Going Home

Originally I left without a hard end date in mind. I had a general game plan and that was just to keep going westward until I made my way around the world and back home, but I didn’t seriously think about when I was going to get home until about 4 months into my trip. It was January 2019, the new year had just turned and the question of ‘when should I go home’ really took over my thoughts and I wrestled with the question daily before I went to bed. I thought I came to a satisfying conclusion and even wrote a blog post about it here but that changed.

I was stuck in a state of indecision back then. I didn’t feel like I was ready to go home but I was getting tired and didn’t know how long I could continue and enjoy traveling for. I was flailing internally looking for answers. I tried to think about what the rest of my trip could look like by researching when the best times to go to various countries were and sticking them into a loose calender. I ended up with a plan that would extend my trip until the end of 2019. That felt completely overwhelming.

How I felt trying to take on the whole world.

I tried to set clear goals and destinations for my travels hoping that would inspire some direction in myself. I looked into a small expedition trip to Antarctica that would take place in November 2019 from the bottom tip of Argentina. I thought if I did that, it would give me a nice ending to my trip. I would spend most of 2019 visiting a couple countries on every human inhabited continent, culminating at the bottom of South America, where I would wrap my trip up with an excursion to the last continent: Antarctica. At the end I would have visited every continent on Earth. That sounded poetic to me, it also sounded overwhelming.

I also realized was that I had gotten used to living on the road, and the thought of stopping and going home was nearly as scary as it was leaving home to go on this big trip abroad. Both of them are HUGE changes in lifestyle, so I was hesitant to think about going home.

I stayed in this state of uncertainty for about a month. During that time I wrapped up my time in Japan and headed to China before the Chinese New Year rush.

This is a random street in my old hometown of Shijiazhuang, China. It's very different from what it was when I was a little kid.

I spent the first few weeks of my time in China with my relatives in Shijiazhuang because Chinese New Year was coming up and I wanted to be with family during that time. I hadn’t experienced Chinese New Year since I was 6 years old since my parents and I don’t really celebrate it in the US. I also coincidentally caught my cousin’s wedding during this time. Originally I hoping for some time to slow down and digest my trip thus far and think ahead but between the wedding, Chinese New Year, and bouncing from one relative’s house to another, I didn’t get much time to think and sort out my thoughts regarding the next leg of my trip.

I knew I needed to slow down so I don’t burn myself out and properly figure out how long I wanted to be abroad. So after I left my relatives, I headed to Shanghai and booked a month-long stay. I wanted to have a home base where I could get in the right mind space to think and plan, instead of having to constantly move around and worry about where I’m staying every couple of days.

The weirdly empty streets of Shanghai while everybody was still away for Chinese New Year.

It ended up being exactly what I needed, the weather was terrible, rainy and windy and cold. The city was strangely empty since most people were still on the tail end of the CNY vacation. But it was the perfect environment for me to stop, digest my trip so far and think about what I wanted to do going forward.

Here are some of the conclusions I ended up with after a week of mulling things over, looking back on my trip so far and looking forward to what I want next:

  • When I start thinking about what I want to do when I go home, I get really excited and I can’t wait to go back and build my life with all the new perspectives and things I’ve learned around the world.

  • I’m super happy with my time abroad so far. There hasn’t been a single day that I’ve regretted or felt like I’ve wasted. I’m beyond proud of what I’ve done and after nearly 6 months, I still feel like I’m dreaming because I went and embarked on this trip that I’ve been thinking about for years.

  • I feel like I’ve gotten what I wanted out of this trip: I’ve gained so much more perspective on my own life and on the world. I’ve experience and learned about so many different cultures first hand, I’ve witnessed so many human moments on this trip from all different walks of life. I’ve got stories to last me a lifetime. I’ve made friends around the world. I really feel like a world citizen and I’ve learned how to make nearly any place feel like home. I don’t need anything more, there’s nothing more I want to see and experience by myself right now.

  • There’s too much I want to share and too often nobody to share it with. During solo travel you have unlimited freedom to explore and discover, but it’s a blessing and a curse. When you inevitably discover something really amazing or beautiful, you don’t have anybody to share that with. The best you can do is post a picture to instagram, however it does not come close to sharing those moments or views in person, and some things are simply too special and beautiful to defile by sacrificing it to one of Mark Zuckerberg’s spawns for likes.

  • There’s one moment that really hammered this in for me. I was staying in a town by a lake directly north of Mt. Fuji in Japan. I was walking around the lake in the late afternoon and right during sunset I found a little rock protrusion, jutting out into the lake, slightly hidden by some rocks and trees. There was nobody around because it was getting dark soon, it was cold, and most people don’t visit this town during the middle of winter. However it was the perfect place to sit and watch the sunset over Mt. Fuji. The sky was clear and had taken on a soft gradient going from orange to blue to purple. The lake was crisp and calm, and the whole unobstructed view of the picturesque Mount Fuji, veiled by it’s deep snow cap, dominated the landscape between the lake and the sky. I sat on that little rock outcrop jutting out into the lake, looking at the mountain until it got dark. That was one of those beautiful, peaceful and perfect moments that inevitably gets etched into your brain forever. However the only sad part about it was that I was the only person witnessing that moment in time. It was way too beautiful to experience alone.

  • Solo travel takes a lot of energy and I’m running low. There’s nobody else to help you plan your trip, you can’t just follow along, everything you do you have to go plan and figure out. I enjoy it immensely but it’s tiring and I have my limits. Also putting in the effort to be social and make new friends every week gets exhausting, and what’s even more exhausting are the goodbyes afterwards when you do make a friend.

So with those conclusions, I think I’m headed back home at the end of my month-stay in Shanghai. I’m happy and ready, and as a cherry on top, a direct flight from here to LAX is just $175 on the date I would be checking out!

Starred are all the places I visited. Looks like this is going to end up as my Asia/Oceania journey instead of my around the world trip.

I can’t wait to share more of the stories, photos, learnings and experiences from what will end up being my 6 months solo trip abroad, I haven’t had the chance to write about everything here yet but like I mentioned above, I feel like I’ve got stories for a lifetime! I’ve chronicled it all as it happened in my daily journal so I won’t forget a single day on this amazing trip and I’ll be writing about them well after I get home, as well as about my adventures and what’s next for me back in Southern California. I don’t see this as my trip ‘ending’ just that my next stop will be Southern California instead of Tanzania!

Writing this from Shanghai, China. It’s currently pouring outside, the weather has been terrible for a week and will be for the rest the month, but I couldn’t be happier to be here.