Friday, June 12, 2009

UK Holiday, Part 3

Actually, Part 2 was pretty much the end of my holiday. I mean vacation. It was another long plane ride back during which I watched “Marley and Me” and tried to explain to the English guy sitting next to me about the death penalty and why Texas executes so many people each year.

I don't think that after only a week you can really say you've really experienced another culture, especially if you pretty much just hung out with your sister and went to tourist sites on your own during the day. But I suppose the thing that stood out to me most in the UK was the sense of history and tradition. At the Tower of London I saw a group of young students there on a field trip, and I wonder what it’s like growing up with that long history of kings and queens and castles in your consciousness. And being surrounded by so many old buildings, how could you not constantly be thinking of what came before? In America, history starts in 1776 and you can go weeks without seeing a building that’s more than 30 years old.

It surprised me how relieved I felt being back on American soil. Getting off the plane at the Chicago airport where I had a connecting flight, a customs agent checked over my paperwork and then said in a bright Midwestern accent, "Welcome home." And Chicago isn't much at all like El Paso, but I did feel like I was home.

I don't know exactly how to explain the feeling of being back in the US after being in the UK. The word that comes to mind is spaciousness. The airports are bigger, the houses are bigger, the cars are bigger, in places like El Paso there’s empty land as far as you can see. The day after I came back I was driving on the highway in the desert heat and a Guns ‘n Roses song came on and I found myself appreciating just how American that moment was.

This trip was a big deal to me, even just proving to myself and everyone I could handle the planning and finances and getting from one place to another. Travel turns out to be a mix of luxury and personal edification and accomplishment. “You’ve been to Europe?” Yes. For months I held off on starting on new things until after I had done this. I wonder what's next. More new places, more meeting new people, more adventures, I hope.

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