My favorite part of traveling is coming home.
I tried to think of a way to explain this without sounding like a boring and ethnocentric ass, but it’ll be easier to just tell the truth.
I like America, a lot. Not in an overly patriotic “God Bless America” kind of way (I’m pretty sure millennials aren’t allowed to think like that) but in a lifestyle kind of way. It’s the little things that make me defend my nation to naysayers (who are, by the way, often American): 24/7 grocery stores, air conditioning, big cups of coffee, etc. Nothing idealistic or political, just the things that make my life as I know it easier and more comfortable. Do I think America is the best country on earth? No, of course not. Do I think it’s the best country for me, a happy American? Yes, I do.
A big part of this is the familiarity of it all. The longest I’ve ever been away is about five months, when I studied abroad during college. On the way home, as the plane descended over New Jersey’s coast, the nice British couple next to me looked out the window with the curiosity and interest of outsiders. From my aisle seat, I craned my neck eagerly, trying to see as well. I could feel my face forming a stupid smile as I looked out at something I had seen literally thousands of times before. There was no novelty here: my excitement was caused by the utter familiarity. There is was, finally, after all this time. My ocean, my sand, my city.
Also, as much as I’d like to be one of those super interesting and edgy people, I’ll hesitantly admit that I have a nice, comfortable, relatively quiet life, that I won’t soon part with. I travel to new places as a discipline. It’s good for me to break the routine of my quiet life, to be a little uncomfortable and unstable, and to try new things. I do “adventurous” things because I love my routine, not in spite of it.
And of course, most importantly, home is where community is. I have roots 20+ years deep and a network of people I cherish. Most of them are in basically the same place, for which I’m very thankful. I could go on about this for hours, from dozens of angles and with even more anecdotes. I’ll spare you, except for this: I recently had a conversation with a friend about the importance of tangible community in the intellectual and spiritual life. I came away from that with a fresh realization of how important community is for, if nothing else, ideas. I’ve learned more around dinner tables and in the office than from any book, article, or Facebook post. It’s so important to have people physically sitting across from me who, upon hearing some unedited thought of mine, will say things like “yes, and also…” or “wait, but what about…” None of the ideas you’ll find on this website were formed alone in a vacuum. Maybe I should start adding a credits section to the bottom of each blog post. Would that be weird?
These are the reasons why the customs line at Philly International is so dear to my heart. No matter how many times my passport gets stamped elsewhere, I’ll always come home.
[Credits go to: the Atlantic Ocean, Philadelphia International Airport, and Danielle Harris, whose wedding provided me the opportunity to have the aforementioned conversation.]