While I could have kept traveling South East Asia probably for the rest of my life, the thought of coming home was getting me incredibly excited. I’m sure my neighbors on the plane ride back thought I was crazy because I couldn’t stop smiling. I was obviously stoked to come home and see my friends and family, eat “normal” food, and be as far away from China as possible, but I could have never imagined how great it really was to be home. The reality of my All-American summer far exceeded my expectations.
For starters, I woke up almost every morning to the view in the picture above. That totally justifies a $1000 plane ride, right? I very openly admitted that I missed the dogs in my life more than most of the humans. But being able to snuggle with a cute, clean puppy every morning was something I missed more than I thought I would.
Reason #2 I was stoked to be home was because just about everyone I know either got married or had a baby in the year that I was gone. I started my first few weeks home being able to finally meet my bff, Brooke’s, sweet baby boy. She did a great job of having him less than 3 weeks before I made it back to the states. While I’m now going to miss the next (too many) months of his life, I’m glad I at least got to be there for the first few.
Being away for so long definitely lets you clearly see who your real friends are and how much you love them. There are people in my life that I know will be with me forever, and have proved that year after year. This year though surprised me in some cases. Some friends that I thought would make more of an effort didn’t, and some that I never would have expected stepped up to the plate and made me feel loved all the way across the world. That being said, some of my favorite people to hang with this summer were my old coworkers. While I completely adored them when we worked together, I never thought that they would be the ones that I would stay in contact with the most this year and the ones I would be the most stoked to see in my few months back. I’m so thankful we got to spend the summer drinking wine together and/or going to baseball games around VA. I thought about trying to smush them in my suitcase back to China, but I decided I’ll just value our emails and facetimes instead.
Summer of Love 2014 was also awesome because I got to spend some quality time with one of my favorite women in the world. My one and only Grandma is probably my main inspiration for traveling the world in the first place. While she seems to be the one that misses me the most when I’m away, I probably wouldn’t be living abroad without her love and motivation. She was very eager to catch up in person to hear about my adventures, but I ended up stealing most of our time together because I wanted to hear her tell me about HER adventures. Not only is she still a live wire at the age of 88, but she has also spent the majority of those years living life to the fullest and traveling all over the world. For example, when she was in her 80’s, she packed up and went to Thailand for 3 weeks with a bunch of her girlfriends. If that’s not motivation to live each day to the fullest, than I don’t know what is. If she can do it, so can I.
I mean just look at her house… You feel like you’re already in Asia without even having to pack. It would have been crazy if I didn’t end up there myself.
Summer was also awesome because I got to spend more quality dog time with my main squeeze, Sammygirl…
Hang out with my amazing Sis, Brother-in-law, and dog Nephew, Moose…
I was also able to spend a lot of time in the OBX. While this is my usual summer past time, I realized this year that this is probably my favorite beach in the entire world…even if it is only 2 hours away from my hometown. There were many times this year that I realized there was no place in the world I would rather be than Southern Shores. While I’ve definitely been to more beautiful beaches in the world, this is the one I love most.
I mean what’s not to love? You can find some pretty people there….
And see some pretty sunsets…
I never thought that I’d want to live in the OBX year round, but after living in a place like Shanghai for awhile, I can definitely imagine myself living there a little way down the road.
After the beach it was back to Williamsburg to take full advantage of it’s sites. (And by sites, I mean the Cheese Shop and sno-to-go.) While my “snowball” wasn’t as good as I was remembering, it still hit the spot. And the deliciousness of Cheese shop obviously goes unsaid. I wish they had frequent flier cards there because I definitely would have racked up a free sandwich or two this summer.
While I missed a ton of my best friend’s weddings this year, I made it home just in time to see one of my oldest friends get married.
I got to hang out with some of my favorite dudes of all time…
And see my bff, Lauren! She made her way back to VA from Colorado at just the right time.
My other BFF, Melissa, made her way back from Florida as well! While I like to pretend they both came back home just to see me, you can tell in the pictures above and below that their main focus was probably that adorable kid that they were holding and who they were able to meet for the first time this summer.
Like I said before, everyone I know either had a baby or got married while I was away.
(Those are all different people’s babies in the pictures above!!! What on earth?!!) My favorite “baby experience” happened right before I was leaving though. This year my friend, Colleen, told me she was preggers with her second child. Her due date was set for the middle of August, which was well after I was already meant to be in Shanghai. I joked all summer asking her to just push him out a little early. While she would have happily agreed, it was definitely impossible with her baby due date and my due date to be back in China. I was able to make it to her baby shower and hang out with her family a few times before leaving, so I was happy to have at least that. After we had said our goodbyes, I ended up having some issues with my visa and I was stuck in Virginia for longer than expected. While this was really annoying at first, it ended up being perfect timing in the long run. On my last night in Williamsburg, after finally getting the go ahead on my visa, I got a text from Colleen saying she was in labor in the hospital. I was set to drive up to DC the next morning and fly out the following day, but luckily Colleen lives in Richmond (and delivers babies quickly), so I was able to see her on my way out of town! Holding a less than 12 hour old baby was probably one of the coolest things I did all summer. I couldn’t decide if I should have been incredibly happy about the situation, or actually pissed that I got to meet sweet baby Gannett in the first place. If she didn’t have him until I after I left, I wouldn’t have been able to see how amazing he was. Now that I know he’s wonderful, I’m going to miss him even more.
After meeting the last of the babies and saying goodbyes to my family in Williamsburg and friends in Richmond, I was off to DC for my last two days of America life. I tried to soak up as much quality time with both my sister and Target as possible. (I probably went to Target 30 times since I was home. Don’t ever take Target for granted people!)
While the whole thought of moving back to Shanghai for year number two seemed much easier than the initial move last year, saying goodbye to the people you love never gets easy. By the end of summer, I was really ready to move back to China and start my life there again, but at the same time, I didn’t want to leave the states. I wasn’t nervous to leave, but my last day in town was a little overwhelming. I got some bad news from a friend that I love and the thought of leaving him was heartbreaking. Living overseas has been a life changing, amazing experience. There are definitely hard times though when you miss out on things back “home” and can’t be there for the people that mean the most to you…or can’t have them be there for you.
After such an amazing summer, right before I left, it hit me that I was crazy to be leaving such an amazing life here. While my brother in law tried to persuade me of this all summer, I knew there was no turning back. My same friend with the bad news reminded me that love can cross oceans and that you don’t need to be physically next to a person to “be there”. I went to Great Falls before my flight, which is a beautiful view near my sister’s house, to get a little clarity and fresh air before leaving. I said a few prayers and set a few intentions for the following year and for the people I was leaving behind. Like I said, saying goodbye is never easy, but it’s getting easier at least because I know I’m exactly where I need to be. It’s not the place I would have ever imagined myself to be, but I know it’s right and I’m excited to start this next adventure.
So long story short, THANK YOU to everyone who hung out this summer and filled me with enough love and light to get me through the next year or two across the world. It would not be as exciting without you.