I sat up in bed with a start, my heart racing. It was still dark outside and my brain was halfway between a strange dream about London that I was having and reality. For several seconds, I actually had no idea where I was, until I realized…

I am home in Lexington, Kentucky, USA!

What a strange feeling, in more ways than one. Honestly, for a moment, I had a small panic wondering how I got from my friend’s couch in London to some strange bed. This was just a small manifestation of the continual reverse-culture shock that seems to be building inside of me.

I have spent the last two days unpacking, fighting a nasty cough, and going through my mail. I think a small forest was put to death while I was gone, just so that I could invest hours going through it and discarding useless credit card offers and adverts upon my return. Aside from mail, there are the usual tasks of getting my vehicle ready for the road again, making phone calls, and eating things that I missed until my esophagus is ready to tie a knot in itself just so I’ll stop.

I have to admit, sleeping underneath a mozzie net does have a certain romantic, 3rd-world-country appeal which I love. However, it was kind of nice to fall asleep last night without having to worry about clipping it shut properly. My feet are such an infected mess right now, I dont think that I could sustain one more bite from anything without loosing a leg! It is misery putting on socks and shoes rather than my flip-flops, for more reasons than one.

After rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I stood in front of my closet for nearly 45 minutes trying to decide what to wear. After having gone so long with only 2 or 3 choices for shirts and wearing swim shorts, it was a bit overwhelming! I have no instinct for fashion after going a full month in the islands where I would wear a shirt only on special occasions (when eating dinner). God knows what people thought about my get-up once I got the courage to leave the house.

It also felt strange, but nice, to be back driving something with more than just two wheels. Much to the horror of my fellow drivers, I had to remind myself to keep it on the right side of the road here a couple of times and also that pedestrians have the legal right of way and are not ready to scurry like roaches just because I use the throttle. Driving here is so different than Asia….there are speed limits, real cops, and sidewalks are definitely off limits. The fun kind of came to an end though when I had to fill up on gas and realized that petrol doesn’t come in one-liter bottles here…! In Thailand, the scooters don’t drink much, so you can pick up a liter of fuel with your groceries at a small mart. Here, it takes 15 minutes to pump the endless stream into my thirsty V8 and a credit card to pay for it!

Despite the other perils of driving again, it was nice to actually choose my own music…and NO, it was not Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, or Trance/electronica.

I have a strange and very personal ritual that I always perform after coming home from a long trip. Actually, there are several, but this one is bizarre enough to share. (and maybe someone can relate)

I drive to Fayette Mall, the largest shopping mall in my area, which is an enormous concrete labyrinth filled with everything and anything that people don’t really need. I walked around like a brain-starved zombie for hours, just watching people go about their daily lives, and smelling the rampant Christmas capitalism. A Santa sat in the middle of the place taking requests from spoiled kids who didn’t realize that he was really a balding, middle-aged guy that couldn’t grow a real beard and had a bad job. Maybe he was a vagabond as well in his earlier years? 🙂

I was literally in a daze. The place was bursting with people either spending money, taking money, or working to make money. Some people had more bags than fingers to hook them on, and I am guessing that many a credit card banker was smiling as well. No doubt, somewhere the retail CEO’s and Satan were smoking cigars and laughing it up together.

When I walked up to the automatic door, it just blinked a red light at me and did not open. Was my chi here so cold that it didn’t recognize me as human? I stood staring at the door, neither of us willing to budge, and tried to will it to open. A woman wearing a gray suit walked up next to me in a hurry and the door obediently opened for us. She gave me a strange look as if she were looking at a ghost and continued on to whatever urgent mission she was on. On any other day, this would have seemed entirely strange, but today I just shrugged and walked in behind her.

This visit was my reference point that I need to appreciate life in the field more, and wow – it worked! I just wanted to grab the nearest random stranger, shake her until she dropped her bags, and say “I just studied Shaolin Kung Fu in China!” or “I just learned to free-dive in the Andaman Sea…and you could do it too!” Lucky for me, and the overweight security guard that kept eyeballing me, I restrained myself and said nothing.

To bring the experience to an end, I went to a large bookstore nearby that I bum around way too much. I paid $3 for a green-tea (which would have been free at Mama-Naxi’s in China) and proceeded directly to the travel book section…which was filled with Lonely Planets and Rough Guides for every place you could imagine visiting. For nearly two hours I drank my tea, and slobbered over the books as I dreamed of visiting the countries. It was exactly what I needed to keep my head in the clouds.

Maybe being home isn’t so bad after all. 🙂