198 days

Tomorrow I begin my journey back to the States. I’ll fly from Málaga to London to New York and stop in Myrtle Beach for a few days with family before settling into my Michigan home.

198 days of life on the road have left me feeling full and forever wanting more. Six months have passed like six days and the seconds have sprinted away in heats of hello’s and goodbye’s.

Tomorrow I will not sink my toes into Spanish sand or swim naked in any salty sea. I won’t eat breakfast on an open terrace, volunteer in a foreign establishment, walk along the beach, or pass the days with friends I’ve met along the way.

Things will change, although I’m not entirely sure how. This isn’t a bad thing.

I’ll cry as my plane takes off—as the wheels leave the runway—and carries me through the clouds, across the Atlantic, to another continent. I’ll savor my last moments abroad and in the air by looking out the window at the blue sky blanketing both worlds, and I will feel at home there, suspended somewhere between Spain and the States.

Or perhaps, as I’m flying, I will feel totally lost, fall into a restless sleep and dream myself a pair of long, elastic, green Gumby legs that straddle the Atlantic, so one foot is always in each place I’ve come to call home.

In either case, I’ll cry when I land.

I’ll greet the first person I see in Spanish because speaking the language has become normal for me and I’ll be shocked when I hear English in return. I’ll want to give two kisses, one on each cheek, and a hug with every verbal greeting but I’ll be pushed away and scolded by the majority of Americans for trying. For the next few moments, I won’t know where I am, how I’ve arrived there, or what will happen next. I will move slowly.

Standing on American soil will further confirm that I am no longer physically with the people I love abroad and no longer traveling in different places, but my heart will refuse to believe this and will remain in a state of confusion and emotional disagreement for a while as it continues to love and live as if it was still there.

My mind will be muddled, my soul will sink into a mild depression for a season, my body will fall temporarily ill because all of me is sad to leave, my sun-kissed skin will fade, my heart will break but only because it has loved so deeply, and I will soon be back in Michigan, adjusting slowly to the next phase of my journey, which I know is on-going.

I’ll return home to family, who I’ve missed dearly and love deeply. The first person I’ll want to see is my nephew. I’ll hold him in my arms and cry like a baby because a screen no longer separates us, because he has grown so much and I wasn’t there to see it, because I am with someone I love, because he will understand me.

I’ll return home to friends. Some will receive me with open arms and incredible affection, like a daughter raised from the dead. Others will have hardly noticed I’ve been away. Some will ask me out to coffee but I’ll shrug and suggest wine instead, Spanish wine, because it reminds me of home.

I wonder if they’ll expect me to share six months worth of experiences over a bottle of Protos? I’ll want to tell them that I’ve lived and died many lives since being away, I’ll try to put into words everything that I’ve felt and experienced on the road, but I’ll struggle to produce even the simplest of sentences and I’ll raise my glass in a silent toast instead.

I’ll run into people at Kroger, the local grocery store, and they’ll ask me in front of a can of baked beans or a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes about my time abroad. It was incredible, I’ll respond, absolutely incredible.

And I’ll leave it at that. What more could I say? I believe in giving things away in the same manner we receive them. Beauty for beauty, love for love. If I spend an entire lifetime or even a single summer crafting a beautiful poem I wouldn’t post it on Facebook or Tweet it. I’d write it by hand, carefully and slowly, reciting the words as I print them on homemade paper and give it to someone I love. I’d seal it with a kiss and deliver it by hand.

I cannot put six months into a silver wrapper and call it candy so you can taste a morsel of the sweetness I’ve experienced. Some things are far too sacred for simplification. Better to say nothing than to speak injustice. And if I were to speak in this moment, I’m not sure what I would say.

These are my last days in Málaga and my host family, who I’ve returned to see, has been asking me if I want to go into the city and see things. No, I’ve told them, I don’t. I feel so full of experiences and so blessed to have had them that I can’t imagine taking anything else in, especially as I prepare to transition home.

I can’t tell you how I’ve changed over a glass of red wine or go into great detail in the grocery store. If you really want to know, I’ll respond, come with me. Let’s go together.

I’m prepared for all of the routine questions upon my return and to an extent, I welcome them, I need them to help me process. What was it like? What did you see, experience, love, hate, learn?

Ask me everything or ask me nothing, only be sincere.

I want to share my stories with you and I want to thank you, those of you who’ve journeyed with me via this blog, for sharing these six months with me. Let’s unpack them together.

I’ll let the stories unfold in the same manner I received them: slowly, naturally, carefully, openly.

I will be gentle with myself as I practice at home what I have been living abroad: Resistance is in the head, intuition in the heart, and everything that sets the soul free is actually a series of physical movements that open us.

I will extend my arms, unfurl my hands, walk in this world with wide eyes, lift my chest to the sun, throw my head back in laughter, open my lips to speak love with smiles, and go with a free and simple heart down every open road.

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Where to next?

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6 thoughts on “198 days

  1. I am speechless with gratitude, Chelsea. My only response to this beautiful expression of despedida/hola is to send a kiss to each of your cheeks, raise a glass, and say gracias. Safe travels, my friend.

  2. Understandably, others will have difficulty understanding. I guess that is the most simplistic way of saying a bit of what you will be going through. You and Taylor are in a similar situation as she and her family transition to the states from a totally different lifestyle in Hawaii. You are both in my thoughts and prayers as these major acclamations take place in your lives. Love you Chels

  3. Danke, merci, gracias and thank you, thank you, thank you, for sharing your journey with us. It’s been a lovely breath of fresh air to hear and see someone truly embrace all that the world has to offer, from the landscape to the people. I have loved seeing that part of the world through your eyes, Chelsea. Many blessings are wished for you. 🙂

  4. Congratulations Chels you have experienced a world of Love, and you are forever blessed, welcome home sweet girl.

  5. Chelsea, You have “seen” with eyes as wide open as your heart & your arms so many things on your journey. You recognize this time as an enourmous gift & that,in itself,is a gift.. It has been such a beautiful thing to read your words ,see your picts, shed a few tears imagining the tender moments you so eloquently paint a picture of. Those moments almost lose their sanctity(for lack of a better word) when “rehashed” with someone who cannot “feel” the depth of them or how they have forever changed you. (Ha,this is very diffucult to put into words,but I somehow think you’ll get what I mean) Cherish, savor your memories,share some of them,but keep others.close to your heart. Some things can never be fully understood unless they are felt with the heart. Godspeed Chelsea. Love you so…..

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