Erin Hardin, 128 YinD
I was fortunate enough to visit my home in the states this past April! After three airports, just as many planes, 18 hours of air time and another 18 of waiting I had finally made it. It was so great to be with my friends and family, visit new places that didn’t exist when I left, and of course, eat all the food!
It is 100% different when catching up with your friends in person vs. stalking their social media profiles. Peace Corps is very isolating and lonely. Yes, you are on this amazing adventure and making your way through an entirely new experience, but there is no denying that Peace Corps is challenging in so many ways. Weekends in Bangkok or on a beach can only do so much as far as stress relief. I kept trying to explain to my mom that this visit wasn’t necessary, but in the end, I really think it was. Being away from everyone you love and those closest to you, as well as missing out on all the celebrations and everyday life at home takes a toll. Visiting home was so rejuvenating, it helped rekindle my motivation for what I am doing as a volunteer!
Here’s a summary of my two weeks home:
I went out a few times with friends from work and school, and nearly every time I met with people coffee, food, or “adult” drinks were involved. I planned my trip around Easter so I would be able to see my whole family at one time! I did some father-daughter bonding, we went fishing and, just like when I was six, he took all of my fish off the hook for me.
We had family come into town from all over, which opened the opportunity for my uncle to get married on our back porch! (which I decorated, by the way, so much tulle!) The delicious and beautiful cake was made by a family friend. It was coconut, just what I was missing from my daily diet in Thailand.
My inner child came out when I babysat my niece and nephew overnight as we made sundaes, built an awesome fort, and watched 101 Dalmatians!
Things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of traveling home:
Make a list and a loose schedule for what you want to do, who you want to see, and what you want to eat!
Cost. I am not talking just the flight, there is also a ton of food involved. For the most part, friends were happy to grab the check, knowing we make in one month what they make in a week.
Differences in climate. I am not just talking hot vs. cold here, I had a massive problem with how dry Ohio was. My legs were in pain missing the humidity, and I went through so much lotion.
Be prepared to bring back things you didn’t even realize you missed. This could just be a “me” thing, but I brought two suitcases home, one was supposed to stay, I still brought two back, with entirely different things than what I traveled with on the way there.
Lessons I learned:
Not only is everyone living their life and moving on, but so am I. It was hard to watch friends get married and have babies or graduate school or just seeing them hang out without you at your usual place, but it doesn’t have to be significant. What surprised me was getting there and having people say I have changed and that my life is amazing to them. It reminded me to appreciate how far I have come. My path involves rice fields and bum guns and my friends’ involves poopy diapers and little baby smiles. Both are beautiful journeys that we chose to take.
I am having a very personal growth experience that would not be possible if I was in the comfort of my supporting and loving friends and family. I would not be learning the hard lessons here if I had everyone around to fix my mistakes or to keep me from making them.
Home is wherever you need it to be. Some days it’s when I am having a rough day I call my mother to get long that distance, virtual hug. Some days home is my bed in my air-conditioned room in my host family’s house. Other days home is wherever and whenever I am being present and intentional with my work in my community.
Just because you are not physically there or don’t get daily phone calls, doesn’t mean you have been left behind. You are still a big part of your home back in the states. It doesn’t do anyone any good to dwell on the fact that you are currently on the opposite side of the planet. Both you and those you love back home need to get stuff done, and missing each other and not allowing that growth to happen will just make the time pass by slower.
Not everything changed. My family was just as crazy, embarrassing, and amazing as always. From my grandpa only hearing out of one ear due to a malfunctioning hearing aid and us having to yell everything, to my mother putting little bows on our dog’s ears so she would look “nice” for the wedding, I couldn’t ask for a better family.
Good byes are so much easier the second time around.