I’ve been home over a month now and I finally understand what it means to experience reverse culture shock.
My awareness of being in the United States is heightened. Every time I see an American flag zoom by on a subway car, I feel like I’ve been slapped across the face. The food tastes fake and processed, the water is at risk of becoming contaminated, and the republican presidential candidate says things like “binders full of women.” How did I end up back here in this batshit crazy country?
How did I end up back here in this batshit crazy country?
Then again, this is my home. I am an American, but what’s closer to my heart is that I’m a New Yorker. New York is still New York. The steam of greasy pizza still wafts off paper plates on the street, women dressed in black still whine loudly on their I-phones, men in fitted caps and baggy jeans still shamelessly cat-call scantily clad underage girls. I notice these things around me and being home feels predictably familiar.
What’s actually more of a shock than the culture is the personal experience of suddenly not being in travel-mode anymore. I think I’m in denial about this. Last week I didn’t sleep at home once, and not in the same place for more than two nights. I bounced around the city with a backpack between my sister’s and friends’ places, only stopping into my parent’s to eat for free. I’m still high on the adrenaline of a nomadic lifestyle. I’m afraid if I spend too much time at home and get stuck in a monotonous routine, I’ll come crashing down hard.
I’m still high on the adrenaline of a nomadic lifestyle.
I want to be traveling long-term again, as soon as possible. I’m starting to save up some money, but I’m still too broke to get outside the tri-state area.
Meanwhile, I’m taking any opportunities I can to trick my ego into thinking I’m traveling– from one-hour subway rides to Harlem to visit my good friend, Andrew Kaminski, to two-hour charter bus trips to my college town, New Paltz, NY.
This past weekend I rode the MetroNorth up to Millerton, NY. A friend of mine from college lives out there and he offered to treat me to the train ticket, a place to sleep, food to eat, and fancy lattes at the cafe where he works.
When he offered, I hesitated at first. I just spent four months accepting generous offers of free food and accommodation in Australia and Thailand. The whole time I traveled, people were constantly taking care of me. Because I was a traveler, I felt comfortable accepting their gifts and I’m still incredibly grateful for all the kindness I received. Now that I’m home, it feels like it’s time to give back more than receive.
Now that I’m home, it feels like it’s time to give back more than receive.
Every time I see a young person with an oversized backpack, furrowing a brow behind a crisp map of NYC, my heart swells with the longing to help them. I’m starting to meet up with Couchsurfers and show them around New York, but I’m not sure what else I can do. Any ideas on how else to redeem my traveler’s karma?
My hesitation didn’t last long. I’m too addicted to travel to turn down a free trip anywhere!
Millerton, NY was lovely. It reminded me how much I adore upstate NY towns.
If you’re a traveler planning to visit New York City, I urge you to leave the city and visit a small town.
If you’re a New Yorker who hasn’t left the city in god-knows how long, I urge you just the same. Even if it’s only for a day, getting out of the city can do wonders for your mind, not to mention your lungs.
In Millerton or similar places you’ll find a small, charming Main Street sprinkled with local businesses; a cozy coffee shop here, a musky antique shop there, a bookstore with creaky floorboards. It’s warm and fuzzy.
My friend and I spent the weekend hanging in his cafe, enjoying picturesque foliage on a beautiful rail trail, cooking curry and drinking red wine.
The best thing about this kind of town is the feeling of community. Everyone knows each other, smiles a lot and stops to say hello. As a visitor, I was warmly welcomed to Millerton by everyone I met. People actually remembered my name when I ran into them after first meeting. My favorite places in Australia and Thailand had the same vibe. It may sound idealistic, but I really want to bring more of this culture to New York City.
Weekend trips out of NYC are not quite the adventurous long-term travel I want to be doing soon, but in the meantime, they help me ease back into U.S. culture and provide a temporary fix for my travel addiction. I’ll be taking them every weekend and blogging about it.
Do you have any suggestions for budget-friendly weekend trips out of New York City?
How do you deal with reverse culture shock?
Are you addicted to traveling, too? Tell me about it 🙂