After 10 months in Asia, I am back in America! As I revealed in an Instagram post last month, I came to Chicago to meet my 3 month old nephew, Judah!

Before we get into the details of my return- like how long I’ll be here, what I’ll be doing, and where I plan to go next, let me tell you a few of the things I missed about America while I was away!… (Warning: Some items on this list are basic.)

1. Target

I missed Target!

As soon as the jet lag wore off, I headed to Target. Walking up and down the aisles I thought “ah, I’m home.” That, my friends, is about as basic as it gets.

2. Trader Joe’s

I missed Trader Joe’s.

Wow! I have a whole new appreciation for Trader Joe’s now that I am eating plant based. For those of you who don’t know what Trader Joe’s is, first of all, I’m sorry, second of all, it’s amazing! Trader Joe’s is a small grocery store chain that sells novelty and health food items. I loved it before but I love it even more now that I’m eating consciously!

3. Driving a Car

I missed driving a car!

I hadn’t driven a car in almost a year! I’ve never liked driving but as soon as I got back I was eager to get behind the wheel! There’s nothing quite like cranking up the radio and hitting the open road. Which leads me to my next point…

4. Country & Hip-Hop Radio

Yes, I missed the actual radio.

I know that with Spotify I have access to music from around the world but there is something nostalgic about the radio. Driving my mom’s car, switching between the local country and hip hop radio stations, I feel 16 again! … And I love every basic minute of it!

5. Pumpkin Spice

I missed pumpkin spice… everything.

Lattes, candles, bread, cookies, you name it! Pumpkin is used in a variety of meals all over Asia but there is no such thing as “pumpkin spice.” If there is, I sure didn’t find it… and believe me, I looked. (Starbucks didn’t even serve the (in)famous pumpkin spice latte!)

With that said… let me complete the picture of my “basic” American homecoming for you…

On my way to Target, driving my mom’s Chevy SUV, I  toggled between Eminem, Dirks Bentley and Ludacris, while drinking a pumpkin spice latte. True story.

6. Americans

Yes, I missed Americans.

As someone who naturally seeks out people as different from myself as possible, I have often underestimated the bond I have with other Americans. This bond can be deep, rooted in culture, racial injustice or politics, but more often than not, it’s over something silly. Like the time I said to my American roommate in Bali “Your room smells like Barnes & Noble.

I met very few Americans while traveling. This was partially because Americans don’t travel as much as people from other countries do (I’ll get more into that later) but also because I avoided Americans for awhile. Early on in my travels, the sound of an American accent (especially a California or Midwestern one) would make me cringe. But over time I started to value and miss the connection I can make with other Americans.

When I landed back at O’Hare International Airport, after nearly a year away, I smiled when I heard all the American accents.

7. My Friends & Family

Last, but definitely not least, I missed my friends and family!

My little sister had a baby boy while I was away! Meeting my 3 month old nephew, seeing my sister as a mom, and seeing my mom as a grandma for the first time was truly remarkable.

I also managed to keep my homecoming a secret from my best friends and surprised all of them! Each one of their reactions to our surprise reunion was as priceless as the others!

(VEGAS FAM- I’m coming for you!!!)

How beautiful is my little sister and her baby boy?!

Meet Judah Warren!

Me and my bestie’s baby!