Travelling for nine months, it’s funny how time seems to speed up at the end. We thought nine months was long, but it now feels very short. We were counting the days to our return at this point, and not in an excited to go back way, but more of sadness for it to be over. The return to normal life; jobs, bills, and responsibilities. The cold reality would be hitting us. For most people this seemed like the vacation of a lifetime, but for us, this was a lifestyle choice.
The flight home was filled with anticipation and huge amounts of sadness. We spent a boatload of money to change our flight a day earlier so that I could see all my family for the holiday. When we booked our flight we did not even realize it was Memorial Day weekend. After all, it was a year ago we set the date. Delta charged us $500 bucks, pretty much a week’s budget just to fly home one day early. So ludicrous. But it was worth it. So make sure you have your dates right when you come home, and check for holidays and what not.
Trouble At The Border
We landed in Detroit and went through customs. Wouldn’t you know it, after 11 countries, the only place Yvonne has trouble in is the good ole United States of America. They had flagged her and brought her into a private room, giving me no information what so ever. I had to wait over an hour as they interrogated her about this and that. They wanted to know what she was doing in Asia for 9 months, what her job was, and wanted to know her business with me, why was she here so much. Just silly. It’s not like I locked her in the back of my trunk and smuggled her in. She had all the paperwork; they were just in asshole mood. This made us realize though that in the future it was going to be much harder to do our jet setting international dating relationship. The trip was 9 months to figure out what we were doing with our future and we still had not made a decision yet.
Well after a two-hour delay, with our trolley loaded up as high as possible, sporting my Loungie, we walked out of customs. Waiting at the exit were two of the cutest little girls in the world holding up signs saying “Welcome Back Uncle Mike and Aunt Yvonne.” What a wonderful feeling, especially after all the hassle with customs. My Mom, Dad, and sister Sherrie were there with my two nieces, Cambrie and Sophia. With lots of hugs we loaded up our entire nine months of our life in the back of the minivan and headed to my parents house.
Family Reunion in Michigan
As soon as we got home we were mauled by the rest of the family. A cold beer was put in my hand and the party began. We went through all our suitcases dividing up all the cool and exciting things that we had bought over the last 9 months. No one could believe how much we brought back. The biggest backpack was just gifts, no clothes. I had ditched most of my war-out, nasty, back packer clothes in Japan. The kids were having a blast trying on all the different outfits we had bought them, and playing with all the toys. They had a good laugh at Uncle Mike wearing his traditional Loungie. My niece Cambrie still tells all her friends that Uncle Mike wears a dress.
We put on a rough slide show of some of our 10,000 pictures, and numerous friends stopped by to see us. The weirdest gift out of everything was the empty Pepsi bottle that I pulled out of my bag for my buddy Anthony Ballios. It was from the bottling plant in Battanbang Cambodia, and had sat there since 1975 when the Khmer Rouge came in to the city killing all its citizens. The biggest thing was our 6 foot and 8 foot pergola’s from Burma.
After a few days recovery in Michigan, a great night in Detroit, and some much needed shopping, (a new mattress) we loaded up our van to the top. Next stop, New York. We passed through lush green farmland. The vegetation was so different that we were used to that it was a bit surreal.
We drove 12 hours to New York to visit my brother and pick up my dog Booboo. Now of course we knew we would end up getting a list of everything Booboo had done wrong at the house, and it was extensive. During the entire trips I would receive the nicest emails from my brother about all the things Booboo was blamed for chewing. Now, truth be told, his dog Samson has a reputation as a chewer, but Booboo got all the blame. Below is one of the pictures I got on the subject, which entertained all my friends on Facebook. But we softened the blow by giving Jeff the hand made eight foot, hand made Burmese Umbrella and some strong booze we brought back.
Back Home In Philly
Next day we headed back to Philly. We rented out our house while we were gone, and the tenants were supposed to be moved out a day before we got back. Of course they were still there and the house was not even cleaned. We ended up sitting in a bar around the corner with my buddies Ig and Teresa while they moved their stuff out. Ig had managed all my properties while I was gone, and I think he was very excited to hand the keys back to me. Even more importantly, the most hated phone, which was what connected you to all the nightmares of the landlord business. Once the phone was back in my hand there was no hiding from reality anymore.
Nothing like traveling though numerous countries, only to sit a block away from your home. To travel so far, and yet not be home yet. Sure, I just wanted to toss their stuff out. “No, don’t worry about cleaning, we will take care of everything.” Not that they did anything really wrong, it’s just not their house anymore. It’s a strange feeling having your house taken over by someone else. We took three days cleaning the entire place out, top to bottom, just to make it feel like home again. But at last, we were home again.
Now I always planned on doing a big slide show for everyone and to have a welcome back party. I just did not realize how busy I was going to be getting my business back in control and renting all my rooms out. Not to mention sorting through 10,000 pictures trying to pick out the best ones. I also realized that for us the trip was life changing, most people don’t want to hear about it. Everyone gets sick of hearing that person who sits at the table, picks up a saltshaker, and regales them with the tail of crossing the salt plains of Bolivia, or how you burn your hand and tell them about the time you got a Thailand Tattoo in Vietnam. At some point, they just don’t care. I suppose its like new parents talking about their kid’s non-stop. Other parents like to hear about it, but most people don’t give a damn.
Return Home Party and a Surprise!
Damn it, I was going to have one last blow out because I had something important to do, and I wanted to do it in style. Plus, I was not ready to let go of the trip completely yet. So we got the house ready for a Welcome Home Party, and my buddy Kuma came over to help cook. Little did he know though, that I was going so busy working on a very special project, that I would not be able to help. So he was stressed, but he sucked it up and got it done.
Now I was dressed in my finest loungie and Vietnamese shirt. We had fifty or so friends over to welcome us back and watch our slide show. My friend Luca had made a delicious pizza that everyone was eating. I had bought Yvonne a new dress as a present, and asked her to put it on for the night. But when was sup busy preparing, that she forgot. Little did my friends know that rolled up in the fabric of my loungie was an engagement ring for Yvonne. I had bought a vintage 1920 art deco ring the week before. Only my brother had any warning and he forgot. I kept fingering the ring, squeezing it between the materials to make sure it was still there. I walked out on the deck numerous times to round up people for the big moment, and I kept envisioning it slipping between the cracks like the gold fish did the night we left a year before.
But it was still there, and we were coming to the end of the show. I was excited about all the questions my friends were asking about he trip, but at this point, I had one thing on my mind. Yvonne knocked my IPA down, which I was using to calm down my nerves. As I was building up my courage, Yvonne started eating Luca’s pizza. I had to hide her plate, after all, no one wants to have pizza in her mouth when being proposed to.
The slide show came to the final slide, and I got down on one knee, and then the Ken Burns effect took over on my computer. You see, I had drawn my cartoon me, on one knee, on our favorite beach, proposing. But the word bubble got cut off, leaving just me.
In addition to that, people far away thought I was just flicking them off in the drawing. I blurted out technical difficulty, as Yvonne and the rest of the party went back to chatting, completely unaware what was going on. Clearly this was going to be a surprise. So I had to go through my art files and open the original JPG. I got down on my knee again, and proposed proper this time.
Well, this time she understood and said yes! After a serious public display of attention, we were swept up in the crowd of everyone congratulating us. Word trickled quickly to the back of the room, and soon everyone was in on the secret. Did I mention Yvonne really does not like to be the center of attention, well, she doesn’t. She would prefer we elope and just go on the honeymoon, but that’s not my style.
It was a wonderful feeling to be amongst friends on such an important day of our lives. Whiskey was poured out and a toast was made. It was the end of one adventure, and the beginning of a new one.