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Gestating Our Journey: Re-entry After a Year of Traveling

I guess it should be no surprise that I didn’t do a single post in October. Yes, it was a busy month, but I think it had more to do with how I was holding the trip last month. In many ways, I wasn’t. Re-entry took precedence over gestation. There is a difference.

We’ve been home now just over three months. And while I jokingly answered the question, “so do you feel like you’ve settled in?” with the somewhat crass and somewhat realistic answer, “no, I’m giving myself a year,” in practice, October was when I settled “back” in. It took two months. In the first two months back, the texture and flavor of the trip stayed close by in memory, thought and action. Unfortunately, in October, I lost much of that. We had a birthday, a death, a wedding and the Walk. I re-entered graduate school, fully. The boys rejoined activities, school, and tutoring. I added a part-time job called “exploring high school options for next year” (it feels like a huge task!). And, I jumped back into my work taking on a doula client, adding classes and building my website. Yes, the trip faded further and further into the backdrop as “something we did last year.”

But, November is bringing aspects of the trip back to the surface and I welcome the visitor. Yesterday, we had brunch with another family we met on the road, also from Los Angeles and also traveling the world for a year. Our trips overlapped one day in Paris even though our overall itineraries were quite similar. Before they arrived for brunch, I asked Brent what was sticking with him from the trip, anticipating the kinds of questions I would want to ask of our fellow travelers. Asking the question to ourselves as well as connecting again with our “kindred spirits of the road,” brought our journey back to life.

It’s not that I want to always be living in the shadow of “our trip.” It’s more that I want to consciously integrate and grow from the experience. I do not want to simply “settle back in” as if nothing has happened and I/we haven’t changed. If that were true, what would the point BE of doing a year away? For me, integration and growth are primary. There was a way that October was both settled, but also somewhat asleep. There is, actually, no way that our journey can go completely underground as it lives in my flesh now, but like a practice done every morning for a year that is then skipped, the ritual of it was missed. The effects of it were there, but the practice of noticing them had gone silent.

November already feels different. We touched our trip yesterday with our friends. We felt it last night as we all cuddled on the couch watching John Adams until it was well past bedtime. It was alive in our house this morning as Brent and I practiced Ashtanga while the boys puttered around making food, being silly and totally together. And then we went out to breakfast, ordered coffees and played cards.

It is not these particular activities that bring the experience to life, but the emotional quality of family and lack of routine that infuses our spirit with something…different.

Maybe for other people, those moments would be commonplace. For us, they require a certain amount of conscious effort. Not because we don’t desire them, but because life in LA has other plans for us. Take this past weekend for example. One of my boys was gone all weekend due to a birthday sleepover party and a long desired night with his grandma. We had no such conflicting plans for a year. No one needed anything of us. This fact alone was a huge difference to life here. Saying no is a practice and one that does not come easily for us nor receiving it easy for those around us. Every weekend could be like this past one. I don’t think it is any coincidence that today, a holiday, we felt so free to be in trip mode. Today was not a weekend. Today, like our trip, fit nicely into liminal space, space that is neither normal nor sacred. Totally ours.

In fact, as I reflect today on what was different about our time on the trip it can be summed up as that, liminal…it was neither this nor that, but other.

Pregnancy is like that too. It is neither the time of being without children nor is it like full parenthood. You could say that we were pregnant for the year we were away. We are still birthing ourselves as new beings every day. And like it often is with newborns, the first three months were altered and other.

Perhaps now, as we enter our fourth month home, I will actually begin to feel how my new skin is shaped and shaded rather than only feeling its newness. Perhaps now, I will be able to step into the liminal space that feeds me so deeply when I desire it and with consciousness. Perhaps now, I can move forward knowing that the changes gestating during the trip have been born and I am transformed with or without awareness of these shifted parts of Self.

I am back. But I am not back to normal. I no longer know what that is. I am settled in. But I am not settling.

I am altered forever and I am grateful.

~Britta

P.S. It is my guess that this blog will become less and less about our trip, re-entry and family travel in general. I plan to still blog, but more of the content will be about my journey with dissertation writing, birth work, and of course family living. Sharing with you all in this way has been a huge privilege and joy. Thank you for following along.

About Dr. Britta Bushnell

is a writer, teacher, storyteller, and mentor who blends her eclectic training, years of experience, and areas of study into a unique offering for individuals, couples, professionals, and groups. Britta is currently deep at work writing her forthcoming book, Transformed by Birth: Illuminating cultural ideals to enhance the experience of childbirth.

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