Elizabeth Frantz Larson

Back to civilisation?

Have I really been away for two and a half years?


I think I am finally ready, it is time. I haven't been home to America in about 2 and half years and I thought I would never need to go home, because its not really home anymore; I feel I am "home" everywhere I live, even though it may be only temporary. I hate how we have to identify as one certain nationality, put ourselves into these imaginary lines and live the the way everyone else does. The term 'citizen of the world' may sound cheesy, but I feel most at home when I am exploring a place I have never been before and getting to know the people more personally.

But alas, even though I have fought it for so long, I need a break. I need a little intermission from Asia, from being abroad, from the frustrations. It's time to remember why I moved away again, time to take a step back and get out of the bizarre madness that has become my life. I am scared, really excited, anxious and a thousand other emotions when I think about how I will be on American soil again in practically a month.

I like to do things on a whim, a trait I inherited from my mom, it keeps life exciting and I always have something to look forward to. So last minute we decided to buy tickets to go home for 2 months and try to remember how to live in a western, civilized culture again. If you have been following me on my adventure through Asia, you know I am pretty Asian by now, I eat rice for every meal, take off my shoes when entering most places and have songs on my iPod that I can't understand.

Yet even though I may feel comfortable here in Asia, there are many things I am looking forward to about going home and I will always be a product of my upbringing. Knowing what is on the menu at a restaurant, warm clothes straight from the dryer, not having to look at a map, not worrying about a visa to stay there, no humidity hanging in the air all day. It's going to be surreal and it's probably going to be exactly the same, but I'll be experiencing it from a different perspective.

I am scared about going back to the US. We have both changed so much and grown up in the past few years. Will I like it more, will it be better than I remember? Or maybe I will hate it just as much and then my back up of places to live will be crossed off the list. What if "The Walking Dead" is really how America is now and I'll be dodging zombies just to stay alive. I could even decide I need Chipotle burritos in my life so much that I will never leave. I don't know what to expect, I don't know how I will feel when I am there and that makes me most nervous about going back. Even though it's just a visit, I think about these things too much...

Since I make Thai baht, and haven't saved as much of it as I should, I will be on a very strict budget while in my home country, a notoriously expensive place to travel and live. I have decided to make a little game out of it because I have no choice, and I really do think I can do it! I will be living on 23 dollars a day while in America. I sure will miss the option to buy a whole meal for just a dollar and really the point of this trip is to help me realize how good I have it here in Thailand.

I will be staying with friends and family the whole time, camping or couch surfing when traveling around, eating from the grocery store mostly (but I am SO excited about going to an American grocery store so it will be perfect!) and trying my hardest not to go to Target. That place is like my kryptonite.

People keep saying it's not possible, that things are going to be more than I remember and I won't be able to do it. I am a different person than I was when I left, more determined, more focused, with a little more self control when it comes to shopping, and a lot less concerned with fitting in. I am not like everyone else, I don't have a fancy iPhone, I don't wear designer clothes and I don't need a bunch of stuff weighing me down so I can't move.

Don't get me wrong, I still have a lot of "things" here in Thailand, it is every much as materialistic as America, but I am so much happier with less now. Just seeing my friends, sitting on their couch and talking all night will be enough. I don't need fabulous nights out, I just want to drink cheap wine and bundle up in a big scarf. Vacationing in America, what a novel idea. My bet is I won't be able to get back to Thailand fast enough!




Comments

I taught business English in Santiago de Chile, then went traveling for an extended period of time in South America and Southeast Asia. Returning to the States has been the hardest thing I've ever experienced in my life.

I experienced so much stimulation abroad in the form of new places and experiences, then to have all that go away over night was overwhelming. To be back in the States and surrounded by unhappy people following a cookie-cutter plan for living continues to be a depressing shock to my nervous system. I also hadn't developed the best re-entry plan. I knew I'd be returning without a job lined up. But a lack of direction on what to do for work has only compounded my anxiety of being stateside. Also, the economy is still struggling here.

But it's not all bad. A big plus is being able to communicate freely with everyone around me. I love being able to have deep conversations with people I meet while going about my daily life. I also like the diversity of people in the U.S. For me, the diversity of people is the greatest strength of the US. Immigration has gone on long enough that you can now find families from India, China, and other Asian countries running hotels and restaurants in the small backwaters of Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas. In places like Texas, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, you find populations that mimic a meeting at the UN general assembly. The most diverse cities in the world are found in the U.S. and Canada (Toronto). While I enjoyed my time in Chile and Argentina, those countries were more of a monculture.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences about Thailand and your temporary return to the States. I think anyone that has spent significant time away from their home country gets scared and anxious when returning. It really is the hardest part of the whole process. I'm still scared and anxious, and I've been back for over six months now. My decision to stay in the U.S. for now has to do with the ease of socialization here and a need to figure out a clearer path for the future. But given the challenging job market here, I may seek to teach English abroad again, perhaps sooner than later.
Are you now back in Thailand?

By Vince, USA (26th April 2013)

Many years traveling the world, I agree, I pity people who have never felt the desire to go aimlessly and found something new, unexplored places, interesting people

By oksana, cheaptrip.io.ua (18th March 2013)

I am enjoying my time here so far and really enjoyed coming on here to read these comments!

It has been a bit of a reverse culture shock and while I also have been enjoying getting some "stuff" (ie size 9 shoes!!) I am so ready to get back to the simple life in Thailand. While my job might have fallen through, I know I am able to find something there to live and that keep me from going a little crazy when thinking about my return. I may be no closer to knowing where I belong, this trip has really made me think about my life and appreciate the opportunities I have. America, you have tasted mighty good, but I am ready for cheap street food and sweaty nights on soi 11 again!

By Elizabeth Frantz Larson, Bangkok, Thailand (26th February 2013)

I've lived away for many times longer than you, Liz. But, I've never stopped missing the 'junk' back home. I don't think I ever will...

When I went back home, I was struck instantly by reverse culture shock and I couldn't wait to get back to Thailand. Once I got my junk (along with some other essentials) and stuffed my bags with it, I was really looking forward to my flight back home to Thailand.

More than a decade ago, my university Psychology professor told me that people came to see her professionally after having moved back to America. Yes, they needed real 'help' because apparently it's more difficult to move back than to move away. I can understand now.

By Lisa, (7th December 2012)

Ron, I went back to England in October. I was gone for just shy of three weeks and it cost me 100,000 baht (including air-fare) so you are absolutely right what you say - it can be an expensive 'holiday'. It's not even a holiday though is it - buzzing around seeing relatives and old friends? And don't forget I didn't have to pay for any accommodation at all. That would have been another 2-3,000 baht a night.

By philip, (4th December 2012)

I haven't been home for about 7 years. I am only 28, but it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

My family lives here in Thailand, with the exception of my older brother who unfortunately cannot live here for legal reasons. Most of the friends I have back home have moved, gotten married, grown apart, or some of them are even up to the "same old things" we did as kids.

I keep saying I will go back. The money thing always gets me. It will cost me a month and a half's salary just to get there and back. Then add in a rent a car ( I'm from Nebraska you couldn't live with out a car ) food, and entertainment. That will be pricey little holiday just to go back and see friends. Although I love my friends, my financial security has always been number one.

Maybe someday I will make it back home......

By Ron, BKK (3rd December 2012)

The world is a beautiful place, there is nothing wrong with seeing it all. sad and sorry for the folks who never leave their backyards.

By Norma Pickett, Carson Wa (3rd December 2012)

Liz,
I came back to the U.S. after 6 years in Thailand. The one big thing you'll notice is your views and attitudes have changed. Really. Some things will be difficult to relate to, but you will have come back knowing more then the average person back in the U.S.

You'll be suprised.

By Charles, Northern California (3rd December 2012)

I'm actually quite excited for you Liz and I'm looking forward to reading about your experiences after several years away.

I go back to the UK every year. I think I need to go back sometimes to remind myself why I live here.

Old friends and relatives ask me if England still feels like home. I say "no it doesn't. It feels like a foreign country where I just happen to speak the language"

By philip, (3rd December 2012)

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