While we were out on the road, people often told us that some day we'd have to come back to the real world. The thing is, we never left it. Traveling by bicycle is anything but an endless hay-day; we have daily chores to do, finances to budget and balance, days of boredom, days of no motivation and days when we have more to do than is feasibly possible in 24 hours. It was simply a different world and just as it took some time to figure out how to live while in constant motion, it also took a while to adjust back to the lifestyle that we once considered normal.
Things were overwhelming at first and suddenly the quiet, simple existence which we had been living for over a year seemed very far away. The peaceful country roads that we called home were replaced with bustling freeways, honking horns, vehicles everywhere and no escape. The days of solitude where the only people we had to talk to were each other, where we were free to watch the landscape pass by at a snail's pace without ever speaking a word at all while lost in our own thoughts were replaced by people. People everywhere. People wanting to know how our trip was (but I have to ask in return, is anyone able to sum up their last 15 months in a few sentences?) and people wanting to schedule a time to see us. I cannot hold it against them, as I would do the exact same thing if I had a friend who had been away for that long and though it was a bit exhausting, it was wonderful to see our friends again. The nights of drifting off to sleep to the sounds of a rushing river, the wind flapping the fabric of our shelter or the rain pitter-pattering on our tent was replaced by whistling trains, rumbling planes and passing cars. The only familiar sound that carried over was Mike's snoring which is anything but peaceful. The constant commotion and clutter enveloped us the instant we landed in San Francisco and sent me into a desperate desire to become a hermit. I don't think I'd make a very good hermit but during those first few days I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and return to the quiet, zen-like existence I had come to love.
In retrospect, our first couple of weeks back in the States were really quite comical. Mike's Mom took us to the grocery store to pick out some food we wanted to have at the house. We gathered the items we needed for dinner and were ready to go when Ruth reminded us that we now have a refrigerator, don't have to carry everything on our bikes and could therefore get enough food for a few days rather than a single meal.
On our second day back, Mike and I went out to run some errands and were startled when we could understand what everyone around us was saying. It had been one year since we had been in an English-speaking country and I had grown to love the fact that I couldn't understand what people were saying. It meant that I didn't have to listen to parents pleading with their children to get them to cooperate, teenagers talking about the upcoming weekend's party or people's one-sided conversations on their cell phones because I didn't care, or want to hear, any of it anyway. Everywhere else in the world it was white noise that I could completely tune out, now if I could only figure out how to do that with English. As we approached the checkout counter and, as we have become accustomed to doing every time we wanted to talk to someone, I began saying, “Do you speak English?” before I realized everybody here understands us and we no longer have to preface every conversation with that question.
When we got home, we each dug out a box of our clothes since we left most of what we had with us in a trash can in Denmark. As you've seen in our pictures, we each really only wore one shirt; Mike a bright orange one and me bright pink. While we were shopping we separated to each go grab a few things. I found what I needed and then began looking for Mike. I scanned the entire store for his orange shirt but couldn't spot him anywhere and it wasn't until he was literally a foot in front of my face that I did a double-take and finally recognized him.
Driving was another thing that caught me off guard. I used to be somewhat of a lead-foot but apparently I've turned in to a Granny Driver. While cruising down the freeway feeling like I was moving outrageously fast, I noticed that everyone around me was going considerably faster. I looked down at the speedometer to find that I was only going 50 mph. I guess I've come to love life in the slow lane.
Those were just a few of the culture-shock scenarios from our return that made us laugh. Now that we've been home for a month, we finally feel a little less alien and a little more human. We've realized that not a whole lot has changed in our absence; everyone's still over scheduled and works too much, Americans are still powered by obscene amounts of coffee, the newspapers are still full of depressing stories and the pop radio stations still play the same 7 songs over and over all day long, of which we didn't recognize any, but were disgustingly sick of them after a mere 2 hours of listening. As for us, we've once again settled in to the luxuries of sleeping in a bed, showering regularly and wearing clean clothes, though in my opinion, those things aren't all they're hyped up to be. I didn't mind the alternatives and in fact I kind of liked them.
I know I haven't updated the blog as often as I said I would but we've actually been quite busy. We seem to have transitioned from bike tourists to home improvement specialists as Mike's repaired his parent's fence and done some major renovations on his family's cabin while I've been working on my parent's property in Minnesota and helping build a shed at their cabin. Between projects Mike's been to Las Vegas for a Bachelor Party and I've been head over heels for my new niece, Amelia, who was born while we were in Europe, the 2 of us already discussing plans for her future as a cyclist as well as her first bike, which she'll likely have before she can walk.
Mike's cabin project.
Cari and Merry putting the roof on the shed.