Six years ago we packed up all our belongings into a Toyota Corolla and drove from Upstate New York to Minnesota through Canada officially starting our world trip. I can still remember two distinct feelings: the first feeling of being free – it was the first time in my life where I didn’t have a boss, a teacher, or someone else deciding my time, and the second, feeling like I was staring into the abyss and the abyss was staring back at me. At that point in time, I had worked at different jobs while going to school since I was 14; I never had a gap year, studied abroad, took a summer off, or had any other common youth event / engagement that gave me a large break from work or international travel exposure. We had no certainty we would find jobs on our return, lots of people did not recommend we go on the trip, and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. It certainly felt like the Rubicon was crossed.
Five years ago I remember landing at Dulles airport in Washington DC and re-entering America. I was kind of nervous since we’d been gone for 13 months and had passports full of stamps and thought that maybe someone would be at least a little curious. It was the most anti-climatic entrance ever. In fact, I’m not entirely sure we entered the US correctly since I’m pretty sure we missed some important steps and no-one collected the customs form we were given on the airplane. All of a sudden we were in the US and that was that! In no time we were able to find jobs and get back to the daily grind.
Little did we know what our world would look like five years after our return home: we’ve had quite the amazing journey. We’ve been successful in our careers, we’ve added to our family, we’ve laid down some roots, and we’ve even had a bit of traveling! Who knew some of the habits we developed when traveling, like what we eat and how we spend our time, would carry over to our daily lives in the US? We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had great luck in our personal lives and our professional lives since we’ve been back, pandemic included. Knock on wood the trend continues!
We spent a bit of time thinking about the last five years and our perspective on life. Turns out, not much changed in our thinking, feeling, or planning compared to two years ago: https://word.christopherwagner.org/?p=8250 and our thoughts on the places we visited https://word.christopherwagner.org/?p=5912: Shortly after we landed we started thinking about when we’d be able to take a break and travel again; I did some basic math and I figured it would be around seven years. Turns out my math was mostly correct but I hadn’t penciled in a pandemic and travel ban for Americans.
We’ve explored some new and oldies-but-goodies areas of the US and thoroughly enjoyed the sites, the smells, and the sounds. The US is a very special place and we are happy we were able to learn more about the US by leaving and traveling abroad. There seems to be a general dark cloud over the US, especially now with the election, but America is still the best place for someone like ourselves and will probably continue to be a great place for a very long time.
We were able to sneak in a trip to Spain two winters ago and we were looking forward to more international travel starting this year. It seems the world is on hold until a vaccine is released, everyone gets COVID, or people just get sick and tired of staying home. Our hearts ache for all those we met during our travels who’s livelihoods depend on tourism. We met incredible and industrious people who helped us along our way and gave us an incredibly enriching experience. The pandemic is taking a terrible toll all over and it’s not just due to illness. Permanent structural changes seem to be underway and it’s looking the world will be quite changed the next time we want to travel.
Never in a million years had I guessed the five year update of returning home would be a story about how everything is great for us but awful for many others. Hopefully, life resumes quickly.
I put some photos below of some of our favorite events / sites / whatever from the last two years. Enjoy the photos!