Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hello, World

My husband and I have recently returned from a big trip. OK, we've been back for about six weeks now, so I guess the return is not that recent. However, we like to say that we've “just come back” from the big trip, because it makes us feel closer to that special time.

Our “big trip” was a four month journey around the pacific and Asia. We started in Tahiti, took a side trip to Easter Island, flew on to New Zealand for Christmas with my husband's family, then on to a drive up the east coast of Australia (more family). We flew from Brisbane to Singapore, then traveled overland (and sea) through Malaysia and into Thailand. We spent several weeks in Thailand, taking a side trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, before moving on to a two week “highlights of China” tour, followed by a visit to Macau and Hong Kong. We flew home via Tokyo and Honolulu, stopping fo a couple of days in each place. It was a wonderful trip. Our “real lives” back home are pretty good, but they can't compare to the constant string of cool sights and good times on the trip. Besides, we didn't have to get up and go to work every day when we were on the trip. When our alarm went off on our first day back at work, I honestly woke up thinking I'd have to pack up my backpack and go catch a plane or a bus. Travel constraints were the only reasons to set an alarm on the trip.

This is not to imply that life on the trip was some sort of perfect alternate existence. It wasn't: it was still life, after all. We got in an argument with the owner of our hotel in Easter Island because he forced us to move to a different hotel on our last night, despite our long-standing reservation, to make way for a group of travel agents. We got a nasty case of food poisoning in Chiang Mai, which reduced us to a diet of oral rehydration salts and Sprite, and left us lying listlessly on our bed watching weird TV shows on Arirang, the Korean international TV channel, because that was the only station broadcasting in English. I still got grumpy when I was hungry and/or tired, and by the end of our stay in Asia I had developed an almost desperate craving for decent cheese. The unpleasantness of these things fade in our memories, though, and they become nothing more than funny stories, while the obviousness of preferring a day lounging on a beautiful beach in Thailand over a day spent at work becomes ever more, well, obvious.

I have to admit that in Tokyo, our last overseas stop, I thought I was ready for the trip to end. I was tired of unfamiliar food, and feeling guilty about wanting Western food when I knew how much my husband wanted to try all of the Japanese dishes. He was talking about quitting our jobs by email and heading to India, and I was dreaming of a really good cheeseburger. Perhaps this is one of the things I learned about myself on this trip: I never thought of myself as so food oriented before.

Once we landed in Honolulu, I knew I was wrong about being ready for the trip to end. I recoiled from the size and noise of my countrymen and their cars. We'd seen one Hummer in Tokyo, one in Bangkok... and now there seemed to be one at every stoplight. After the thinness of the average Asian, the average American tourist in Waikiki seemed huge. Don't get me wrong- I love my country and like living here, but I was dismayed to hear all the complaints my husband used to make about America and her inhabitants coming out of my mouth. Worse than the culture shock of returning home, though, was the depression at the fact that our big adventure was over. We were back on American soil, and would soon be back in our own apartment. The comfy bed and dependable water supply sounded nice... but not as nice as exploring a new country. I had gotten so used to brushing my teeth with bottled water that it felt strange to use the tap water in our hotel in Waikiki. I had grown so accustomed to living out of my pack, with only a few shirts, two skirts, and two pairs of zip-off pants to choose from that the thought of having to dress myself from my full closet seemed a bit intimidating. Only our dwindling bank account and the good girl instinct to do what is expected of me kept me from calling United and booking a flight to somewhere other than LAX.

We came home as scheduled, and are settling back in to our jobs, which, perhaps surprisingly, were both waiting for us as promised. Sadly, it often feels like we never left. So here I am, writing a travel blog after the fact. It may just be a pathetic attempt to keep the fun of the trip fresh in my memory for a little longer, but I hope it also lets my friends and family read some good stories about our travels. And if someone else happens upon the blog and likes what they read, so much the better.

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