wished I was anywhere but where I was. Still, especially towards the end I started to take travel more and more for granted despite trying to fight that feeling.
    NZ Muse recently posted..Why full-time travel is not for me

    • Stephenie Harrison July 21, 2014 at 9:49 am # Reply

      I don’t know if having a concrete deadline would have helped or hindered me more on this journey. Maybe it would have encouraged me sooner on to enjoy the trip for what it was for as long as we had it, without fretting over losing it and, not wanting to, trying to find ways to keep it going as long as possible. Then again, I’m so glad that we got a bonus year of travel thanks to my parents!

      I guess the thing about traveling, about journeys, is you don’t get to skip ahead and be the person you’re going to become right at the start. You have to work through stuff, suffer disappointments and setbacks, and only then do you get your reward. I wish I could have just enjoyed every day for what it was—a gift—while we were on the road, rather than really making my peace with it in the last few months but… that’s life for you!

  27. The only thing to fear is the fear itself, right? I found it easier to return and begin adjusting with the return date set before departing on the trip. The return was always incorporated into the trip. It sounds like even though you didn’t have that in your backpack, the transition is going well. After all, how many times did you have to adjust to a new place on your travels?

    Welcome home!
    Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? recently posted..One year later in Portland, Oregon