The Random Writings of Rachel: Our BIG Summer Plans

Our BIG Summer Plans

Nearly 3 years ago, I published a post on this blog announcing that we were moving to China. We arrived in China in July 2014, and as you know, we've since made another international move. Ever since our initial move, we have not set foot on American soil.

All that is changing this summer.

After 3 years, we will be returning to the USA to spend one month in the country, reconnecting with all of our friends and family.

I was searching for the most quintessential "Angel and Rachel in America" photo I could find...this is it, isn't it? 

Is it weird that this decision feels almost as serious as the decision to move overseas was in the first place? Deciding to visit and travel in the USA when you earn a currency much weaker than the US dollar is a bit intimidating, we've found. We have thought about all sides of the issue, we've made several pros and cons lists--and eventually decided to simply commit to the trip and go.

Thank you to friends who recommended Kayak for flight bookings--I am really happy with the flights we were able to get and the deal I found using a multi-city itinerary! We are flying into Los Angeles and spending a few days in that area, before taking a domestic flight to Texas. At the end of our trip, we will be leaving from Texas to return to Malaysia. Sometime in the middle of all that, we'll either be roadtripping to Michigan or flying to Michigan to spend a good chunk of our time in our old home state.

Why are we going back to visit now? From before we ever left the USA, we had prepped our families with the idea that we did not plan to visit the USA for 4-5 years. There are so many factors that have to line up just right that it's not an easy trip to plan or make. Life is made simpler when you aren't trying to hop 'home' all that often. At this point, we're only at 3 years by the time we're returning, but a variety of family and personal reasons have led us to choose this as the right time--one of those reasons being my sister's June wedding. We're not necessarily the emotional "everybody has to be at all family weddings" type, but on a practical level, I am a really good person to have around for running a major event...plus, emotions are involved, too. We can't totally delete them. :)

We are incredibly excited to return and meet and speak with lots of people, eat some 'guilty pleasure' sorts of food (Arby's!!! Boxed mac'n'cheese!!! Wheat Chex!!!), spend time enjoying some comfy American pastimes like bonfires. To hug my grandparents and aunts and uncles and to have fun adventuring with our siblings and cousins and play with our nephew. I'm eager to finally, finally pick up my ring, just in time for the due date. Whenever I feel a little bit homesick for the USA, I don't feel homesick for February or September or December or anything like that....I feel homesick for summer. Green, open fields and rolling hills and bike rides on sunny days. There's only one season of the year that I would ever want to visit--and summer is it.

On the other side of excitement is also a remaining feeling of intimidation. After 3 years away, it's a bit hard to fathom how to visit a place you once lived. How do we get a phone and service for just a month? How do we get health insurance that'll cover one month in the USA, just in case of emergency (responsible adult things) ? How do we get a reasonably priced rental car in California? Will Angel have a reunion with The Bear? If we roadtrip to Michigan, where will we stop/sleep along the way? The questions running through my mind are nearly endless. I'll probably have to try driving again while I'm there and it's been a while. Everyone has grown up a lot in the last three years. There are a lot of unknowns. And on a practical level--this is majorly going to be an exercise in visiting the USA on a budget...and it's been so long I don't even remember what the best budget strategies are for that country anymore! If you have any budget travel or budget shopping advice--please, I'm all ears! Shopping will actually be a big part of the trip budget...some items are more easily found or less expensive or better quality when purchased in America (or sometimes...just not available at all where we live), so we already have a list going of what we'll need to be looking for. And vivid purple haircolor tops that list. Also, a new swimsuit. (If you ask Angel, he'd probably say a laptop tops that list, but people are allowed to have different priorities, right?)

And just like that...this'll be a very unusual summer for us. Talk to me if you have any ideas on things I ought to know about budget travel in the USA these days, or just things I ought to experience or try while in the States, or things I need to remember to do before we leave. Have you started making plans and commitments for the summer yet?

26 comments:

  1. That sounds amazing! I moved from the Uk to the US to Australia... I cant remember the money systems or anything haha. I hope you have an amazing time xo

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  2. Hey Rachel - what wonderful plans! A year and a half ago, I went back to the States again after 3 years abroad too and had allll of these same concerns (also: worried I would forget how to drive a car and fuel up with gas, haha). Let me know if you need any tips - I'd be happy to share :) We try to make it back every two years (fortunately this visit this summer as well lines up with 2 weddings!) for the same reasons as you - I make a much weaker currency so saving for plane tickets is *an ordeal*, not to mention, for the rest of the expenses we'll encounter.

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  3. Sounds exciting Rachel! And it's so special that you get to make it home for your sister's wedding! If you roadtrip through Iowa, be sure to let me know--I'd love to meet you!

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  4. Have a great time! It'll be strange at first but feel comfortable after awhile.

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  5. First of all, love the picture! Secondly, I am really glad you guys decided to make this happen and I am thrilled that you will get to pick up your sweet baby's memory ring in person! Continuing to pray for you both and I hope this trip is a good refresher and special time with family and friends.

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  6. Hooray!! I'm so glad you guys get to take a trip back to the states, and sooner rather than later! And I'm glad Kayak worked for you - they do cars and hotels, too, might be worth checking out!

    Do you guys have cell phones currently, or not at all? If you have phones that take SIM cards, you could look into just buying a US sim card that will work in your phone while you're there. We researched that for our Iceland trip last summer, but it ended up being easier to just buy a 30 day international plan since we already had AT&T and iPhones don't have swappable sim cards (easily, anyway).

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  7. I'm so happy for you! This trip back to America seems like it's just what you need, and it will be so great to be at your sister's wedding. I'm really glad you have decided to go. We absolutely have everything we need in Hawaii, but whenever I go back to New York I always stock up on things that we don't have here or that are really expensive to ship.

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  8. Sounds like its going to be a great trip back!

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  9. Hooray for visiting this summer! Summers are great here so I am glad you will be back. I know that ring is really special so I am thankful you will get to pick it up.

    I will e-mail you about travel insurance. We used a really great company and I do believe it is worldwide and starts the day you are away from your 'home'. So, if you list Malaysia as home you should be covered the entire time you are in the States. It is very very affordable!

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  10. Wow! You're going to have an amazing time :D

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  11. Take it one step at a time! Make a list and attack it. Don't be afraid to ask for help as you are preparing for your trip. I hope you have a wonderful time back in the US!

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  12. Wow! I'm so happy that you guys will be able to make the trip, see family, and get your ring in time for September. What a huge blessing!

    My rule of budget travelling is always "don't always eat out at restaurants" (though if you're with relatives, I doubt you wouldn't do that a whole ton anyway) and for inexpensive groceries, I have always really liked the chain Aldi. And if you two wind up road-tripping and are in need of a place to eat or a floor to sleep on in the Oklahoma City area, don't hesitate to drop me an e-mail; I love feeding other people :)

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  13. That's a huge deal!!! SO glad you'll be able to reconnect with fam/friends after so much time away!

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  14. I can't imagine being away from my home country for that long! I hope you have a great time on your trip!

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  15. The joys of international living are counterbalanced by the travel logistics. :-) My parents were raised in East Africa (my mom was born there) and they made quite a few trips "across the pond", starting on ships and ending with airplanes. When I was a kid they went back to Africa for a few years as missionaries, so I had a few trips, which I mostly don't remember. But I do remember the culture shock of moving back to the States to stay!

    You may find that it's cheaper to fly to Michigan than to roadtrip, unless you are planning to rent a car for the duration anyway. Check red eye or standby flights for the cheapest rates, I think. Driving, will be a long trip. My Gramma and I road with some people from Kalamazoo to Dallas and back one spring. They drove straight through with two drivers, but if you're not comfortable with driving that might not work. It was a long trip. When we went to Knoxville, Tenn. (from Austin area) we stayed overnight east of Little Rock, Ark.

    You may be able to get a pre-paid cell phone for a month. Some friends of my family who lived part of the time in Israel and part of the time in the U.S. did this and found it useful.

    I hope all goes smoothly for you!

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    1. Ask among your friends and family for a bargain sniffer. My other Grandma was one of those and she could find bargains in towns she had never been to before. Very handy for finding necessities - and otherwise. :-) Someone who finds it necessary to shop online a lot may be able to give you ideas where to find some of the things you are wanting to buy while in this country.

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  16. It sounds like you have big plans to come! I'm envious that you like out of the US! I've never even left the country!

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  17. Teary eyed thinking of how you will have your baby's memory ring just in time for the due date. *Hugs*

    Your summer plans sound awesome! How exciting to return to the States and see family and friends who you have missed! And to attend your sister's wedding as well! So good! I wish I had tips for budget traveling in the States, but all my tips revolve around using credit card points which require living here in the first place. But I have no doubt you guys will figure out the thriftiest ways to travel!

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  18. You are coming back! Wow. I am sure it will be quite emotional, fun, and exhausting....hugs and prayers. And your sisters wedding! Ahhhhh! I am excited for you. As for $$... make a patreon!

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  19. Ahhh so fun!! sounds like it's going to be so amazing!!

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  20. So exciting!! I hope you have the best summer - it sounds like it's going to be a blast!

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  21. This sounds so thrilling! Change is inevitable and frightening but it's part of life! ):

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  22. I just discovered your blog so this was the first post I read and WHOA! You've been away for a three year?! I couldn't imagine being away and then coming back to see friends in family after that long. That will be so much fun (and the eating part will be amazing)! What was it like to tell your families you wouldn't be back home for 4-5 years?

    Also, if you need a place to organize your trip back home, I would for Travefy.com, you can build travel itineraries on there so you can keep track of where you want to go and see! :)

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  23. Oh that is so exciting that you guys will be moving back to the US. It's funny how attached we get to a place even though it is not our home country and we have only lived there for a few years. I guess that says a lot about how much fun you have been having :) Good luck with everything and the move!

    xx, Kusum | www.sveeteskapes.com

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  24. Wow, that sounds like an action packed trip backed and traveling in the US! God Bless and safe traveling mercy to you both!

    Ursula

    www.blueridgebeautyblogger.com

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  25. So exciting for you that you get to visit home! As far as road trips, the thing that ends up adding up is food. Wendy's, Taco Bell, McDonald's all have value menus that are really cheap. For gas savings, the app "Gas Buddy" is great for helping you find the cheapest gas around. We always stay at people's houses if we can which helps on cash big time too :) . If you do stay at a hotel, make sure it includes breakfast and load up!

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