We’re home, back in our 150-year-old house on Main Street in small-town Ohio. And how can it feel so good? Especially after nearly a month of alluring palaces and temples and pyramids and a cruise down the Nile and walking in a city built with Jerusalem stone.
It’s all still here—that creak on the third step, the rattle of the foyer windows, and the patina of the wide-board floors. The newel post still holds up the banister worn smooth by the hands of adults and the bottom sides of kids. The sun hasn’t forgotten how to peek through the rose-tinted living room windows. And my many clocks are still ticking and chiming and swinging their pendulums.
After eating shawarma in Egypt and upside-down chicken in Jordan and falafel in Israel, how can a bowl of popcorn taste so good? How can it be so satisfying to fill an entire glass with ice before pouring water? And I could go on—our own bed, with an American-style top sheet, bubble bath, clothes in drawers, and real Diet Cokes, not Zeroes.
My delight in these at-home pleasures has made me feel like a stick-in-the-mud old fogy. But then I read this study. Coming home, scientists have found, makes your brain release extra doses of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. At least if you’re a mouse. Mice who are returned to their home cages experienced a rush of dopamine equal to the surge from a dose of cocaine.
No wonder the popcorn was so good and the ice. No wonder the squeaky floorboards under my feet and the banister under my hand makes me feel like a child returned to her mother.
I love to travel. And I wouldn’t say that the best part of traveling is coming home. But when you’re almost seventy, it’s close.