Longtime (Home)Coming

Longtime (Home)Coming

You can always go home…but it will cost you.
$1,100 (to be exact) and 25 hours of flight time across three continents and, easy!  Just like that, I was back home in the states.  No matter the cost, it was so worth it.
Landing at the San Francisco airport after a year and four months of being totally, completely, GONE, felt so surreal.  I was watching a movie of the previous year all in quick mental flashes.  EuropeAsiaSouth Africa…19 countries and now this place again.  Thoughts rushed into my head trying to make sense of the strange emotional response I was having to seeing the “land of the free” again.  My home.
Nervousness, excitement and anxiousness filled me up while I took in the eerie familiarity that is San Francisco.
It felt as if an entire lifetime had gone by since I flew out of this same airport at 4 AM in August of last year.  
“Did all of that really just happen or did I dream it?  Did I really just backpack my way around the world then end up falling in love on another continent?”  (Yep, I became the total Eat, Pray, Love cliche.  Just like I swore I wouldn’t.)  landing-in-sf
I brought my South African boyfriend home with me, and here we are…home.
Sitting on the plane waiting to land, I look next to me at Rob, then back out the window over sweeping miles of land and water.

Yep.  This is real.  Here I am, back home, where everything started, ended, caged me in then set me free.  I can feel all the pain I left behind, all the triumphs, but more than anything I feel all the love waiting for me on the other side of this finish line.  All the people I’ve been missing, for what feels like forever, are here and I can not wait to see them.  
My friend Vanessa is picking us up and coming back to my hometown with us for the weekend, and my heart is bursting with joy.  As cheesy as that sounds, it’s true.  Literally bursting with excitement.
This homecoming was a long time coming…to say the least.
“We are on my turf finally!” I said to my boyfriend Rob about five times while we waited for our bags then went outside.  We’ve been together over 6 months and it’s always been in his “bubble.”  Finally, bringing him back to MY bubble is making me feel more excited than a kid on Christmas.  “Here we arrrre!”  
I ran outside baggage claim and found Vanessa’s car, running into traffic like an idiot, only caring about giving my friend the biggest hug ever.
Our first stop now that we’re stateside?  You guessed it.  In n’ Out.  My God, I have missed you American gluttony.  And In n’ Out…you are the (other) love of my life.  (Sorry Rob!)  Traveled 19 countries, tried some of the best food in the world.  Still can’t stop thinking about animal style fries. 
For good measure, we then drove through Starbucks on the way home to my parents house in Redding (four hours of driving after all those flights increased the coffee need-o-meter to the maximum).

You just can’t get this size coffee anywhere else!!
A month in the car (that’s what it felt like) later, when we pulled up to my parents house, Rob said how “typical American” our cul-de-sac appeared, like in the movies.  I never would noticed before, but he’s right.  Our neighborhood does look American classic, and unlike others I’ve seen in foreign countries.  For the first time, I felt wholeheartedly grateful for the modest upper-middle-class street I grew up on.  After seeing poverty around the world, I see my home as so much more than I did before.  I see it as GOLD.  And I see my family as very fortunate.  We were never “rich” by any means, but we wanted for nothing- and to most of the world, that IS considered rich.  I am humbled and grateful coming back here.
Truly seeing my home through a new set of eyes, we walked in to my parents who greeted me with the widest open arms ever.

My Mom and I…and Rob photobombing.  Please excuse the poor picture quality, we were all pretty excited!
My mom cried and I did too.  The feeling of seeing my friends and family after such an intense year, felt like letting myself breathe after holding my breath way too long.
Sweet.  Relief.
Many (happy) tears filled the rest of my time spent at home.  I saw those closest to me, and looked at California through my new “global lenses.”  I finally appreciated my hometown, Redding, for the natural beauty that it is.


Whiskeytown Lake (about 10 minutes from my parents’ house)


Spending the afternoon at the Sundial Bridge with Rob and my parents.

At present, life could not be better.
An added bonus to the whole experience, for me, was that I was finally able to play host and show my boyfriend around my turf.  We’ve lived only in his home country and he’s always “the local expert,” which I totally appreciate, but it was nice to be in the driver’s seat for once.  For a while, no longer was I the coin American in the room (HE was the foreigner now! haha).

I soaked up and appreciated every small and large luxury that came with being home, especially the time spent with my fellow Americans.
No matter what’s going on in the world, or in our own backyard, I will say this: Americans are some of the most friendly people in the world, and I’ve come to appreciate them (us).  Throughout my time abroad, I heard endless complaints about Americans being “too loud,” etc., but you know what?  After all that time away, I relish a loud American greeting.  Bring it on ya’ll!  (Just kidding about the “ya’ll.”. I’m from California, not Texas. You get the point.)

We may have our issues, America, but you sure now how to make a girl feel at home.  I found myself appreciating the way the girl at the check out line was smiling for no reason at her customers- something you just DO NOT see in many countries of the world.  Politeness and friendliness are taken to a higher level in America.  Perhaps I just became extra sensitive to it after visiting some less-than-welcoming countries.  Regardless, I was appreciative and felt warm and fuzzy inside.


California girls, I have missed you!

In order to see as many people as possible (and introduce the boyfriend), Rob and I got in my car and started a road trip from my hometown all the way down to Southern California.
When I got behind the wheel to drive, I squealed loudly with excitement.  I hadn’t driven the entire time I traveled, and I never was a very good driver, so you can imagine how happy Rob was to ride in the car with me.  (Spoiler alert:  We lived!)

Sunset on the side of the freeway in The Middle of Nowhere, California

We drove my car all the way from Redding (the last city north before you get to Oregon) down to San Diego to visit my sister.  We visited friends all along the California coast, exchanging stories and giving big hugs, sometimes sharing happy tears.
It was the best road trip of my life to date.

Stopped in Hollywood to see my friend Danielle!  Oh how I missed this girl!

In driving the length of my home state, I took time to see California in a new, fresh light.  It would never look the same as before.  As we traveled up and down California visiting people every day for a week, home looked different now…foreign even.  It felt comfortable, and uncomfortable at the same time.  And, admittedly, I found myself missing Cape Town.  
Everything has changed.  I changed.
As we drove back up towards San Francisco completing our “tour.”  I remembered myself a few years back saying things like: “I could never live outside of California.  I just couldn’t.  I’m a CALIFORNIA GIRL.”  Well, joke’s on me.  I didn’t just move out of state…
After my month long visit, I am not sure when/if I will be returning home.  For the foreseeable future, Cape Town, South Africa is home.
Now that I’ve really decided to stay here and plant myself, it’s time to switch gears from “Nomadic Backpacker Chick” to “American Expat living in Africa.”
I don’t know exactly what that will look like, but it’s sure to be an interesting chapter of my life and I plan to continue sharing the process, bumps in the road and all.
My world, and I,  have changed immensely.  And my definition of the word “home” has too.
I realize now that I was never “homeless,” even when I gave up my apartment and belongings to travel, living only with a backpack.  I am my home, and right now,  I will be in South Africa continuing to create my new life abroad.
Now, seriously, who’s coming to visit?!

Cape Town, you’ve completely captured my heart and become my home.


By |2016-12-02T02:55:20+00:00December 2nd, 2016|Dear Diary, Overcoming Fear, Solo Female Travel, USA|9 Comments

About the Author:

On August 14th, 2015 I left my life in the United States behind with the intention to never look back. I had the "American Dream" and I woke up from it, to create a new reality for myself. I sought out beauty in a world that was increasingly dark for me at the time and ended up finding more than I bargained for. With only a backpack, I traveled across Europe, South East Asia and then on to Africa. With over 30 countries stamped in my passport, I've become an entirely new version of myself with a broader perspective on what it means to be a woman in today's world. My hope is that by sharing my stories and featuring women like me from around the world, we can inspire others to break down their own internal barriers and go cross a few international borders while they're at it. I truly believe travel can be healing to a troubled soul, empowering to the lost and rejuvenating for the exhausted. Perspective is everything, and I believe in the power of "going global," what about you? SheGoesGlobal.net is a site that started out with my stories and grew into a platform for women all around the world to tell their travel tales of trials and triumph. We all believe that the more you see of the world, the better you can be as a person who inhabits it. Women encouraging other women to grow, travel, evolve- that's what SGG is all about. ---> Read my very first blog post (see "Archives" for August 2015) to learn how this all began.


  1. getrightrightnow December 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    As a wanderer who also began the journey in California, I can appreciate your sentiments about seeing your “home” in a new light. I’ve gone back to visit a few times after spending many years away and found it to be like the homecoming of a wayward son to a land that seems familiar but somehow doesn’t feel like home anymore.
    Thanks for the update.

  2. […] UPDATE:  Went to Starbucks a few weeks back after arriving home in the states for a visit.  Nearly kissed the sidewalk outside.  Shout out to the magical Starbucks mermaid, […]

  3. Hendrik December 5, 2016 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    I unfortunately never experienced such a trip by myself since in my younger ages I simply didnt have the chance. It always sounds amazing to read such stories, the opportunity to see in a short time so many places, this is somehow for me the “high level” of traveling 🙂
    So far I always looked forward to come “home” physically after every trip, but who knows – maybe I come one day to visit you in Cape Town and see how it is for someone in quite the opposite way 🙂
    Cheers from Switzerland, Hendrik

  4. The Walking Map December 5, 2016 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    You are so lucky to be from the great American city of San Francisco. “Been Away Too Long” is a Soundgarden song. 4 hours to Redding! People (myself included) tend to forget that there’s a lot more California north of the bay area!

    • Heather Ditmars December 6, 2016 at 7:08 am - Reply

      Love that band! And thank you! I agree with you. There is so much more to California than people realize. xx

  5. Rooting Robert December 6, 2016 at 2:57 am - Reply

    Aww. That’s a wonderful coming home story. Interesting to read all the mindsets of yours that have changed! Enjoy establishing yourself as a Californian expat in South Africa!

  6. Sam Coronado (@followyouroad) December 6, 2016 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    I really felt the warmth of home in your post! It truly is great to be home after a long time of traveling. Even though things are unfamiliar and changed a bit (or not at all) it still is home. No corner of the world could replace it.

  7. […]  Back then, I wasn’t traveling on such a strict budget (I thought at that point I’d be headed home and back to corporate life soon) and I was traveling by one-way tickets only, so I could make my […]

  8. […] will say this: we are SO SPOILED in the First World, especially in the United States.  Back home, I had a million little comforts I never noticed, until they were gone…and not coming back […]

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