I’m back in the US, and I honestly don’t know exactly how to feel about it. Let me explain how I got here.
Upon going to Europe, my plan was to teach English in Madrid. However, I didn’t have a visa outside of the 90-day tourist visa that I got upon arriving in Spain. Because I didn’t have a visa, finding a job was difficult. Thus, after some consideration, I left Madrid and went elsewhere (for more about this, see Embracing Uncertainty).
For those of you who may not know, there is a group of 26 countries in Europe where there are no border checks. It’s called the Schengen Zone. It makes traveling between the countries much easier and faster because there are no passport checks between borders. The downside is that a traveler without an EU passport, such as myself, can’t legally stay within the Schengen Zone for more than 90 days. The penalty for overstaying the 90-day tourist visa can be a hefty fine or a European travel ban for a length of time, sometimes as much as 5 to 10 years.
Given this, I knew I would have to leave the Schengen Zone, but I wasn’t sure of where to go next. I could have gone to a country outside of Schengen while staying in Europe, but I wasn’t too keen on spending the holidays on my own in a hostel with a bunch of strangers. It’s pretty easy for me to make friends while traveling, and I really appreciate all of the many friends I’ve made traveling. With that said, my family is still important to me, and they can’t be easily replaced. Given this, heading back to the US made sense.
And yet, coming back happened so suddenly. I bought a ticket to return on a Saturday and left on the following Tuesday. I was enjoying myself in Europe, and within a few days I was back in Ohio.
So here I am. Being back brings up a lot of emotions and a lot of questions. It’s been great to see my family and to be with them for the holidays. I’m grateful for them and for their love and support through everything I undertake. It means more than I can say.
In life, sometimes it takes the low points to appreciate the high points. It’s all part of the same journey.
Still, as I write this, I’m sitting in Ohio. I went to Europe with the intentions of staying long term. Instead, I’m back after 3 months. What’s more, I have to do something while I’m here. I can’t just sit around, nor do I want to, but I’m frustrated. I feel as if I’m running on a treadmill. I like to run, and I much prefer running outside. Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to run indoors on a treadmill. This is how I feel right now. I would rather be ‘outside’, but instead I’m ‘inside’. I’m active, but I’m not moving. I’m stationary. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, in some ways I feel like I failed.
Yet, as a good friend recently reminded me, I have to be careful about calling myself a failure. I’ve done a lot of traveling and, through that travel, I’ve already grown and expanded my mind and added a lot to the realm of my experience. Growth has happened and will continue to happen no matter where I am.
However, this brings to mind an important question: Am I still able to feel satisfaction while not traveling or living in a foreign country? So much of my current thinking is tied up in figuring out where to go next and how to get there, but I’m here in Ohio, at least for a time. It’s so important it is to feel contentment despite our circumstances, and yet, honestly, it’s a bit of a struggle for me now.
I don’t like saying that I’m struggling. I realize how blessed I am to have the experiences I’ve had, and I realize how fortunate I am to live in the US. Should I just accept being here and settle? That’s where it becomes difficult. Going back to a ‘normal’ day-to-day no longer appeals to me because I’ve seen that there’s another way to do things. To be sure, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a normal life. There’s definitely something to be said about having stability and routine. One day I may have such a life and be perfectly happy. Right now, though, that’s not what I want for myself.
So I come to the question of exactly what to do next. At the moment, the plan is to do what I need to do to obtain a visa and go back to Madrid. Some may say that I should have just gotten a visa to begin with and that I wasted time and money by not doing this the first time. I’ve wondered myself if this isn’t the way I should have done things. In thinking about that, though, I have to say that I have no regrets about the way the trip went. If I would have found a job right away, I would not have had the experience I had, and I would not have met the people I met. In all honesty, I wouldn’t really change anything about the trip. Sure, there are a few details here and there that I’d change if possible, but I refuse to dwell on those. Overall, the trip was a success.
It’s taken a while to write this post because I’m still dealing with the feelings of being back. It’s a sad irony that the enjoyment I had on the trip is now creating such frustration for me now. However, I see that the best course of action is to view my current situation as a bump in the road to where I want to be. It’s a bump, but it’s still part of the road. What’s more, I have my family and friends by my side, and that certainly will help.
In life, sometimes it takes the low points to appreciate the high points. It’s all part of the same journey. And so, I press on.