I love my native California, but sometimes it’s hard not to view it as a caricature of itself. Take the latest supermarket offering: hemp milk. Yes, it’s actually made from cannabis plants, but – as the manufacturers hasten to assure us – it contains only trace amounts of THC, the element that gets you high when you smoke the leaves. It’s rich in all sorts of nutrients, but I suspect a lot of old hippies are buying hemp milk more for the nostalgia value than the omega-3 fatty acids. They may not smoke pot any more, but they can get a kick from pouring it over their granola.
Rich and I were the only people who seemed gobsmacked by the presence of a cannabis-based beverage on the supermarket’s shelves. And I reflected, not for the first time, that while one of the benefits of returning from a trip is seeing familiar places with fresh eyes, the downside is that you can have a disorienting sense of being out of step with those around you. Worse, you can feel out of step with yourself. If being on the road leaves you discombobulated, don't worry, you can take these simple steps to start getting recombobulated.
1. Unpack your bags – physically and mentally. Seeing your clothes and gear come out of your suitcase and get distributed around a house is a powerful signal to your psyche that you’re here to stay awhile. I learned this from my dog; when we traveled and left her with friends, the moment Pie saw her possessions (blanket, bowl, chew toy) in a new place, she settled right down.
2. Go food shopping. Nothing is quite as grounding as purchasing milk, cereal, and bananas. Buy things you’ve missed during your travels. (Granola cookies and hemp milk, anyone?)
3. Take a walk. Strolling past well-known places really helps you reconnect. Arriving in San Anselmo, Rich and I visit our favorite coffee house, then head to the town’s new park, where I greet the statues of Indiana Jones and Yoda while Rich relaxes to the soothing sounds of the fountain.
4. Read the local newspaper. It’s the little stories that remind me why I love this quirky place. There was the one about a man reporting his wife’s jewelry being stolen – years after it had gone missing; suspicious loitering that turned out to be firefighters answering a call; and a woman insisting that her house was sweltering because a neighbor was filling it with hot air (it was July). Yes, that’s my town!
5. Visit the public library and the local bookstore. I love my Kindle, but to me, few sights say “home sweet home” like a stack of books on my bedside table.
6. Get back into your routine. As soon as I’m back, I start writing every morning and doing yoga three times a week. Rich is currently taking ukulele lessons; I think he’s planning to spearhead a trend in flamenco ukulele.
7. Get together with friends and family. A few hours of gossip about the latest dramas will make you feel as if you never left at all.
If you’re suffering from “soul delay,” as speculative fiction writer William Gibson calls it, these simple acts can help your soul (and your psyche, mind, and heart) catch up with your physical body’s new location. They’re gentle, powerful reminders that you have arrived in a place where you belong, and it's time to hang up your hat, kick off your boots, and make yourself at home.
Do you have any special tricks that help with re-entry? I’d love to hear about them!
Many thanks to Robin Killoran, who wrote last week about the Milwaukee airport’s “Recombobulation Area” sign just past security, and to John Baxter for talking about author William Gibson, who coined the term “soul delay.” Your comments helped inspire and enliven this week's post.
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I'm an American travel writer living in Seville, Spain. I travel the world seeking eccentric people, quirky places, and outrageously delicious food so I can have the fun of writing about them here.
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Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
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