What does it feel like to come home after 7 weeks away in Europe?
I’m 2 days back but my body still says it’s Paris time urging me to awake when its early morning dark outside at home. Adjusting is always an interesting process. I think it’s easier to adjust coming home than it is going over due to the time zone difference.
The real test for me is getting back in my car after using public transportation for almost 2 months. You never really forget how to drive but it feels strange to sit comfortably in a vehicle you can control the speed and braking. Unlike using the metro or a bus or a train where you adjust to the flow and use your leg muscles standing to balance out the jerks and sudden stops.
Back in America, sitting alone, quiet, inside your own little world of a vehicle where you don’t have to wear earphones to listen to music so as to drown out the deafening noise of people in public transportation. It’s this insulation we are used to that I think demonstrates a big difference in how Europeans drive when they come to America. Generally, they are not used to it because their public transportation system is such a daily staple in their lives. The dependency on public transportation makes for people who are generally more fit physically due to all the walking involved. Plus Europeans are used to invading people’s personal space in crammed conditions. Americans seem to be abhorrent to their personal space bubble being invaded with a jostle. And thus we have this privileged “I own the road” kind-of-mentality.
I only ran into one curb ever so slightly this morning as I groggily rushed over to the nearest McDonald’s to get breakfast. (Hadn’t gone grocery shopping yet which will be another adventure) My chariot sits so high (it’s an SUV) so I had to maneuver the McDonald’s drive-through lane like those little cars at Disneyland that allow you to bump into the curb to keep you centered. And that’s kind of what I did to get that centered-feeling again of the freedom of driving. I do miss it when I’m in Europe so I did sneak in a 4-day trip renting a car see this link but the inverse was in not driving fast enough on the super highway in France. I had a hard time getting up to 130KPH because I kept thinking it was going well over 100MPH. Yet everybody except the trucks whizzed past me at well over 130KPH. It’s been so ingrained in my head in America to obey the speed limit or get a ticket from the highway patrol. I never see highway patrol in Europe.
So now that I’m back and adjusting to the time zone difference, and the feeling of driving again (somehow I hear Mel Gibson shouting FREEDOM!) I’m concerned my American complacency will come back and I’ll lose the momentum I gained on foot during 7 weeks in Europe.