Last night I had a nightmare that my passport had been stolen in Loas and because it is such a difficult place, I couldn’t come home to America.

I keep having flashbacks. I keep remembering small things I’d forgotten in this swift transition from a third world country back to big city America.

Walking down the sidewalk in downtown Portland, I still think to myself how clean it is, how well laid out. I stop at crosswalks. I don’t run at full speed across the street between scooters and small cars.

I miss scooters.

The months I spent overseas are so small in the larger scheme of things. But… I’ve put off getting a hair cut because I love knowing that the last person to cut my hair was a man in Bangkok who didn’t speak much English but treated my head like a Bonzai.

It’s a strange and alienating feeling.

This morning in the shower I opened my mouth to the warm rush and drank from it. I can’t ever shake that fear of the water in Laos. Wondering if I was poisoning myself or my husband by rinsing vegetables in tap water…

I randomly remember so many things from life in Loas. I’m realizing that I basically came “home” and tried to turn off one valve while opening another.

Life doesn’t work like that.

So what do I do? I try to let myself think about what happened, how difficult and rewarding it was, I try to allow the managerie of feelings to have the space they need.

But, I still just want to shout at people around me that they are SO lucky! They can drink the water in the shower! They have a  light at each crosswalk the vehicles follow that allows them to cross safely. Oh how I want to tell the lovely people around me how many things we can be grateful for!

All the while, most of my energy is spent trying to acclimate. Even now I feel out of place and awkward. It’s not easy. Portland is amazing, don’t get me wrong I love it here, but SE Asia to Portland is jarring and I’m realizing more and more all these weeks later that I have to find a way to work through these feelings.

Transitions in life are like this, don’t you think? Some small, some leaps over canyons but none are easy.

What has been your most difficult transition and how did you work through it?



  1. Great post. I think we often expect too much of us – to switch gears quickly – when making big changes, especially if that change is returning to something we experienced before. I’m glad you are paying attention.

    I think my most challenging transition was having my first child and quitting work. Having a child and raising her was exhausting and divine, yet it took a few years to adjust to “just” being a stay at home mom. It forced me to look at my self-worth. And so much more. It was a good challenge to have.

    • I so admire every woman who has children! Bringing life into the world has to be absolutely the craziest transition a person can go through. Giving up a career adds to that emotional change as well. I can’t even imagine how hard it is Kelly. Thank you for your insights. I always value your perspective on life:)

  2. Funny you should ask that question? Saturday afternoon, I posted on Facebook, a transition from hell to a journey of, finally living. It starts out ‘This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. I am determined that I will live the remaining years of my life, healthy and whole.
    Your transition is like coming home from war, minus the artillery…Brave souls
    You are so right Little T. B, (not sure you would like your real name posted, LOL) we take life for granted. I know that you live a life of gratitude and your mother, my little sister, has taught me that it’s one of the key components to being happy, I do look at what God has given us, the flowers, mountains and especially trees, with much gratitude. But, don’t much think of how fortunate we are to get into a warm shower and cross the street and know that you don’t have to bob & weave to reach the other side. We should all be more aware of how our American life is truly a gift.
    Your mommy shared a couple of pics with me, I just gotta say, WOW, you guys look brilliant.
    I love you and Rob, I’m sure he misses me 🙂

    • I got to see that post on Facebook via screenshots sent by text (mom). I can’t even say how happy it makes me to know you’re going through what I would call an enlightening transition. I feel like I had a similar experience a few years ago and I’ve never been the same. Once I realized that all I’ll ever have is this one life, this one breath, this one moment… well it didn’t stop any of my struggles but it allowed me to keep putting them into perspective. I still go through so much. I know there are things I will always have to fight against. But here I am in this moment. Alive, strong and surrounded by other humans who are too. YOU being one of them. I love you!

  3. Wow, I wonder if life changes, where survival is an issue, leaves us with a small amount of PTSD???
    When I landed in San Diego after five years on the road delivering motor home’s, it was a huge shock to my system. I was literally in a different place everyday. Sleeping, 90% of the time, in a different place overnight. Although, I LOVEDDDDD that job, it created more stress on a strained relationship…
    It wasn’t the job that caused our breakup, that’s another story but what I learned in those five years was priceless. I lived through things that I never could have even IMAGINED even attempting!!! Endured physical pain, freezing cold nights, putting on three layers of clothes to stay warm, then deciding to keep driving to have heat. Out ran tornados, along with horrific weather conditions. At a certain point, I actually felt fearless. It seemed that I had already overcome and lived through so much, I didn’t fear death anymore! I won’t elaborate, only for the “whole” picture, I was married to an emotionally abusive man. Making things harder was a form of punishment that he found amusing…
    “Those things, that DIDN’T kill me and they MADE me stronger” !! I learned through it all, the true meaning of forgiveness. I learned how to live every moment, appreciating, The gift that it IS!
    Coming out of that crazy whirlwind to a life of “Normal”, was anything but easy! I would say it took me two years to finally feeling safe again.

    Thanks for your blog Rachael, so insightful and makes us all take a deeper look at what we are blessed with living in this county. You always inspire!!

    • You have a lot to share and learn from. Thank you for being so open an honest with your personal experiences! I still find it hard to be open about anything negative but I’m slowly learning that sharing can be used as a tool for healing and can enable others to do the same. Love you:)

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