TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE

After Asia – Adapting to America Once Again

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

23 December 2018

The changing sights, sounds and smells….

As I pick up my mail from my PO Box it suddenly strikes me that I really no longer have a formal home of my own. I’m staying at my mother’s apartment. Even though I grew up there, it doesn’t feel like MY home. It’s not my furniture or my design or my style. I can’t put my feet up on the couch without that voice in my head making sure I first take my shoes off. I can’t put a glass on the table without making sure there’s a coaster or paper under it. I miss “my stuff.” I keep visualizing my old living room, all the colors, everything set up as I liked it. But then I walk by the ginormous building that obstructed what used to be a beautiful view and I am glad I got out when I did.

My water buffalo friend.

Photograph by Lorem Ipsum via Unsplash

I haven’t been in cold weather in almost a year. Since January. I can’t say that I missed it. It feels strange to be wearing so many layers, and a big coat and feel cold after so many months of sweating through t-shirts. 

“What a shock to realize there are traffic lights again…”

The biggest shock comes at the crosswalks. In Asia I kept stopping and waiting for the motorbikes to stop to let me cross. Then I realized they wouldn’t stop and made my way across, carefully. My first few days in New York I arrive at a crosswalk, check for traffic, and if no cars are coming, cross. One day I suddenly have a “doh!” moment as I notice there are traffic lights and remember I’m supposed to wait for the green light!

Crosswalk in New York.

Photograph by Heather Markel

Sticker shock settles in as I pay almost $10 for a tuna sandwich which is the same price as a 3-course gourmet dinner, with wine, in Hanoi. I’m back to public transportation and that seems ridiculously expensive, too. I’m still sporting my Vietnamese mani/pedi – they HAND-painted it on, using gel. It took over 2 hours and cost about $20. I know that just the manicure alone in New York will be as, or more, expensive for something that’s one or two colors, boring and takes 30 minutes. 🙁

Strangely, I find myself missing the tuk tuks. I even miss the crazy flow of motorbikes. I especially miss the Asian Uber equivalent where most of my taxis across town and beyond were under $2. I know the subway is faster and it’s a bit cold for an open form of transportation, but I really miss those motorized benches. I tried to cook the Tom Kha soup and Pad Thai I learned in cooking class in Thailand. Epic failures on both counts. That full range of robust flavors is impossible to get with local ingredients. 

Each time I see a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant I run over seeking the menu options I had in Asia, and walk away doubting I will find the savory blend of flavors that greeted my mouth with each bite.

I have a new fascination with anyone Asian now. I feel a special connection with them. I appreciate their culture so much that each time I see someone that looks Asian I want to know what country they’re from. In fact, I realize now that someone I see could be from one of so many different amazing countries. I don’t know why this didn’t really hit me before, but I see them now as Thai, Korean, Cambodian, etc. rather than “Asian.” I want to connect and see if I can even practice my “hello” phrases in any one of the wonderful countries I visited. I joined a Vietnamese cooking group on Facebook. I want Vietnamese coffee, I want a Cambodian heart-felt greeting. And so, once again, I am straddling two worlds even though physically in one.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Hi, I'm HEATHER.

Sign up to learn how to quit your job to travel the world (or pursue your passion) and why you should if you're over 40!

%d bloggers like this: