Photo of the Month - August 2017
My oh my a lot has changed since I posted the Photo of the Month for July. If I recall correctly, I wrote that post in a castle courtyard in Carcassonne, France - a decidedly more regal location than the Toronto apartment in which I'm currently writing. And yet, it was perhaps no less foreign. Reverse culture shock is something all too real, though it's not necessarily something you could classify as "good" or "bad." No, it's not that simple, and it's a phenomenon that isn't so willing to bend the knee and be politely labeled or controlled.
It's complicated because on paper you're back "home," but suddenly you realize that "home" might be a concept and not a place. You walk down familiar streets that breathe equal parts deja vu and disorientation through your body. Suddenly, everybody is speaking English, and everything seems to be spoken at unusually loud volumes, with most of the conversations seeming scripted or totally unreal. Where, in times past, you were once a relatively uninterested citizen and bystander, now, all of a sudden, you're thrown blindly and unwittingly into the role of amateur sociologist.
And it's beautiful. And it's terrifying. The saving grace is that peppered onto that smorgasbord of reacclimatization is the fact that you get to reconnect with those who you love. Old friends and dear family bring certainty to the merry-go-round of reverse culture shock. Though, it's still emotional. You're overcome with joy and happiness to see everyone, but you're also confused as to why you haven't planned your going away party yet. People ask you when you're taking off again, and, for once, you have to look off into the distance, just a touch dumbfounded. Those people you see say goodbye like they used to. They hug you tightly like you're going away again, and you're both learning that you're here to not just revive the relationship but actually, for once, deepen it.
The truth is, I love feeling uncomfortable, disoriented, and for things to be slightly off kilter. That's why I travel.
If I'd spent three years away and everything looked and felt the same, I'd be downright upset because I wouldn't have learned anything. Seeing friends who I feel waited for me to finally get back and spend more than three weeks here,well...exchanging numbers with them feels marvellous. The kind of strange and bizarre I'm experiencing being back in a city I grew up in is fuelling me to explore and engage with it in new ways. It's reminding me that I'm blessed to have so many good people to see, who actually care about me.
And that's where this month's "Photo of the Month" comes in. I spent last Wednesday at an event at Trillium park with Travel Massive hosted by Ontario Parks who kicked off their celebrations and promotions around their 125th year! At a certain moment, I wandered off, as I am wont to do, and I just breathed in the skyline of the city once again. I was absolutely overcome with emotion. In that moment, I got to see Toronto as an outsider and insider, and I was blown away. Since I've properly lived here, so much has changed, and seemingly for the better. In that moment, I feel like I shook off a lot of rust and hesitation and began to lovingly accept the decision I made to come back here.
It only takes one small moment, one epiphany, to change the course of your life. Perhaps in that moment I understood that my time has finally come to turn what was the city of my youth into the playground for my dreams and ambitions of the future. I've come back to be a full-time travel blogger and freelance writer, and that's all kinds of nerve-wracking, but in that moment I was entirely at peace. This photo, to me, says everything. I'm ready to be here, and I'm ready to dive into Toronto life. Being here doesn't mean forgetting about my lives in other cities, it means bringing them back with me in a productive way and not longing for times past. The past is helpful, but only when it knows how to step aside and make way for the future.
Have you ever experienced culture shock or reverse culture shock? How did it feel? Have you ever had a big move or change in your life that allowed you to relate to this post? Have you ever been to Toronto before? What did you think? Finally, what do you think of this month's Photo of the Month? Please write a comment below and I'll be sure to personally get back to you. I answer each and every comment.