June 10, 2011

Travel Re-Entry

Returning home from a long trip tends to disorient me for a few days, leaving me in a kind of limbo. As I try to step into my usual routines, the place I left continues to tug at my emotions. This time, re-entry seems to be taking longer than usual and some of the feelings are both new and more intense.

This is my third day back, so I can't attribute my liminal state only to jet lag. I spent three weeks in France, the last 9 days on my own in Paris. For me, there's something about solo travel that demands extra energy. Sometimes this is physical, but most of the time it's psychic. Without another person to filter experiences through, I'm invited (or forced, depending on your outlook) to process everything on my own, and while that can be exhilarating, it can also be draining.

My time in Paris was heavy on the processing, since I made a conscious choice to "wander" rather than "sightsee." I'm finding that the more I travel for pleasure, the less I "do," and, as a result, the more I enjoy the experience. I did catch one museum exhibition and visited one historic site, but mostly I strolled through neighborhoods. I scouted out vest-pocket parks (a true Parisian art form) for lunching and people-watching, and did surprisingly little planning, other than to decide which part of the city to Metro or walk to each day.

I don't know whether it's simply the way I'm built, or whether others have similar responses, but traveling in this way --I suppose you could call it "slow travel"-- heightens my senses. When I'm not rushing to get to the next place or focusing on what I'm supposed to be learning, I seem to take more in. And this taking in, and ruminating about it (I'm nothing if not a ruminator) left me feeling pretty emotionally depleted by the end of the day --a good kind of depleted, if you know what I mean. I found that I needed LOTS of sleep and that, unusual for a morning person like me, I had a tough time getting going in the mornings.

But wait. Wasn't I talking about re-entry? This time around, I'm feeling as if everything is a bit muffled, as if I'm participating in some sort of test that requires me to walk around with a blanket over my head. That's the physical part (the dregs of the jet lag) but there's this other stuff going on that seems more existential. Damned if I know exactly what it is, but it has something to do with 1) yearning for somewhere/something else vs. what I have here and now, and 2) wondering about the value of what I'm doing in the here and now.

Yeah, I know, it's not exactly rocket science that returning from a trip may spark these type of feelings. And yes, at one level, it's pretty banal. On the other hand --and I'm one of those people for whom there's always another hand-- maybe it's not such a bad thing for these emotions to bubble up right now. What's that Zen adage about the teacher appearing when the student is ready?

It's also possible that my efforts to live more intentionally, as hit-or-miss  as they sometimes seem, may be pushing these thoughts and feelings to the surface (I envision a tiny gnome yielding an even tinier stickpin, prodding away -- don't ask me why).

So rather than fight the discomfort, I'll invite it in and see where the conversation leads, hoping for a little more clarity. Writing this post is a step in that direction.

Does travel throw you for an emotional loop? If it does, how do you handle it?

Image by jah~ at Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons License.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome home! Re-entry after even a short trip is a challenge ... after such a long and extraordinary one - oof! Take your time and enjoy the perspective.