julia dimon/for metro toronto


Columnist Julia Dimon is about to leave the backpacking life.

I’ve bargained in Morocco, cheered matadors in Spain, climbed the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Berlin Wall, drunk pints in Prague, camped along Bulgaria’s Black Sea, floated in Jordan’s Dead Sea, played VIP in Dubai, gone cage-diving for great white sharks in South Africa, climbed sand dunes in Namibia, slept among lions and hyena in Tanzania, spear-fished in Zanzibar, trekked for gorillas in Uganda, danced with pygmies in Congo, meditated by India’s Ganges river and climbed the Great Wall of China.

I’ve slept in fleabag motels, 12-person dormrooms, real caves, tree houses, even seven-star hotels. I’ve taken all forms of transportation, from camelback to hot air balloon. I’ve survived malaria, a mean case of “Delhi belly” and a two-day train ride through Sub-Saharan Africa.

I’ve backpacked through 29 countries, across four continents and now, with my year up, I’m finally going home.

Only now am I truly freaked out. When I think of this metaphysical place called ‘home’, I get a queasy, butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach - that feeling you get before public speaking, right before vomit your guts out.

Though I should be excited at the prospect, truth be told, I’m torn.

I’m dying to hug my family, unpack my clothes, soak in a bathtub and sleep in my own bed. I want to eat bagels and goat cheese until I become lactose intolerant. I’m pumped to snuggle up on the couch and catch up on movies I missed over the year. But beyond good food and closet space, home means responsibility. Home means retuning to real life and becoming an adult. Home means facing the big question: so what now? After I’ve overdosed on bagels, after the novelty of home and the initial rock-star status fades, I’ll have some major life decisions to make.

This travel junkie has been a transient for a year, living day-to-day with complete freedom and few commitments. I loved the lifestyle and don’t really want it to end.

Once you’ve tasted what the world has to offer, can you ever really be satisfied with home? Dunno. Guess I’ll find out soon enough. I expect my transition into the real world won’t be easy. At the very least, I’m anticipating anxiety, even a state of bewilderment and distress at being in my new environment.

They call it reverse culture shock, and I predict I’m going to get it baaad. So get ready Canada, here I come.

I’m on my way home.