Bree: I dreamed all night about being lost in a series of German villages with no end in sight. We just couldn’t seem to escape. But then, I woke up in our enormous hotel bed and realized that instead, the end had truly arrived. Feeling almost as nervous about returning home as I had about going on tour in the first place, I woke Ben up so we could head to the airport.
After we loaded our car with our bike boxes and ridiculous amounts of luggage, we stopped to enjoy the complimentary hotel breakfast. Then, we loaded up the GPS for the last time to drive to the airport.
After a quick fillup, we only had to drive circles around the airport once before we located the car rental location and dropped the car off, loaded all our luggage onto a cart, and headed into the Milan airport which proved to be more like an obstacle course than an actual way to travel. We waited in no fewer than 9 lines to complete everything from check in, to checking in our large bags, to passport checks, to getting on the bus which would take us to our plane. After only three hours of sleep, the whole process was straight up exhausting and it was a relief to finally collapse into our exit row seats that would carry us across the ocean.
As the ten hour journey wore on, we sorted photos and began the process of building a book of our memories and journal entries from our three month adventure, reminiscing on how absolutely lucky we are to have had such an incredible opportunity. Although the process of flying is not my favorite, a good part of me wished our travel day go on forever. I knew that once our plane touched down in Salt Lake City, the real world that we’d somehow magically left behind was waiting for us and that this insanely perfect time I’ve had to spend with my life companion would suddenly morph back into what the rest of America calls normal. We’d have jobs and family obligations and other people demanding our time and energy. We would see less of each other and of the great outdoors in favor of far, far more time looking at the dreaded computer screen. I held onto those quit moments of airborne reflection and simply felt grateful for everything we’ve experienced.
As we moved through customs after having picked up all our luggage once again, people stared at us and all our stuff, and even asked us if we were moving. We laughed and explained about our tour and were welcomed home by almost everyone we talked to. We had such a beautiful adventure, but even in Atlanta, the familiarity of home seemed welcoming. It was so strange to be able to read every sign and understand every announcement and to be able to ask for directions and have someone actually be able to understand us!
We had a long layover in Atlanta, and with our phones now on American soil, we called home for the first time since we left. It was weird to hear our parents voices again and we confirmed details of Ben’s parents picking us up from the airport, and heard all about the terrible flooding that hit my parents house last week. Having actual conversations with our families made going home seem truly real for perhaps the first time.
By the time we boarded our second flight, our exhaustion had reached a whole new level since we’d now been up for nearly 24 hours after our three hour night. Almost as soon as we sat down, we leaned on each other and fell fast asleep for almost the entire flight. Before we hardly knew it, we were touching down in Salt Lake City. I still had butterflies in my stomach as we disembarked.
Ben’s parents greeted us at baggage claim and generously helped us with our insane amount of luggage. Even with all four of us, we were struggling to get all of our boxes and bags out to the two cars they brought.
The dark drive home from the airport made it hard to see much of our desert home, but the air felt and even smelled parched around me. The silhouetted landscape seemed barren compared to the wild Italian fauna and I wondered if we would really like living in the dry desert that we have known all our lives after becoming so used to having so many trees and plants around. Even stranger was that we were told that they had experienced a wet year here in Salt Lake and my bushes in front of the house had nearly doubled in size since last summer, but still things felt so dry.
Ben’s sisters and a pair of Cafe Rio salads were waiting for us at our house, overwhelming my first impressions of home. Over the time we’ve been gone, the house I had remembered had apparently shrunk in my memory because I was stunned by how big and how luxurious everything in my own home felt. We laughed and talked and hugged everyone, all the while, my mind silently wondering if this beautiful, spacious building had really been where we’d lived for a whole year before we left. We ate and chatted a while longer, but soon everyone headed home and it was just me and Ben in our very own home.
We sat a while, idly sorting the enormous pile of mail at the table we almost never sit at, and laughing at all the strange ads that we’d received. We’re not accustomed to buying much of anything lately, and it all just seemed really ridiculous that we could just order so many unnecessary things by mail to be shipped to our house.
We opened the bike boxes and were relieved to note that they’d received far less abuse than they had on our flight to Europe. Once we’d confirmed that our trusty steeds had made it home with us and were in good condition, we headed off to sleep in our very own bed. The air conditioning in the house didn’t seem to be working quite right, so with the windows open and the ceiling fan running, we listened to the crickets chirp outside in the dry desert air until we fell fast asleep.