Our month-long layover in Nashville is coming to an end; we head to Costa Rica in 5 days!
As our days in Europe wound down, we talked a lot about what it would feel like to be back home, and we made lists of what we were looking forward to the most. We ranked the events in order of attractiveness. Obviously, the reunion with the dogs, and our friends and family topped the list. Next up was listening to newly acquired records from Grimey’s, followed by wearing some different clothes. Drinking gallons of diet coke from an endless supply of ice-filled glasses at the Goldrush, while being blasted with delicious air-conditioning, was a favorite fantasy of mine. I wondered out loud whether it would be weird to be back home…I was assured that it would be awesome. Turns out…it has been both.
First up…the pups! Although Lincoln put on 20lbs while we were gone, he’s still the coolest ever.
Penny takes no prisoners…especially when it comes to our hearts.
Those first fews days were pretty magical. Upon arriving at JFK, we got some cash from the ATM and I marveled at how weird the money looked. All one color? Bananas! I got immense pleasure from idly chatting to people who did nothing more than hold open a door for me. I’m usually fairly terse, but it had been a long time since I could confidently make small talk with people and crack jokes with strangers, and I fear I may have seemed a bit too enthusiastic.
Me: Thank you very much
Me: I really appreciate it
Stranger: uh, no problem…
Me: You have a good day!
Stranger: (crazy look)
Me: Oh! I LIKE YOUR SHIRT!!!!
It’s the friendliest I have been in years…hopefully the people I engaged with were not too weirded out by the maniacally cheerful girl they met at the gas station.
That refreshing air-conditioning that I had been craving for weeks turned out to be bitterly cold, requiring cardigans and thick socks in the morning and a hooded sweatshirt in resturants. Those bottomless diet cokes filled me full of uncomfortable air. I was struck dumb at the size of everything; seriously, y’all…does a Panera need to be 2 full acres? My house, which is a modest 1200sqft seemed like a mansion. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a parking lot the size of two football fields. I stared at the commode for way too long, trying to find the flusher button on the top, until my brain caught up and directed me to try to look around the side.
Arriving at the Nashville airport was bizarre…it was so familiar. Now, I have spent a lot of time at BNA thanks to my previous job, but it felt as though we flew out a week ago…not 12 weeks ago. I was very interested to see how a month at home would compare to a month on the road…would it fly by? Would it drag on? The answer is a bit of both.
We’ve had a pretty full dance card over the last three weeks; we’ve hugged the dogs a lot, wined and dined with our wonderful friends, caught up with the Nashville Rollergirls, threw a big party, saw some rock ‘n’roll, visited my parents and played some mahjong. We’ve also slept in, eaten breakfast at 11:00am and was introduced to Milly’s Big Girl Bed.
Our memories of Europe are still close by, but not as vibrant as I had assumed they would be. There’s simply not many points of reference at home to remind us of the life-style we led for 3 months. John and I haven’t been able to spend that much time together as there has been a constant turnover of visitors and social events. Don’t get me wrong, seeing my peeples has been my favorite thing about being home…but I also miss hanging out with my best buddy, on our own schedule and following our same routine. The couple of times that we have spent all day running errands ended up feeling somehow very special…it reminded me of being back on the road. At home, there are a million distractions…laptop computers that connect to reliable, speedy internet, television shows to catch up on, house work to do, dogs to walk…our daily schedule on the road consisted of:
- Cup of Tea. Juice. Eggs. Bacon.
- Cross check TripAdvisor and guidebook for activities.
- Preparation of ham and cheese sandwiches.
- Packing Angus.
- Seeing. Doing. Eating lunch. Photos. Get lost. More doing.
- Transfer pictures, write blog.
- Eat spaghetti/tacos.
While the above list seems light and simple, a huge amount was accomplished in step #5. In Nashville, we can barely get through our daily list of errands/projects without pulling ourselves in 50 different directions, none of which seem to accomplish our goals. It’s interesting that we suddenly expected ourselves be able to accomplish a huge list in one day, just because we have a Jeep and speak the language. We wouldn’t have never tried to rush around and see 10 different things in one day on the road…that would be bananas! Why do we turn home into work? Very shortly after we returned home, I spent the day with my best friend, Angela. As we swapped stories, I remarked that my stress level on the road was so much lower than my previous life. For me, the defining aspect of culture in Europe for me was something the Danes call “Hygge”: spending quality time with friends or loved ones over good food. While the food part is definitely a big plus, it’s the first part of the translation that I appreciate the most. Spending quality time with friends and loved ones. It’s one of the things that I hope to keep alive State-side…it’s a stress buster!
I believe that the expectations of us in the common work-environment to continuously multi-task and juggle high-proirity deliverables at a breakneck pace, creates a mindset that starts to control your private life, making it hard to take a foot off the accelerator and SLOW DOWN. I associate Nashville with having a job, therefore I ratchet up the expectations of myself…how much am I accomplishing? NOT ENOUGH!
The moment John and I pulled up to the curb at BNA to catch our flight to the UK…all the prior Nashville stress just vanished. Even though we had 3 months of unknown adventures ahead of us, which requires a lot of on-going effort to coordinate…my brain wasn’t consumed with it all. My physical health and mental health improved while we were gone. I was three days into the trip and remembered that I had a bad back. I can’t tell you the last time I forgot that I had back troubles. From that point on, I kept an eye on it…but the nightmare scenario never happened. I climbed mountains, slept on torture beds, walked for miles and miles and took 7 hour train trips…and there were only a couple of days that I really needed to take it easy. Mental health-wise, the first week back in the States, I operated at a level of relaxation that all my friends commented on, making wonder exactly how obviously wound-up I had been before I left.
We did manage to take a mini-break to the North Carolina mountains to spend a couple of days with my parents. Lincoln and Penny don’t really like the car…but they like the breeze.
Now it’s time to pull out the backpacks, organize the ziploc bags and get our shit together for Act II. We gave the road-case that mini Penny and Lincoln live in…I hope EVH would be proud.
Yesterday, I spent about 2 hours wrangling flights for Costa Rica and Peru. It’s surprisingly hard to fly directly from Costa Rica to Peru…and there’s no official overland route. The Darien Gap, which sits between Panama and Columbia, is a 60 mile stretch of DANGER and you simply do not got through it. So, in order to get from one country to the other, we are jumping back to Miami conveniently in time for opening weekend for the NFL. John will finally get to see the Dolphins play in Miami. What’s even more exciting to little old nerdy me is that we managed to pay for $3000 worth of flights with credit card points and airline miles. We still had to buy the ride back to Nashville, but we did save a ton of cash. I am by no means a ‘travel hacker’ but I did feel pretty awesome, especially when I recognized AA.com re-pricing the flights while I was looking at them in a flurry of dynamic pricing adjustments. I shut the laptop and tackled it the next day…back to the original price!
There’s a lot to organize…we have to buy mosquito nets and floppy hats, I have to write a detailed transportation itinerary so my head doesn’t explode and we have lot’s of last minute dates with people before we go…
I’m really looking forward to pulling up to that BNA terminal in a couple of days.