Home. Wow. My home, at least. Ontario, Canada, land of my birth, and home for the first 23 years of my life. It felt surreal after all our travelling to feel our journey at its end. And we hadn’t even had our bags inspected. This was well enough, as I’m sure more than a few of the carvings, tapestries and knick knacks we were carrying would have been on the customs naughty list, not to mention the thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff we had mailed home from Thailand. Our last hurdle cleared, we found our rental car and began the journey North to my parents’ house.
We had planned on staying in a hotel in Toronto for a couple of days, quarantining ourselves in case we were carrying any strange bugs that were just waiting to unleash themselves on my aging parents, and we figured Toronto would be a great place to find some appropriate clothing having just made a dramatic shift in climate from tropical monsoon to temperate autumn. But in the end, the allure of being so close to my family after being away for so long had made us rethink our decision. They had put some pressure on to influence this decision, with my sisters being quite firm that potential bugs or no, we should visit at once.
I think the biggest culture shock we had in our entire journey came from being home. When you expect things to be different, you can adjust. When people are unlike any you have ever known, and are more different than what you can have imagined, wonder ensues, and you cope and adapt. The real shock comes when you interface with normal again, as though some sense of expectation is there, and normalcy leaves you hanging in the air, with lots of room to crash and fall.
The last time I had been at my parents, two years earlier on a ten-day visit, I had been sick for three of those days with a horrid stomach flu that made its rounds through my family. History has a way of repeating itself, as they say, and I found myself ill at home. Imagine, Hawaii, Australia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, India, and not so much as a sniffle. Two days of being in the house I grew up in, and I was as sick as I could ever remember being. Stomach Flu led to a cold, and I was barely able to function for the better part of a week. Theresa felt that I let my guard down being home, in a safe place, and became susceptible to any illness that knocked on my door. Probably true, and it’s hard to say whether I had picked up the bugs in India, en route, or in Ontario. At least I was in good hands, with a doctor and a nurse in the house.
Unsure of our direction, but feeling content to stay put for a while, with money still in the bank, it seemed obvious the first thing we needed was a car. My parents offered us an open ended invitation to stay in their basement apartment, so living accommodations were taken care of for a time, but we were back to square one, with very little of the material items that seemed important to living, with the exception of our parcels from Thailand, which incredibly showed up the day after we did, almost two months after they left. But wait; hadn’t we started out our journey with the ideal of removing ourselves from the cycle of consumption? And now being back in North America, we felt the need to acquire stuff that we had gotten rid of. Had we learned nothing?
Maybe what we had learned was to appreciate what we had, to understand that our possessions were a means to an end, and that ownership was not inherently wrong. Coveting material possession was a distraction from what really mattered: connection with people. And so we made the most of being close to those who loved and knew us, because all else is just temporary and fleeting in a world full of beauty and wonder.