I am coming home, but as a tourist. I have not set foot on American soil in nearly two years, and haven’t lived there in five. While travelling we have met many Americans and even some other American long term travelers but really not many that have truly left ‘home’. As a result I can’t really relate to many of them about how weird it will be going back. When I first moved out of the country and went back to the states I always had the reaction, ‘Ahh, back home’. Now with each trip back when I step off the plane I think of the Bill Bryson book title ‘I’m a visitor here myself’ as some things I took for granted when I lived there now seem strange to me – like the buildings are HUGE, man, the new KFC building look like the malls in some countries. Honestly, I know I have changed but sometimes I don’t even see it until I am asked questions about current American culture or until I see some new product from the states or someone asks my opinion as an American. My response is sort of; well I am still happy to be an American, there are many, many things I love about the states, but I have been gone so long now that I have no idea about that topic, or show, or product.
So while this trip will be a coming home, there also will be some learning for me, like Jim Harbaugh’s new offense. Okay, real learning like the US southwest and seeing my friends as adults not dudes falling off the roof of their college house – which is how I saw them last… and to be fair how I was the last time they saw me. Plus some things which will blur the line as visitor and home coming, places I know but only rarely visited. Like Nashville, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Or food Like Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor – a landmark site in Ann Arbor but with expensive amazing sandwiches so I only went probably once a year or so. Or Breweries, there are so many now with so many flavors in the US! Oh how I miss American beer! In Europe I usually got a lecture about how terrible American beer is, but nowadays it’s excellent. After travelling, I would say it’s only second to Belgium.
Favorite food is part of coming home. When you travel there is always something you crave, it’s a national dish or your mother’s dish but it’s always something you just can’t get on the road. The flavor and the texture has to be just right to send the sensation of satisfaction running through your body. But, it’s more like the taste of comfort, the taste of familiar, the taste of childhood. Things that are not truly taste, but give you the sensation or memory you were craving. Sometimes it’s food from mom or gramma or dad (the fellas can cook too!), or from a restaurant which used to be your everyday fix. After asking other travelers I can tell you that for Germans it is dark breads, for Brits it’s proper tea, for French it’s cheese, but for me it’s salmon, salsa (I know 2 months in central America and still not quite the right salsa), pie, real deli turkey and Trader Joes. Just the food is part of it, but also combining of some of these foods in their right environment will hopefully bring back great memories and hopefully show Lu some of the great things about the states. An Oberon on the shore of a lake in Michigan, a salmon tail gate party, a margarita on a scorching day in Texas, or a bite of beef jerky while passing through the Rockies. These are the things I can now share with Lu as she has never seen or experienced them, but at the very least it can add context to my rambling stories.
There are some unfortunate things as well; she won’t get to experience the college ‘barn’ house, or game day in Ann Arbor surrounded by friends, or a cut throat game of Risk in Ann Arbor, or playing football with Herbie in the front yard, or my Grampa’s French toast. These experiences are important, but will be missing which is a shame but unavoidable as life goes on. The only thing we can do is to make some new great memories in the states, ones where we are both visitors and I am not the local. I have found that life goes through many phases and stages, it will be interesting to see which things from the states I have outgrown, which things I still adore and which things we find that we both love. For as much as I am looking forward to coming home I am also hoping that Lu will leave with an appreciation for the states. But just an appreciation, as the road is where I am loving right now, and that is where our home is!
Finally there is one thing we are both for sure looking forward to; cooler weather, air conditioning, and not being covered with biting ants, mosquitoes, flies, or other strange itchy biting things, and not dealing with ummm runny tummy/the bad belly as we have for the past month or two. So some first world pleasures and northern climates will be a welcome relief for a while. (See previous post)