Reentry – A mental conundrum

I am seriously hoping we are nearly to the end of this whole reentry process. I just want to feel settled.

In many ways, we are now comfortably entrenched into a normal American lifestyle. The boys are doing well in their math and science classes taken through the public schools, they’re loving being a part of Boy Scouts, and they’re finally part of a soccer team. The soccer team was the hardest part of our journey – they missed it tremendously.

I’ve turned into the quintessential soccer mom ferrying my boys back and forth every day. John is busy formatting books and creating websites.

Life is comfortable. It’s predictable. Sort of.

In just as many ways as life is comfortable and predictable, it’s not that at all. We are still camped on the floor of our “case de nada” (house of nothing) while we work on remodeling our new home so we can move in. We’ve got mattresses on the floor (at least we’ve got that!), three pots to cook in (better than only one!), and a big pile of clothes in the corner of the living room. We have no dressers or desks or kitchen table.

It’s like we’re caught in the middle of LimboLand. We want to settle in and, in many aspects of life, we’ve done exactly that. Yet we’re still very much unsettled in others. It’s a crazy feeling and one I’m not sure what to do with.

But the biggest transition I’ve been noticing lately is a mental one. I’ve noticed a huge mental shift in the past month or so. When we first arrived in Boise I wanted absolutely nothing more than to leave my tourist life behind and just live. When others mentioned that there was plenty to see and do in Boise, I wanted to shout, “I DON’T WANT TO SEE OR DO ANYTHING! I JUST WANT TO CURL UP WITH A GOOD BOOK OR PLENTY OF BEADS AND DO NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!”

I had no desire to visit museums or learn about the history of this area.

My brain was on overload and I couldn’t cope with more intellectual stimulation.

Now, 5.5 months after arriving in Boise, my mental outlook is way different. All of a sudden I’ve discovered this burning desire to explore the Boise valley. I want to go to museums and historical sites. I want to attend cultural events and learn, learn, learn. It’s like my brain finally processed what it needed to process and is now (finally!) open and receptive to more.

And so I find myself frustrated with the normal day-to-day life that I so looked forward to just a few short months ago. Today, when the boys had a soccer game an hour away I was frustrated that I couldn’t spend the day at the Living History exhibit at the local Natural History Museum. I felt fortunate that I was able to squeeze an hour in – although I wanted all day.

I’m finding myself getting antsy as I strip, sand, and repaint kitchen cabinets – I could be using that time to go visit state parks around the valley.

This is a very unexpected place to be in – but I suppose it’s just a normal part of the reentry process. My brain is dealing with so many different stimuli and trying to process it all.

I want to be back out on the road and I want to be right here in Boise, Idaho. I want to put down roots and haul all my beads out of the barn but I also want to pack up my bike and head out for parts unknown.

It’s a conundrum, that’s for sure.

edited to add: Many thanks to Clark Vandeventer for posting the comment below about “THE DOUBLE LIFE” by Donald Blanding. It sums up my thoughts and feelings perfectly – and makes me realize I’m not the only one facing this!

How very simple life would be
If only there were two of me
A Restless Me to drift and roam
A Quiet Me to stay at home.
A Searching One to find his fill
Of varied skies and newfound thrill
While sane and homely things are done
By the domestic Other One.


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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10 Responses to Reentry – A mental conundrum

  1. Clark Vandeventer September 25, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    I know exactly how you feel. After being in and out of a nomadic state for 3 years, in June we “settled” into a home in Tahoe. We love the settling. The friends. The dinner parties. A church. Treasured loot in dusty nooks.

    We’ve been exploring the Tahoe area a lot and writing about it on our blog. I’m even blogging this winter for Vail Rrsorts on the life of a ski bum in Tahoe.

    Yet at the same time we feel so tied down. So restricted.

    Do you know the poem “THE DOUBLE LIFE” by Donald Blanding? The poem in so many ways sums up the way I feel about life.

    • Nancy September 25, 2011 at 9:17 am #

      @Clark Vandeventer,
      I’ve never heard of that poem, but will look it up right now – it sounds perfect! I feel so torn – pulled in many different directions.

  2. Betsy Talbot September 25, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    I can’t even imagine what you are going through, Nancy. We land in Thailand in a couple of weeks, and even though we’ve made the commitment to stay there for 6 months as we write and get some work done, my traveling bug is still there. In fact, Warren wants to negotiate a 6-month lease somewhere, which makes my skin crawl. My solution? We move somewhere new within Chiang Mai every month so we can experience the city in a different way.

    I wonder if any of us can ever be “normal” again after wandering for long? Best of luck on your transition!

    • Nancy September 25, 2011 at 9:29 am #

      @Betsy Talbot,
      I’m seriously reconsidering the whole “normal” thing – what is “normal” anyway? In a five year period, we were on the road for four years. The longest we stayed in any one place was six weeks. It was fabulous and wonderful and all that – but now, looking back, I realize that there is something about the human being that craves and needs a stable base. My suggestion to you would be to find a 6-month lease somewhere and settle in for a while. We’ve been here 5.5 months now and I’m just recently starting to get antsy – this is a good thing!

  3. Yvette September 25, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Aren’t you at about that time since moving where they say expats start to transition between vacation mode and “oh my God I live here for real!” mode? 😉

    One random suggestion for you- have you ever heard of/ been interested in geocaching? I mention it because I got into it post-rtw travels and it was a great way to explore Cleveland when I had to return there for school- found a lot of neat places I never would have along the way too. So hey, just thought I’d mention it.

    • Nancy September 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

      We are totally at that point in the culture shock process – making the transition to actually making it home. We don’t generally think about culture shock coming back to the USA to live, but it’s just as real as the other direction.

      As for geocaching – we got in to geocaching just before we left on our journey. We didn’t take the GPS with us and it’s now stashed somewhere in the barn with all our other stuff. As soon as we get the house done so we can move in and start unpacking the barn we’ll dig the GPS out and start geocaching again.

  4. Rebeca September 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    I hear ya! And I haven’t even left yet. I love being settled and homemaking. But I also love to be free and travel. Peace to you. :>

    • Nancy September 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

      There is definitely something to said for staying home and puttering around!

  5. Friedel September 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    We still struggle with that balance. There are things we enjoy from both lifestyles, and the pull to ‘the other side’ has never completely gone away for us. What does help us is to have a goal to focus on: so we are now focusing on enjoying our settled life, while at the same time saving and planning for the next big trip.

    • Nancy September 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      I think what makes it extra hard for us is that we could take off today for the next big trip – we have enough income that we could afford to do it right now. The big thing is that we don’t really want to. Or do we? I honestly don’t know!

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