Living in China, I don’t get get home to Florida often. In fact, before this summer, it had been a year. It’s a combination of the ticket price, the desire to travel through Asia, and of course, the 15+ hour flight.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: the flight sucks. The jet lag sucks. And having people stare at you while you struggle to roll up your compression socks? That sucks too. But after doing it a few times, the flight time doesn’t seem as long, the jet lag gets a little better, and the fear of what others think goes completely out the window. Don’t believe me? I actually do walking lunges down the aisle. True story.
Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a Facebook post written by my favorite writer, Elizabeth Gilbert. It was entitled “Why do we travel?” and began with a picture of Gilbert, donning an eye mask and clearly suffering the effects of jet lag.
It was 3am. A time every traveler who has covered a multitude of time zones will tell you, is when you question your life choices. Much like Gilbert, you recall all the money you spent, the chores you left behind, and how many emails are waiting in your inbox. You look in the mirror, at a mere shadow of yourself—eyes hollowed, skin dry and taut, stomach bloated. And you wonder, “Why the heck do I do this to myself?”
As you know from my latest post, one of my favorite parts of visiting St. Augustine was touring the local distillery. I mean, free booze? An excuse to buy gin and vodka? Come on.
Then, today, I got a follow-up email, containing recipes for St. Augustine Distillery’s two signature cocktails. It felt like Christmas. Or happy hour. Whatever. Either way, it was enough justification to break out the bottles and do a little taste-testing. For you, of course.
As a teacher, I plan my entire school year around holidays. Myanmar for October break, Belize for winter vacation, Bali for Chinese New Year. I can’t help it; I’m an eternal wanderlust.
However, something was different at the end of this school year. The thought of traveling exhausted me, and I wanted nothing more than to spend time with family and friends in Florida. Plus, after a year of learning the IB curriculum and navigating my way through Chinese culture, the only plans I wanted to make involved my parents’ pool and a lounge chair.
In about five weeks, I’ll venture back to China for what will be my sixth year abroad, and my fourth country to call home. I never planned to be gone this long, but now I have no plans of returning. It’s funny how things work out.
I like my home in Shanghai, and don’t often feel homesick; but from time to time, I’ll find myself missing the States. Or Korea. Or Colombia. Home has become something of a relative concept, so it’s hard to actually be “home-sick.”
Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about my two years in Bogota, and the wonderful memories associated with Colombia. So I made a list. Here are the top 10 things I miss most about this former “home” of mine:
Day three in Florida, and still surrounded by the heavy fog of jet lag. My head aches, my eyes are straining to stay open, and I’ve been up since 4am.
It’s been awhile since I’ve experienced this sensation, as I deliberately keep my vacations within a few hours of Shanghai time. Actually, the last time I had to make this 12-hour adjustment was when I moved to Shanghai last summer. And before that, when I moved back from Korea, in 2011. There’s a reason for this.
It’s said that it takes the body about one day per time zone to get over jet lag. This means that if you traveled from, say, New York to California, it would take you as much as three days to get on California’s schedule. If you traveled from, say, China to Florida, it could take up to 12 days. Twelve days, people! Now, I only predict it will take me half of this time (fingers crossed), but regardless, it’s not fun. Luckily, I have my family, the sun, and pancakes.
Prom tickets are for sale, yearbooks are circling the campus, and the students have traded their long pants and tennis shoes for jean shorts and sandals. It’s officially the end of the school year, and I’m counting down the days until I board a plane to Florida.
As a longterm expat, and international school teacher, I look forward to summer for so many reasons. Obviously it’s a chance to get in some much-needed friend time, family time, and pool time, but it’s also a chance to stock up on products that are hard to find (or just ridiculously expensive) on this side of the world.
I’ve lived in quite a few apartments over the years–thirteen to be exact. I’ve lived in studios, junior one-bedrooms, a house, even a sorority house. I’ve rented places in Florida, Washington, D.C., Seoul, and Bogota. So I thought finding a place in Shanghai, especially after living here for a year (in school housing) would be no different. I was wrong.
Shanghai is a bustling city, with a population of 25 million. That’s right, I said 25 million. People come here from all over the world for business, as it’s a global financial center and a major transportation hub. Needless to say, hotels are always booked, and realtors make a pretty decent living. There’s some hefty competition for apartments, though, and they go fast. I learned this the hard way. In fact, I learned a lot of things over the last few weeks–about Shanghai, the housing market, and myself. But don’t worry, I’ll save the lessons on personal growth for a phone call with my mother.
Whenever I travel to a non-English-speaking country, I learn several words before arriving: hello, goodbye, thank you, and delicious. To me, the last is the most important.
Food tells us a story—from the way it tastes to the people who prepare it. It’s a gateway to understanding a culture and its people. And when you tell someone you enjoy their cooking? Well, you’re not only making their day, but opening a window to a whole new world.
People often ask me to name my favorite country, or my favorite vacation. But I can’t. I tell them that asking me to do this is like having me choose between ice cream and chocolate. I like both. I’m going to eat both. So instead of telling you about my top travel experience, I’m going to share my top ten thus far (while enjoying a bowl of ice cream topped with chocolate sauce).