Seattle Summer Sabbatical

I wasn’t homesick for probably the first 6 months I was here. I almost never had FOMO and I had a good balance of keeping in touch and living my own life. Then one day, I woke up and missed everyone and everything and couldn’t stop crying.

giphy-downsized-large.gifIt only lasted the day but mid-crisis, I was ready to book a ticket home. The feeling passed and so did my desire to go home. Then a few weeks later, we found out we had 2 weeks off in June and so I was faced with my normal ‘where am I traveling to this time?’ question. One friend was going to Myanmar, Malaysia & Cambodia and the others were going to Indonesia, and while both sounded really fun, I was pretty tired of traveling at that point. (I’m sure someone rolled their eyes at this. Tired of traveling? I know it’s a privilege, ok? But also, traveling how we travel over here is not the same as vacation. Don’t judge me!) April and May were pretty much back to back trips and what I really wanted to do was lay on a couch and eat tacos. At that point, I realized: Sione, you could go home! You could go lay on a couch and eat tacos! I had many people telling me not to go home because 1) I wouldn’t want to come back and 2) “You could travel!” *cue sarcastic eye roll* Well after a couple of weeks of back and forth, I realized I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I just decided to book the ticket.

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I slowly told most of my friends back home but didn’t tell my parents or my grandma. Leading up to my flight, I couldn’t sleep and I felt so anxious just thinking about surprising my family and being home with everyone. I forced myself to just stop obsessing over it after not sleeping until almost 5AM every night for a week. I was so excited to see everyone, eat whatever I wanted and mainly just be comfortable.

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I started packing 4 days before my flight, which never happens. The day finally came and I sat around all day just waiting and waiting for it to be time to go to the airport. I had an eleven hour layover in Seoul which made for almost 30 hours of traveling but it was worth it as soon as we were flying in and I saw the trees and water and realized I was home! (confession: I teared up…seeing the trees and water…)

Maybe an hour later and I was reunited with my bestie! Riding through the city was a little emotional just because it was so familiar but felt new at the same time (also I had never been driven by her before! Go Nao!). And Seattle is so damn beautiful 😍 Another hour after that I found myself sitting at a table with 10 friends and a plate of tacos. There is nothing like being with people that really get you and know you. Being back, I felt a new appreciation for everything. Like small talk with strangers. Roads that are not congested with traffic. Paved sidewalks. Menus in English.

I decided to surprise my grandma first and seeing her face when I walked in made me so happy. I love her and it’s hard to keep in touch as well with her (age & technology) so it felt really nice to see her in person. After, it was time for the big moment: surprising my mom and Azzeddine. I won’t go into detail but it was emotional and wonderful and I felt immediately lighter being in their arms. Love you guys ❤

I really wanted to spend most of my time home with my family and I did my best not to get caught up and forget that they were my main motivation for coming home. I did, of course, spend some good quality time with my friends/second family also. It was comforting to go home and feel like almost no time had passed, in the sense that our friendships picked up where they left off. It made me happy and proud to see my friends thriving and being such amazing versions of themselves.

One thing I struggled with was that I kept getting asked: “how is Thailand?!”. I would answer honestly, which is that it’s great and I love it but it’s also really hard and I miss a lot of things from home. Well…I feel like my answer kept disappointing people who almost seemed like they wanted to hear, “it is perfect! paradise! every day is a dream!”. Also, it’s really hard to sum up 8 months of life abroad in a simple conversation. I did have a really nice conversation so I want to say thank you Dani for listening and asking me questions about the hard things, since it might be nice to talk about the sweet parts but discussing the parts that cause friction is nice too.

Some things I really missed (besides the people): showering in an enclosed space with a shower curtain, clothes dryers, driving, Mexican food, cooking in a real kitchen, doing dishes in a real sink, driving across the bridge listening to good music, the ease of speaking the dominant language, sitting on the couch, sleeping on the couch, sleeping in my bed, getting ready, putting on makeup, getting dressed up, going out to a place that plays music I like, using a microwave, going grocery shopping, wearing real clothes and being a real person…but the nicest thing? CONVENIENCE. Almost anything you could ever want is within a quick drive/walk away. If you want avocados where I live you have to take the bus, a van and a songtaew to the market that sells them.

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Driving for the first time!

Being in Thailand, I am – for the most part – living my life independent of all of the people and things back home that for most of my life, played big roles in who I am. It’s an odd feeling, knowing that you are becoming a different person with a different life while everything that was apart of your ‘old life’ is still going on, existing, happening without you. Being abroad, you learn things about the world, about other people but most importantly, about yourself. You have the chance to see yourself in a new light and to be whatever type of person you want to be. When I came back from studying abroad in 2012, I was worried about losing the part of me that I had found there. I think the point of every new experience is to discover these parts of ourselves that we didn’t know existed. Then finding ways to nurture and shape these parts into being the best you possible. This might all sound cheesy or cliche but I really feel that Thailand has helped me become happier, more present, less petty, kinder (to myself and others) and more genuine. Well honestly, I was worried about this all going away once I was back home. Spoiler: it didn’t!! Going home gave me the reassurance that the growth I’ve been experiencing isn’t a Thailand thing or a ‘well you’re not home’ thing, but a ME thing. I was able to bring the light and energy I feel here with me and share it with the people I love back home. That is an amazing feeling.

Since being home was so great, about half way through, I started wondering if I would have a hard time leaving. As my last day got closer, I realized that I wasn’t sad to leave. I mean, saying goodbye is always hard but I actually felt really good about going back. I felt proud of how I spent my time at home, and I did everything I wanted to. My biggest goal for going home was to leave feeling rejuvenated, and that was exactly what happened. I feel full again and ready to continue my next 6 months of life abroad. Also, this little teaser of home made me super duper excited to come back in December.
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I’m really grateful to have people who make coming home so great and leaving so hard. I feel lucky to have family & friends who support me in dong what I want to do even if that means leaving. Love you guys 🙂 Until next time, folks!

 

6 Replies to “Seattle Summer Sabbatical”

  1. Sione, I thoroughly LOVED this installment of your travels! Comparing the things that I take for granted here, like buying avocados, with the all day excursion to accomplish the same thing for you there, really helped me understand more about your adventures. It’s not all a bed of roses anywhere, and I admire your spirit, your spunk, and your flexibility. You are a real treasure, and I love you and your family for being in my life and for so generously sharing your experiences. XXXOOO Grand Aunt Nancy ..

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    1. Thank you Nancy!! I am grateful you are in my life too! Hope all is well for you 🙂 Love, your Grand Niece (?) Sione!

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  2. What a beautiful, thoughtful post sweetheart! It’s so cool to see the wonderful changes and growth in you. Thank you for your surprise! I really loved having you home for a bit and hope this next 6 months will be filled with as much adventure as the first 6. Love, love, love, Mom.

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  3. Awww I literally couldn’t stop reading this until the very end. And hearing your voice in my head as I read it ❤️❤️❤️ You’ve grown so much!! I’m envious of how mature and self-aware you are of the things changing in your life. Inspired to do the same (: love you!!

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