When I travel, I prefer to skip the sights and bury myself in the corner of a local cafe. I like to take my time, immerse myself in someone else’s world and wait to feel like I’m really a part of it. When I first got to the UK a few weeks ago, my dad and I traveled to and from London in one day, and I can’t say it was worth the price of the train ticket. Sure, I can say that I’ve been to London, but what good does that do me? I’ve been to Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, but I hardly said a word to anyone who lived there or felt like I was a piece of the landscape.
I think that’s the real value of this study abroad experience. It’s a chance to become a part of the scenery, if only temporarily. I was feeling under the weather on Saturday night, so instead of going out with friends, I stayed in, made myself some stir-fry, skyped with friends from home, and watched YouTube videos. I only left my room to run down to the take-away on the corner for chips & curry at midnight. And it was fine. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by staying in.
I realized that this place was finally starting to feel like home to me. Despite my crippling introversion, I have managed to find for myself at least three solid groups of people to hang out with. I give directions to backpackers, I am used to the switches on the outlets, and I have learned to stop converting pounds to dollars. Just yesterday, I landed a waitressing job, which made me feel even more like a part of this place.
This is dangerous, though. The purpose of travel, I think, is to step outside of your comfort zone, not to fall back into one. As much as I am glad that I no longer freak out when cars come from behind me on the left side of the road, it’s also kind of sad. That’s why I’ve made a point to do at least one thing every day that I can’t do in America. Sometimes that means changing out of my pajamas to grab chips & curry from a take-away at midnight. Sometimes that means going to Holyrood Park on a whim after class, just because it’s there.
This year will be a constant struggle to find a happy medium between enjoying this newfound sense of home and taking initiative in the destruction of that comfort. Whatever I do, though, I’m just glad that I’m here.