The Comedown After a Trip

Jet lag is waning, thankfully, so I rolled out of bed at 5 a.m. I love the stillness of the early morning, when all is dark and quiet, save for the radiators wheezing awake.

I’ve been home now for 43 hours, and the comedown is full-on. The excitement of travel – the anticipation of going somewhere beloved, of an adventure, of being away from it all and from everyone, of putting work and home on hiatus for a week.

That’s the adrenaline rush. And then you’re in it, fully on vacation, hiking mountain paths and traversing stone streets of an ancient city and eating the fresh vegetables that grow in Israel every day of the calendar year. Fresh pomegranate juice on the street side and Jerusalem bagels in their long, doughy, sweet-sesame bites.

Inevitably, it ends, and you want it to. We got to a point where we had done all we wanted to do and were eager to come home to the kids and to life-as-usual. And so you begin the descent, the long journey home, literally and metaphorically.

And when you encounter the long lines of immigration and customs, of security to leave Israel, of waiting in airports and carousing through duty free shops and waiting to get on the plane only to find out that the wine and olive oil you planned to carry on absolutely won’t be allowed past the gate, so you have to reconfigure and in a flash check the backpack that was intended to be a carry-on under the plane.

So the going home consumes a lot of energy, and it’s good because it makes you just want to be home. In my own shower, my own comfortable bed instead of the rock-hard hotel beds, and with the familiar sounds of my children in adjacent rooms breathing easily in the night. The comfort of being surrounded by my sweet kids in copious hugs and sweet voices.

I am home. My comfortable house, the monotonous rush of city traffic beyond my windows, the gorgeous fall days of changed leaves and cool sun and eager faces turned up to leave the school building for freedom. My morning coffee in a mug I bought years ago.

It’s day two of being home and all the goings-on of leaving and of exhilaration of having been away are past. Now I am settling into life-as-usual and just being here and I have to admit, the melancholy is settling in.

Perhaps it’s part remaining jet lag exhaustion and part overwhelm for the workload to get back into. I did some of the work yesterday, eagerly, happily, reconnecting with lovely clients and turning to the content of long-awaited projects that need and deserve my attention.

The plan was to work through the weekend, but I have to say at this early-morning vantage point, I feel just too tired. Where to begin? Where to rest? And I had wanted to make Shabbat an actual day of rest.

Perhaps it’s as Emerson says, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”

Or perhaps it’s as Gustave Flaubert wrote, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

What I found in my travels was the familiar. The reminder of why I once became religious, to sanctify the moments and quiet the days, to instill balance into a workaday life and a world gone mad.

What I found in my travels was the peace and brilliance of a passionate people who love the land they inhabit and have a sense of purpose in their days – the very religious, yes, and the very secular, too.

What I found in my travels every time I went away this year was the best part of me. Now the challenge is to find that sense of purpose and of identity in the paths I walk here, in the walls I call my home.


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