Original photos & montage by Lindy Thibodaux

Reality: Are We There Yet?

This morning, someone posted the following on Facebook, after returning from several days in Europe: “Back to reality.”

I’ve heard the exact same phrase, so many times, from so many people. Heck, I’ve said it myself — but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thinking about the implication inherent in those three little words.

Now that I am thinking about it, I’d say, right off the bat, that we say “back to reality”, usually accompanied by heavy sighs and eye-rolling, without being aware of what we’re actually saying, body language and all: we’re implying that, when returning from a trip, our reality is not something we want to get back to, aren’t we? (I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anyone jump for joy as they say, “Oh good! Finally! Back to reality!” Nope, don’t think so.)

For me, traveling is not so much about being temporarily in a different reality, as it is about altering my current reality. Think about it: when you go away, even to a place you’ve never been before, you take your self with you; you may be a different self while you’re away, experiencing new things, but you’re still yourself. And when you come home, what? You somehow go back to who you were before your trip? I don’t think that’s even possible; traveling always transforms us, whether or not we’re aware of it. So how can we ever really go “back” to anything?

We can go back to our homes, back to our jobs, back to running errands and taking care of our kids, but whether we realize it or not, we do all these things as new versions of who we were before we left town; it’s more like we’re going forward into a new reality, not back to the old one. And isn’t that why we want to travel in the first place? Not just to do, see, eat, or say something different, but to be different?

Yes, it’s comforting to get home and sink into my own bed, use my own towels, do my own laundry and cooking — but after I’ve been away, I’m trying to do all those familiar things with a heightened awareness of how I’ve changed, even if I was only gone for a couple of days. And that’s really what I’m getting to: awareness, a consciousness of what we’re doing, what we’re saying, how we’re living each day, is essential to not only enjoying our current reality (no matter where we are at the moment), but to creating it, taking all our various experiences and simply letting them change us.

That’s real life. Really living. That’s reality.