home abroad

It has been almost six months since I left the United States, in search of…well, I suppose I’m still not really sure. It is strange because, after this long…160 days, 4,000 some odd hours…I cannot pinpoint the moment when this trip ceased to feel like vacation and started to feel like my Life. Somewhere between the thousands of miles clocked on winding roads, the days spent meandering around unknown and unpaved streets, and the frustrations of language barriers, unsuccessful bartering, and ill-equipped maps, the foreign has become familiar, and Asia has become my second home.

I am, at my very core, a human that thrives on routine and familiarity; I have always loved vacation, but am also well acquainted with the end-of-trip feeling of excitement at the prospect of returning home. Prior to leaving, I wondered how, as such a homebody, I would fair when putting myself far outside this comfort zone — when I wouldn’t know what day or month or perhaps even what year I would return. I was terrified that I would spend so many days in Asia homesick; wasting my precious opportunity here on wishing to be elsewhere. And while these thoughts are sometimes present, they often sit quietly upon my mental back burner…not completely eradicated but not often fully realized.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that I thought I would be ready and willing to go home at any given point on my adventure. I thought I loved home enough that it would trump anything else I experienced or felt while living here. But six months in, I am writing this and the thought of leaving Asia is accompanied by serious anxiety. I am realizing how much this continent, these countries, and this adventure has already become a deeply entrenched and meaningful part of myself and my life.

My dad was here visiting (!!!) , and said seeing me here feels the same as visiting me in Portland — I suppose I had not fully realized how comfortable and natural living here had become until his confirmation. There is no other place I can imagine myself being and no other thing I can imagine myself doing at this point in time. And to be honest, that scares the literal shit out of me. This is the first time in my life I have felt so detached from my home — in many ways, I really feel like an adult; penning my own story and sense of identity, completely responsible for my choices. Perhaps this is merely a byproduct of my age, and being fresh out of college, but it is a strange sensation to be experiencing half way across the world.

I suppose that pieces of ourselves can be found (and forged) all over the world — maybe all “foreign” places are just a home waiting to be discovered and realized…waiting for us to arrive and make ourselves comfortable, waiting to teach us something, waiting to help us grow and reflect (and become adults). Humans are so much more adaptable than we often realize — both physically and mentally. For anyone reading this who doesn’t believe they have the balls to move abroad: you undoubtedly do. Some days are uncomfortable and some months feel more foreign than others, but you can find comfort and peace in such unfamiliar places. For now, Vietnam feels like home. And I, of all people, never would’ve expected that.

If I know anything, it is that time will inevitably pass — one day, I will be sitting on a plane back to America, unable to believe that my adventure to Asia is over. The mere thought of it makes me emotional — the excitement of returning home, and the deep loss of leaving (my new) home behind. I never expected to develop a life here, and I feel torn between these two vastly different places. It’s strange how travel can take what feels like a permanent piece of our selves and deposit it somewhere far away. What does it really mean to be home?

laurenhayden8:

First few days in Vietnam have been so much fun! It’s been good to be back with my sister especially. These pictures were from probably my favorite meal so far, breakfast at Hanoi Social Club. It is a bit more Western influenced but the Vietnamese eat soup for breakfast, and when it is hot as hell soup doesn’t sound too appetizing haha. The coffee here is so addicting too.

SO HAPPY MY SISTER IS HERE!