back from USA + 10 things i love about home


hi friends, happy september. i feel like i’m just guiltily creeping back to writing after being m.i.a. for about a month because holy heck, it’s been a month. i’ve been back in the czech republic for just a couple days now and errrmahgerd, i am still jet-lagged as a mofo – this has got to be one of the worst instances of it i can recall. (case in point: it’s 9:15am on a saturday morning and i’ve already read, taken the dog out, had breakfast, read some blogs, then lounged around while loudly complaining about how tired i am)

we just completed a five week trip across four states, and though i’ve had an excellent time, let me tell you – this was much more of a trip vs. a vacation. starting in chicago, then had a bit of downtime over our ten days in michigan, onto a whirlwind wedding week and a road-trip through oregon (more on that soon!), and finally, a fantastic 2+ weeks spent in my home state of washington, from seattle to bellingham; mountains to the islands. social visits were one of the top priorities (as any expat visiting home knows well) as it really feels like you’re trying to make up for being gone for (in my case) two years. wonderful, exhausting, and so necessary. so here i am now, lounging with my dear pup (who was off at “doggy summer camp”), finally getting in that relaxing. but just at the wrong times.

one thing that you don’t expect about visiting home is how exactly you will feel in any given step of the way, and i had a lot of firsts on this second visit home in five years of living in europe. the first thing i didn’t expect: how dark my thoughts were about leaving europe as i was on that flight to chicago. sleep deprivation always exacerbates these feelings, but it’s true – i was apprehensive. which makes the next thing i didn’t expect even more surprising: when i was in washington, it was as if i had accepted, “welp, i guess i live here again now!” when i got down to the “one more week” mark, i had to consciously convince myself that this isn’t where i live right now and that i would be going home in a week.

home. such a weird concept, and even weirder to have more than one home. to call another place home while you are in your real home.

packing up and leaving was so hard this time around. in the spirit of keeping things honest around here, it was the least excited i have ever been to board an airplane bound for europe, just as in the beginning, i had felt the complete opposite. feelings are weird, guys.

i don’t know what this means, but i am looking forward to getting back in the swing of things again here in my czech home. as i mentioned above, our ferdie came back to us on friday and BOY, was he excited to see us. i had (naively, perhaps) expected it would take him at least a little bit to get used to us and our house again…. but as soon as the little bugger saw us, he started wagging his tail uncontrollably and that made me just so happy. he hasn’t left my side ever since – it goes without saying that the first time i have to leave him at home is not going to go well.

so while i’m still in the “visiting home” mode, i wanted to write a list of ten things i totally appreciated/loved about being in my american home in the pacific northwest – my true home, so to speak. i think it will be nice to look back on sometime, just as this list i made years ago of ten things i love about living in české budějovice would seem pretty relevant right now. this list isn’t meant to compare my two homes, but to show my appreciation for these little things that i never thought i would care so much about.


#1: the mountains

the first time i had a glimpse of hills even resembling mountains on this trip (in portland), i swooned. but the mountains up north are even more gasp-inducing for me. how lucky that people get to look at them every day.


#2: the lakes

currently, it takes about a two hour train trip to visit a natural lake (not to be confused with the plentiful but man-made fish ponds in the south bohemia area). back in washington, there are 8+ on my hometown island alone. that is insane.


#3: the beaches

the number one thing i miss this most – the ocean. beaches are so plentiful back home that i could potentially visit a different one every day i was back in washington and still have some left over… which is something i actually tried to do, thinking that perhaps i may get so tired of beaches that i wouldn’t care anymore. hah.


#4: karaoke

although there is, of course, karaoke to be had in europe, i appreciate american karaoke nights more than ever for these reasons: people actually listen to each others’ songs as you would watch any other performance and everyone is very supportive of one another. also, gosh, sometimes it just feels nice to sing along to ‘sweet caroline’ with everyone else in the bar. as someone recently pointed out to me, it is such a fun form of creative expression; especially the fact that most singers are amateurs and seeing what they come up with while they are performing is sometimes just downright magical. (oh, i’m looking at you, guy who left the bar with the cordless mic just to run back in and make a grand entrance at the beginning of each one of your songs… you keep doing you)


#5: english language

i’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but i was so relieved to be only around english language this summer. maybe it was some kind of burnout from studying two languages simultaneously over the past year, but it was more than a little bit of a relief to be able to understand everything i read and all the product labels; to be able to communicate without awkwardness or issue.


#6: oddly, a break from politics

during my time in the united states, some weird shit went down. actual nazis in the streets of american cities; our president embarrassingly doing nothing to specifically denounce the rally participants, not to mention north korea and the united states on seemingly the brink of serious conflict. and yet… and yet… almost nobody back home talked about or wanted to discuss these things. it’s clear that (for better or worse) many people and most that i’ve encountered in the united states are absolutely politically fatigued at this point.

on an almost daily basis living in the czech republic, i end up fielding questions much more often from people who want to know what the hell is going on, which gets so mentally exhausting, to be honest. (also: we have no idea what’s going on) back home, nobody wanted to talk because nobody knows what to say anymore. we, living under this crazy regime together, are all aware of it. there is just sort of an unspoken agreement, and sometimes it’s just nice not to have to talk about it. i know this seems kind of a controversial thing to say, but to spend my energy on something else for awhile was, for the time being at least, a welcome reprieve.


#7: driving while listening to music

on a much more light-hearted and less political note, man! the feeling up listening to your favorite tunes cranked up while driving somewhere is just one of the best. and i don’t even really like driving that much. i found an old stash of CDs of my old college radio shows and it was toooo much fun.


#8: getting lost in a forest

so what if that forest was almost literally across the street from our house? (fidalgo island has quite large swaths of protected forest lands) we were back in time to watch bachelor in paradise, so i think all’s well that ends well.

next time: bringing a compass.


#9: the seafood

like the beaches, i was attempting to eat so much seafood during my time home that i got sick of it. which of course, didn’t actually happen but man, we did some work! multiple servings of fish and chips with the crispiest batter (and malt vinegar! there must be malt vinegar always!), fried prawns and oysters, freshly cooked prawns and learning how to shuck raw oysters. even raw clams! halibut! salmon! i did myself proud here, hoping that should hold me over for awhile. and if that doesn’t, the smoked salmon i brought back might ease the pain. (photo via)


#10: shopping

the last and less obvious of the ten things i loved about being back home: the amount of products available on the market is just staggering. and exciting. i would go to stores just to browse and see what was new; see what i missed. some of the things i brought back with me this time: alllll the burt’s bees products (which are not yet available in cz – but i have heard are in germany – can anyone confirm?), gochujang paste, loads of tea (my pukka stash is more robust than ever), trader joe’s dried chili mango slices, mrs. meyer’s soap (i am obsessed with the lavender one), cheese cloth (can’t find it here!), & of course, always annie’s mac and cheese. you know how i do.

i saw that TSA had a look into my luggage on the way back – must have been pretty perplexed by a backpacker lugging home over a pound’s worth of organic brown rice syrup. (shrug)

what is one of your favorite things about home? anything that you missed but didn’t expect to?

this post is a part of the september travel link-up & wanderful wednesday.

ps, you might like ten things i love about my current home in české budějovice, czech republic.