Can there be any way to screw up your circadian rhythms more than a 13 hour time change? Makes daylight savings feel like a breeze. Thailand to Costa Rica: four flight connections, five plane meals, one stop in the Ukraine, two hours to go through U.S. customs, one 12 hour layover in New York, 26 hours in the air and we’re here. And I’m sick. Again.
But we’re here and while a week in and still nodding off at the crack of 7pm, it’s wonderful to be somewhere other than stuck in a flying tin box with eight screaming hyena-children. There are times where I really can’t blame these kids. If I wasn’t trained to adhere to the social norm of keeping calm, cool, and collected on take-off and landing, I’d probably be screaming my head off too. Maybe shrieking myself into an epileptic fit will help my stupid ears pop. Opening and closing my jaw and fake-yawning certainly aren’t doing the trick. But honestly? Once a child has reached a certain age, there is an expectation that they can suck it up and be quiet. I can’t help but shoot a dirty look at the bratty ten year old who’s been screaming at the top of his lungs for several hours as his frazzled mother struggles to nurse her squirming babe. I squint my eyes into a glare and mentally berate him: You’re too old for this behaviour. I swear he smiles back with a look that says: I know exactly what I’m doing. Then he resumes screaming.
We stumble off the plane at JFK airport in a head pounding haze. What time is it? What city are we in? Where can I find a bed, or a drink, or a leg massage, or all three? A 12 layover in New York quickly turns from a Canal Street, Times Square, Broadway Musical sightseeing extravaganza, to a let’s find a quiet, dark, relatively safe looking corner where we can twist ourselves uncomfortably into the airport lounge seats and catch a few hours of shuteye. As I rub the pins and needles out of my legs for the hundredth time and wipe the drool off the lumpy backpack I’ve been using as a makeshift pillow, I yearn for the softness of my bed and familiar warmth and comfort of home.
I’ve noticed a couple of things will set-off homesickness pretty much instantaneously. First and foremost: high stress situations. Such as trying to communicate an urgent need when neither party understands what the other is saying. This happened in Madrid when we had five minutes to make a train connection and no idea what platform we needed to be on. After several attempts at blurting out random Spanish words and gesturing wildly to convey our need, we finally had to accept the fact that the connection was a failure. Wahhhh, I just want to go home so I don’t have to deal with life right now! Poor me, I know. A second source of homesickness stems from busy places where the lineups are long, fuses are short, and certain amenities like bathrooms and food are seemingly rare. With travel I’ve become attuned to that fact that I’m a walking, talking, living, breathing, vessel of endless needs. If it’s not a toilet I need urgently, it’s food. If not food, then water. If I’m not thirsty, then I’m cold. If not chilly, then roasting. Travelling has stripped me down and revealed me for what I am: high maintenance and needy. In the comfort of my own home, where the thermostat is set just right, the fridge stocked with my favorite snacks, and bathroom is close at hand, I can wrap myself in a warm fuzzy blanket and hide my neediness with familiarities and conveniences.
Despite occasional longing for the comforts of home, there have been few moments where I’ve been well and truly homesick. Only a couple times where I’ve wanted to drop my bag where I stand and grab a ticket for the next flight back to Canada. More common are the subtle reminders of family, friends, and home that have me feeling like by the end of this, I’ll be ready to return. They have started decorating for Christmas here. Fake fir trees, flashing multicolored mini lights, and Santa Claus dressed in banana yellow rather than the traditional red. For some reason, I thought I’d be insulated from the holiday season, but Christmas party photos on Facebook combined with the cheap plastic Santas adorning the doors of Costa Rican casas tug at the part of me that misses orchestrating “Secret Santa” amongst coworkers, spending an entire weekend baking favorite holiday treats, or agonizing over what to buy my loved ones. During the Christmas season, home holds a certain warming allure no sandy beach can duplicate.
But, since I can’t be in two places at once and because I’m not quite ready to come home yet, I’ll be content with getting some Costa Rican sun and savoring the fourth and final month of a journey that’s taken us around the world. I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic about snow for about five minutes once we return to Canada. Until then, Pura Vida!
Photo fatigue has resulted in a rather dry crop of pictures from our Costa Rican experiences thus far. Here are some residual shots from Thailand.