We just got back to the US a few days ago and it was a loooonngg journey, but I’m not crabby. Happiness levels steady. Elevated, even. And here’s why.
We are currently in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina, one of our favorite places on the East Coast. We rented a house by the beach to make our transition back to the States as easy as possible. It’s a big change for our family. And what better way to recover from jet lag than a couple weeks at the beach?
And jet lag there was. We had an 11 hour flight followed by a 1 hour flight followed by a 3 hour drive followed by 7 hours of waiting for the beach house to be ready. 5 suitcases, 5 carry-ons, 2 car seats, and 2 little jet lagged kids.
Totally worth it. Check out this view.
Oh yeah, about that crab in the picture. At OBX, there are ghost crabs that come out of the sand at night, near the water. So we wait until it gets dark, take some flashlights, and search for them. More accurately, we chase them around and taunt them as only a family with twin boys can. Last night there were hundreds of crabs, including the unlucky fella at the top of this post.
EXPAT CULTURE SHOCK AND GRATITUDE
A few observations on setting foot in the US for the first time in 2 years, and then I’ll get to my happiness numbers.
The people are nice. Maybe it’s a matter of being down South, but US Americans have been nice and friendly, lots of smiles and waves.
The food is plentiful … and often unhealthy. Compared to where we were living, the US has billions of food choices, whether at the grocery store or restaurants. I’m all for the ability to make individual choices, but there’s no denying that the ability to choose wisely is impacted by availability. On the way to the salad aisle, there are hundreds of quicker, easier, tastier, unhealthier options. That said, I’m proud of my kids — 5 year old boys, mind you — for actually requesting salad for dinner tonight. (We kinda brainwashed them by telling them about Super Size Me. They’re extremely frightened of fast food.)
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Consumerism is omnipresent. Along with food, I’ve noticed the sheer availability of consumer products, services, and activities. Again, not bad from the perspective of free choice, but with consequences. We were living overseas in a place that put a premium on public playgrounds. Here, the ratio of playgrounds to stores is much more sparse. Of course, the beach is a huge playground I guess.
The familiar feels new and exciting. We love to travel, and we will continue to explore new areas even back here in the US. This is our first time staying in the southern OBX, and we visited Ocracoke Island, accessible only via ferry boat or small airplane. We took the ferry. Fun trip, beautiful scenery. Very grateful for these opportunities and experiences.
HAPPINESS, BY THE NUMBERS
As is my custom, it’s time for the happiness numbers and some highlights from each category. For new readers, here’s my methodology, explained in more detail in the following posts:
- Rich’s Philosophy of Money and the Meaning of Life (and the Value of Cheese)
- Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Eats, Drinks, and Stays Married — February 2017
Here’s the past month:
Relationships: A full 5.00 for family — we’re getting a load of quality time this month and will be seeing extended family soon.
Growth: Work is great, because here I am on paid vacation. Love that. Hobbies are also strong. Recently I’ve been listening to a new podcast, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Awesome. There’s a certain optionality to podcasts (small premium for large future payoff), because it’s so simple and over time one can learn a ton about almost any topic — in my case, World War I. Via Dan Carlin. Thanks, Dan.
Freedom: Full 5.00 here. Beach house, pool, ghost crabs, exploring OBX. Today I did bumper boats with the kids.
Health: First time this year with a full 5.00 for health. Physically, I’m not in the best shape of my life but I’m not ailing. I just had a dental cleaning and it was perfect. I’ve been flossing. Mentally / spiritually, not a perfect month but I think I’m developing better tools to deal with my flaws. Floss and flaws.
How’s the month going, Penny? Any end in sight to your technology hiatus? Have you ever tried a podcast? Have you ever chased crabs?
My numbers since inception: