It's been a while so please bear with me as I remember how to express myself in written form. But here's the quick run down:
March, April, and May were spent in Thailand, Vietnam, and Thailand respectively, with a 24 hour stop in Singapore jammed in for good measure. I did some "traveling" here and there (including a second tour of Vietnam with traveling partner extraordinaire Steven J. Brisk), but mostly I spent time just enjoying living in Southeast Asia, walking the streets of Hanoi, playing frisbee, visiting friends, finding cheap guitars to leave behind and brushing up on my Thai. There were plenty of times I had to grant myself permission to not spend the day following travel book recommendations, but practice makes perfect.
Then after a week in the Bay Area and Yosemite, I flew to Madison to surprise mom on June 3. And thus began my summer at home in the Midwest. Just as it was in 2015, the familiarity and faces and embraces gave me the brand of comfort that energizes. I made my 2nd annual pilgrimage to Lake Adelaide, spent quality time with beloved family members (including my nephew's first birthday), played two Briscoe shows (thank you, thank you, thank you if you were able to make it out), scheduled endless happy hours, dinners and brunches, and even made it back to Manitowoc for the first time in at least 5 years.
I also ended up working for 2 months of the summer at what I lovingly refer to as "my last regular-ass job." While it was great to see the familiar faces there and watch my bank account grow, it also cut into my ability to reconnect with as many people as I'd intended to while home. Working was the responsible and right decision so I don't regret it, but I was super stressed out the last couple weeks in town trying to get at least a couple hours with everyone I wanted to see (especially since I left about 5 weeks earlier this year).
Eventually, I began the 53 hour journey to Christchurch for pre-deployment activities on 8/20. It was a bit of a nightmare, what with my first flight being delayed enough that I knew I'd miss my connection in LA before I walked up to the check-in counter. American put me up in LA for the night and I rebounded the next day by meeting a friend in Beverly Hills for some drinks and a stroll down Rodeo Drive. My new route was longer (18 hours via Melbourne, rather than 13 via Auckland), but I made it to Christchurch the afternoon of 8/23.
Instinctually I skipped the baggage carousel in favor of the Baggage Enquiries desk and knew it was a bad sign when, while helping the customer in front of me, the man working the desk looked at me and said "Are you Douglas?" Luckily, my bags showed up a day later, but 54 hours in the same set of clothes was suboptimal.
So now I'm in Christchurch having finished orientation and gear issue, scheduled to fly out tomorrow morning (Saturday 8/27) after a few days of weather delays. I've been trying to binge on fruit and veggies so I think I'm ready for this tail end of Antarctic winter (ambient high of -2 in the next 10 days). I'll be at McMurdo until February, unloading and reloading the freezer for 5 weeks or so before moving up to the carpenter shop again.
But, truth be told, this summer was a little rough. Despite all the good things listed and omitted above, my goal to reconnect with all the people I know and love in the Midwest ultimately went unfulfilled. I still love this lifestyle and haven't yet foreseen its end, but the tradeoff becomes painfully obvious when I leave home feeling like important relationships have taken a hit. Just gotta keep getting better, I reckon. Practice makes progress.
Side note, I hear Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins are on a 10th Anniversary tour (Minneapolis 9/6, Milwaukee 9/7). Go see them for me: