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Being Back – The Big Adjustment

by Gail Mooney
September 15 2010

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been back two weeks already.  The time has flown by – a long holiday weekend, an ASMP Board meeting in Philadelphia (American Society of Media Photographers), and starting the daunting task of editing this film.  I guess it’s been good to be busy, pushing me right back into things – kind of like jumping into the ocean rather than going in gradually.  But on the other hand, I haven’t taken the proper time to reflect back on our 99-day journey or to sort out and digest the culture shock of being back.

1.   I miss my daughter.

Erin and Gail, Taj Mahal, Agra, India

We created a close bond during our journey and I feel like I’m going through withdrawal.  We were together 24/7 for the last 3 months – we were either going to become very close or come back never wanting to talk to each other again.  We connected with each other on this trip on many levels, working together, living together, sleeping together and having hundreds of wonderful conversations.  I really miss that.
2.    Reality check.  All the little (and big) things and issues that didn’t get resolved prior to the trip are still there, waiting for my attention.  Everything from computer issues, to driver license renewal to other tasks that had been put on the back burner.
3.    Culture shock.  It’s jarring when you first return to the U.S. after being in third world countries. We are a culture of a lot of excess and abundance and we tend to lose sight of that.  I am much more grateful for what I have and what I really need after these travels. I have a much clearer perspective about what’s really important – and what’s not. The other day, workers started jack hammering on a bridge that was being repaired at the end of my street. It was very early in the morning and for an instant I thought – “I should call someone about them starting so early” and then I thought how petty – I’m already up and it’s no big deal in the scheme of things compared to open sewage running through an orphanage, that we witnessed in Nepal.
4.    TV is too much.  Watching TV is a real eye opener.  Hundreds of channels to choose from loaded with pundits and experts and the shock and awe of reality shows.  Where did all these “experts” come from?  Were they always there or did we invent them to fill the content for 300 channels?  I can’t watch more than 5 minutes of the “news” – what happened to journalism?
5.   Re-connecting.  Resuming relationships with my husband, my friends, my colleagues.  With social media, I felt like I was pretty much always connected but since I’ve been back I’ve felt more disconnected in a way.  People are busy with their own lives and it’s tough sometimes to get real time with people these days.  Social media is one thing but it will never replace a face to face.  It has become more apparent to me how we all live our lives caught up in such a rush – to get to the next day or the next event or whatever, rarely making time for the simple little things in life like just visiting with a friend. We all seem to be so “tuned in” and connected  but are we?

I’m off to start my day, which will be devoted to editing this film.  It will be a necessary and good distraction from the reality of being back.

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0 Responses

  1. I’ve enjoyed vicariously following your trip over my morning coffee and remembering many of the details of the same places I’ve traveled. Although I haven’t commented on your previous posts, your challenge of dealing with culture shock is an issue I’ve always wanted to explore further.

    It’s interesting how travelers and journalists can immerse ourselves into another culture within a few days, but when returning home I always struggle against re-adjusting so quickly. Although I love where I live, my work, and close friends & family, I don’t want to re-adjust to the rat race so quickly and lose the lessons I find through these explorations. It’s so difficult to hold onto those perspectives on a daily basis, I guess it is one of my driving forces to travel and photograph, to capture and remember these experiences. I too miss the truths of travel: daily connections with people, the slower pace, and the ability to give 100% attention to a project I’m passionate about without the constantly being bombarded with endless distractions that seem so necessary to multi-task. I’d like to be able to keep a balanced perspective after being home awhile, a bridge between both worlds – and would be interested in any ways you find to accomplish this.

    • I think the key is to incorporate the “good” things learned on the road into a “new norm” as far as daily life here in the U.S. As for myself, I find myself prioritizing what I choose to spend my time on – what’s important to me and not so much what others may dictate that is important. Perhaps because of the nature of my travels – meeting and spending time with passionate people who are creating positive change in the world – as opposed to just traveling and exploring the sites – I’m seeing the priorities sort themselves out organically. With the ease of communication these days, I hope to stay in contact with these inspirational people and stay connected which in its own way will help bridge those worlds.

  2. Welcome back — safely. Can’t wait to see the edited fim of your journey.

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