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Teen Shares New Worldview after Family Gap Year

Hoi An lanterns
Hoi An lanterns, Vietnam

Before leaving on my family gap year:

Five months ago, if you were to ask me if I was looking forward to leaving for four+ months, the answer would have been no.  Nope.  Negative.  Not happening.

Scratch that–actually if you were to have asked me, I would have most likely lied and said I was excited, with a fake smile stretched across my upset face.

I was in denial up until the morning we left for Boston.  I refused to believe I was leaving behind my entire life until we were wheels-up on our first flight.  No amount of tantrums I threw–and I’ll admit it, I threw quite a few–could have ever stopped the crazy dreams of my parents to see the world before Riley and I were in high school.

131 days we were gone.  Before we left, that may as well have been a decade.

Four-and-a-half months.

Four-and-a-half months.

That is a long time to go without 1) your own clean bed and pillow, and 2) fresh clothes that have that nice home-y scent to them.

It is an especially long time to be confined to the company of the same three people 24/7.

During our RTW trip:

However, all of those thoughts seemed a lifetime away as we traveled from country to country.  Time flew by and we couldn’t believe how quickly we were saying “Happy New Year!” Several more weeks passed and we were all dumbfounded that we were already a month into 2014.

Day by day, second by second, I watched my little timer on the countdown app I installed on my iPad mini when we departed.  Each minute that ticked by brought me closer to the day I had been looking forward to most since before we left.

And before I knew it, we were home and it was like nothing changed.  Well, except for the constant screams of “You’re home!” and “When did you get back?” when I surprised my friends at school.

It felt as if we had just paused our life at home, traveled the world, came home and unpaused it. Everything was just where we left it.  It appeared as if we had only gone to school for the day, rather than leave for over four months.

Re-entry after the trip:

As easy as it was to get back in the swing of things, it also felt really weird.  It was incredible how easy life felt, just from the little things like drinking tap water and throwing toilet paper in the toilet.  I finally have my own room in which I can lock myself to get away from the company I had for so long.

Whenever we drive somewhere, I occasionally have mini heart attacks.  I keep thinking my mom is driving on the wrong side of the road after driving over 4,000 miles on the opposite side in New Zealand.

One of the things I was most looking forward to about being home was having my own closet and not living out of a suitcase.  But, here I am with a closet full of clean clothes and every day I find myself putting the same outfit on.  After we left Europe in early November, none of us really “tried” when getting dressed.  I had no one to impress, so for days straight I would wear the same clothes–smelly or not–because 1) what’s the point of stinking up another shirt when you have one that’s already stinky, and 2) putting on a new shirt would mean putting my dirty one with my clean ones and stinking those up as well.

Another thing I never realized until we were stuck in Asia (with only eight channels if we were lucky) is just how amazing DIRECTV is.  It offers hundreds of channels of real shows–not poor quality Vietnamese animated rip-offs.  It’s still hard to believe I’m finally home watching quality TLC shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  I now understand why everyone who’s not from the South expects us to be rednecks.

Now that it’s over:

As incredible as it feels to be home, I miss it.  I miss the hotels that become home after a day.  I miss the delicious street food that costs as much as a gumball. I miss the sounds of honking horns and terrible Asian karaoke that lulled me to sleep many nights.  I even miss falling asleep on rock hard mattresses with springs pressed up against my back while my head lies on a half-rice filled pillow.

I actually found it hard to fall asleep the first night back, despite the fact it was past midnight and I hardly slept on our overnight flight.  I could not sleep because I could not get used to the comfortable memory foam.

As much as I resisted leaving in the first place, I’m very glad we went.  I knew I would be glad eventually, I just didn’t expect to be happy about it so soon.  I imagined I wouldn’t really appreciate it until it was time to write college essays and I had no idea what to write about. However, it’s barely been three weeks since our return, and I am grateful for every day of our journey.

Now when people ask me what I thought about our RTW trip, I honestly tell them that it was great…

with a real smile this time.

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