Before I moved to Europe, I had a rhythm of life I had settled into and enjoyed. Then I abandoned that for adventure, and I found a new rhythm to enjoy as I explored and grew and learned and experienced. Then there was a whirlwhind chain of events from November to June which saw me move from one continent to another, holiday in a third, then photograph the most staggering motorsport event I’ve been to yet, and now I feel like a drummer who’s just sitting down staring at a drumset with no sticks.
The decision to come back was based mostly in the economics of the situation. In the end I felt I had made enough of my time there, and although I could have done more, it wouldn’t be worth the pay cut to stay on a local contract. Although I could have easily filled another year or three, I had done most of what I really wanted to do.
There was a lot to love about it, and my location in particular. London was an easy weekend trip, the Ardennes forest made for excellent day trips, and there was more racing than I could handle. Every little town felt like it had a rich history and character, there was a substantial and pleasant cycling infrastructure, and natural and man-made wonders alike abounded within driving distance. I had my share of adventure.
But underlining it all was a kind of constant mental pressure from being in a foreign environment. Not just the language, but the systems and products and attitudes of varying degrees of different (for better and worse) from what I had spent nearly 30 years acquainting myself with, (mostly the worse ones) constantly reminding me, “you don’t belong here.” (Having both my cars broken into in six months didn’t help either.)
So although there certainly could have been more to see and do, I elected to return. But coming back to the US hasn’t felt as much like a return home as I expected. Sure I can go get decent barbecue any time I want now, but I’ve ended up in an unfamiliar (and temporary) location and environment. That was probably a mistake on my part. I’m not big on city living, but here I am in a city, still dealing with a slightly alien culture. More familiar than Europe, but also more alien than it would have been three years ago. It was even a bit strange at first to hear people speaking English on the street again.
There were many things I fully embraced about my daily life in Europe that now make life in the US feel…suboptimal. From listed prices ending in a zero and including sales tax, to cheap & accessible train travel (plus the things mentioned above), there was a lot to like about their way of doing things. Things that were just good ideas which, now that I experienced them, make the US seem dumber for not having.
Thus I find myself feeling a bit lost in the world, despite allegedly being back “home,” after failing to feel fully at home in Europe. My mind is stuck between worlds, wanting to smash together the best aspects of both and create some kind of personal utopia, but forced to settle for what I can find at hand.
This is not at all to say living in Europe was a regrettable experience! It was worth all the time and effort I spent on it. It’s expanded my mind and enhanced my perspective on so many things, in addition to all the incredible experiences I had. And whether or not this feeling of displacement passes as I settle into a more familiar and permanent environment than where I am right at this moment, I think the biggest lesson I’m taking away from all this is: Keep Exploring. Stop putting off those trips you “always wanted to take.” Go see Montana. There is too much out there to sit still. If I’m going to be lost in the world, I might as well see it too.