I have almost been home for a month now, after a surreal 5 months of backpacking. When people ask me about how my trip was, I pause for 3-5 seconds out of confusion, because it is an injustice to just use a single adjective. Eventually I’ll say, “Hrmm, wow, hard to summarize,” because it really is hard to sum up 5 months that you don’t have a mental construct of. If I were to say my last 5 months at my job were great, or my last 5 months of college were amazing, it would be relatable because the construct of a job and of school are generally understood by the people I usually talk to, even if we had varying experiences.
It’s also difficult for me to recount my trip, because I don’t feel like I’m a particulary captivating storyteller, and because I don’t really like talking about myself for an extended period of time. The conversation of my travels usually ends up lasting 5-10 minutes on average, and then I ask about the other person’s life and what they’ve been up to because I also haven’t seen that person in at least 5 months. It’s not really anyone’s fault, and there’s nothing inherently bad about it. But it’s just crazy to think that if I never talked about my trip again to a particular friend, that particular friend’s understanding of my experience is an incomplete, 5-minute summary of 5 life-changing months.
In many senses, I lived a dream. In one sense, it was a trip that I dreamt of experiencing, and it exceeded my expectations. In another sense, it almost feels like it didn’t happen. In the sense that I am referring to now, it’s something I experienced and can’t hope to convey through words and pictures, in the same way that it’s impossible to communicate a dream to someone else after you’ve woken up.
I now understand what people mean when they say they have “someone to share with.” Kat is the only person in the world that could ever understand what the trip was like, because she was with me the whole time. It’s not to say that my friends and family don’t have the empathetic capability to understand, but they just weren’t there, and I can’t convey with enough fidelity how my experiences were. I am very grateful that I had someone to share my trip with, not just because I would have been lonely and that she is fun and compatible company, but because I have someone to bounce my reality off of and converse from a place of shared understanding.