Los Angeles. Houston.

I choked up when I saw the “Welcome to the United States of America” sign above the escalator in LAX. After a rather long journey, it felt good to be back.

Los Angeles greeted me with beautiful, blue-skied, sunny weather, and the city was alive with Friday energy. We settled into our hotel and relaxed for a bit, then made our way to the concert that brought us to Southern California in the first place: Eddie Vedder, with Glen Hansard opening.

Gorgeous venue, great show, and we met an actor. I don't remember his name, but he was a cool guy.

I had my first alcoholic drink in months, bought three concert shirts and happily relaxed into the comfort of spending time with someone who doesn’t have to ask me to know what I’m thinking.

Saturday was spent walking several miles around Santa Monica.

The Santa Monica Pier. Behind us was a woman with a mic and an amp screeching along to Rihanna's latest single. Immediately after taking pictures, we escaped her noise.

On the Santa Monica Pier we played in the arcade and ate tacos from a small stand.

As it turns out, I'm not very good at any of the games pictured here.

Hours later, dinner was a relaxed, filling meal at the Pacific Dining Car, a local restaurant that came recommended by a former Los Angelino.

It was 3am before we tried to sleep, and I caught myself on the verge of tears. I kept them quiet, but I was panicking. My heart thudded hard in my chest and it felt like I was trying to breathe underwater.

The ache came from knowing I would be leaving. My departure from North America wasn’t for weeks, but I was already considering how it would be, and in my jet-lagged and emotional mind, it was Vacation Armageddon.

I’ve always thought of myself as this adventurous world explorer, someone who lives here a year, then there, and enjoys a highly mobile lifestyle. Instead, I’ve found myself longing for a home base: a foundation, a little place of my own where I walk in the door and feel peace.

And I miss driving. Oh, my goodness, I miss driving.

I am happy in Taiwan. But am I happier in the States? Was I feeling a vacation high from spending uninterrupted time with my best friend in a place I really like? I wasn’t sure.

I felt like a massive failure. I couldn’t cut it as an expat. Too many loved ones at home, too many failed expectations for my life in Taiwan, too many items in the Go Home list, too few items in the Stay in Taiwan list.

I finally forced myself to sleep for a quick hour before we had to leave for the airport. Time to return to Texas and see my family. Maybe being back in Texas would help clear my thoughts and calm my panic.

Welcome to Texas, where there's room enough for all your ruminations. Unless you're a Russell, in which you still think too much and should probably be sedated.

I needed assurances, and what better place to get those than hanging out with family?

Mom: "What are you girls doing?" Me: "Trying on hats and taking pictures." Mom: "Oh, dear."

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