Saturday, September 17, 2011

the travel bug, part 2

So yes, as you've read (or maybe you haven't yet), I've been bitten. And as I said, there are reasons this wanderlust has turned into a glorious plague rather than a passing adventure.

Traveling isn't just excitement, new cuisines, and pretty places to me. It has been challenging, exhausting, terrifying, and all the while rewarding.
I was petrified to study abroad my junior year of college. I was afraid of traveling "alone" (I was certainly with a group of other college students in my program, but I didn't know them at first) and living with strangers (even if they became my best friends). I doubted my ability to navigate a foreign language out of necessity. I worried my friends, still physically at Syracuse University, would forget about me and move on with their lives.

I left anyway.

The month is Ecuador was just about perfect. My nerves calmed down as soon as we left American soil, and I was on an excitement high from then on; soaking up the vibrant culture, the warmth of my host family, the beauty of the language. I became closer and closer to the other students in my study abroad program. I desperately missed the guy I was seeing at the time but his steadfast persistence eased any doubts I had about "us." When my new friends and I left Ecuador, we were all excited to settle into our Chilean lives. But not before the thrill of our travel seminar through Buenos Aires and Montevideo. I was living the life. Until things went awry at home and all I felt was helpless and far. From there, I began to miss little things, like my mom's grilled cheese and consistent cell phone service... which then led to bouts of homesickness, in between excitements like dreams in the Spanish language and spring break. It was hard. At times, I was sad. But as the semester went on, Santiago de Chile became my home. I revealed it's wonders to my parents in their brief visit, and as I did, I fell in love with it all over again. So much so that when the time came for me to go back to the United States, I was devastated. Such is the nature of studying abroad, I suppose.

A few months later, I studied abroad in Strasbourg, France. Besides the daily challenge of yet another few months of foreign language acquisition, it was easy. I was living in a smaller city, I practically had family nearby, I knew the drill, and the program itself was a lot more experienced (1 semester of history versus 40 years). The four months flew by, and once again, I didn't feel ready to leave this European city that I referred to as yet another home. I was, however, looking forward to spending quality time with family, friends, and that guy I spoke about that had since become my boyfriend. 

It was beyond amazing to see everyone again. What wasn't amazing was the reverse culture shock, nor living in my parents' house for the summer while feeling more grown up and independent than I'd ever been. And if that weren't enough, that same reverse culture shock joined me for another round when I returned to that colleges campus I had so longed for just one year before. Dare I say that dealing with such things was the hardest part. I can't describe how it feels to have had the most fulfilling 340 days of your life only to find that everything at home is pretty much the same as it was. In some ways, it's unnerving. In some cases, it's impossible to reconnect with people you spent your time missing from halfway across the world. Sad but true. And on the bright side, I grew immensely from it.

I feel as though every choice since then has been made in conjunction with how it will influence my next global galavant. Sure, I've performed somewhat of the basic routine--graduating from college, getting my heart broken, searching for a job, adjusting to the real world--but I also went to Montreal, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Boston, Providence, Baltimore, D.C., dozens of other U.S. cities on my solo cross-country road trip. Then I left again for a month in Costa Rica and Panama

I'm not dense enough to believe that I haven't been lucky to have had the opportunity to travel as I have, yet I'm also aware that this isn't the typical post graduate life for most of my peers for a reason. Although there are some that actually just can't live this way, most simply choose not to do so. They have other passions that drive them and keep them secure.

And in some ways, I envy them. Because for as much as I want to soak up the whole wide world, I too am trying to restlessly figure out my place in it.

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