On January 4, during our 18-hour layover in the Dubai airport, on our way home to Austin from the Okavango Delta in Botswana, I was deep into mourning the end of our trip. While John was sound asleep in the Dubai airport hotel (conveniently located within the terminal, inside of security), I spent hours restlessly walking up and down the terminal, catching glimpses of camel racing on TV, eating Pinkberry frozen yogurt, and drinking coffee. Back in the room, with John still sleeping, I watched whatever movies were on TV and stared listlessly at my computer screen. I think my mourning period had started at some point during our two weeks in New Zealand and then deepened while we were on safari. Yes, I cried during a stop at the Johannesburg airport.
John, meanwhile, carried on with enthusiasm to the very last moment of our trip. Unlike me, and very much like normal people, he experiences his emotions as they happen. I’m such an extreme planner that I anticipate and experience my emotions ahead of time. As you might expect, I’m not very good with surprises and spontaneity.
Upon arriving home, having already mourned, I settled back into our routine with gusto. I was thrilled to be back in the kitchen, shopping at Whole Foods and then cooking all of the things I’d missed eating while we were gone. While I was bustling around, John’s depression hit hard. Now it was his turn to be withdrawn and listless.
Of course, we both eventually settled back into the swing of things (with John even back working where he was before we left). We’ve settled back in to such an extent that sometimes, sadly, it almost feels like we never left, and that the whole trip was just some kind of dream. But then something will trigger a memory of an experience we had somewhere along the way, and we’ll laugh and reminisce about it. Like that time we almost got stuck at the Datong airport for two days. Ah, mem’ries. As John’s brother would say, tragedy + time = comedy.
Now that we’ve had six months back at home to reflect on the experience, I know we’d both go again in a heartbeat. There are probably a lot of things we’d do differently if we could do it all over again. There are certainly some places we’d cross off the list and others we’d add. But still, we recognize that the places we didn’t like all that much and the regular ups and downs we experienced added color and perspective to the trip. They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest, so I guess by throwing in six months of constant togetherness and unfamiliar environments, we really put ourselves to the test. I think so much of what we learned along the way about ourselves and each other has just become standard operating procedure for us now. We’ve incorporated those lessons into our day to day lives, and we’re the better for it. And now we say for our 20-year anniversary we’re going to repeat the trip…so I guess I’d better start planning that now!
–This is the end of Shelley and John’s Big Adventure 2012. Join us in 2032 for the next installment.–