Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? That must explain why all high school seniors enthusiastically allow themselves to move into tiny dorm room with a stranger named “roommate,” if only just to leave the family they see constantly… and then sophomore, junior, and senior year spend the whole month of October looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Time and distance have a way of sentimentalizing everything past, and suddenly family pets are small furry idols and mom’s standard throw-together Tuesday dinner is gourmet and absolutely impossible to recreate without the secret ingredient—the cook herself, in her own kitchen.
The reactions I’ve received from friends and family when I tell them I’m leaving the country for a bit have ranged from shocked to (slightly) joking critiques. Examples: “That’s unfair to the people who like you…!” “You’re going to learn so much!” “Guess we should stop hanging out, then….” “A year????!”
I’ve learned to acknowledge them, shrug (to myself) and admit that yes, I know I’ll miss them a lot, but opportunities like this do not present themselves frequently. It’s got to be more difficult to live in another country without a tried-and-true program. It’s hard to ‘appropriately’ respond to these protests because we both know that their life will go on and so will mine. It’s hard to tell people I won’t be here, at all, for a year. It seems like forever.
College students are in a constant process of discovery, and because of this we tend to be transitory and frequently self-absorbed. There’s a sense of urgency when we look into the future, because we are told, and know from experience, that four years goes quickly and then we are full-fledged “adults.” The window of opportunity seems to shrink when a full-time job arrives, and then, for some people, a family and permanency are soon to follow. My sister’s friend told her that three things are necessary for travel: money, health, and time. Many people make the mistake of waiting until they have all three, but I have a suspicion I never will. So with two categories (health and time) I’m going to travel as much as I can, though some days I feel like I am abandoning friends and responsibilities back home.
Can I expect relationships to be the same after so much time and distance have passed between us? Yes. I think so. I hope so. Aren’t my high school friends generally the same as they were two years ago? Since many people I know will be studying abroad a semester as well, I think we’ll all go through a period of re-adjustment.
One of my good friends who I rarely see due to our shared ambition for travel once wrote in a letter: “If my friends can’t understand that travelling is an integral part of me, then I don’t think I can call them a true friend.” I don’t recommend that anyone seek to become restless, but for some of us it is an inherent characteristic that must be reckoned with constantly. Sometimes suppressed, sometimes accepted.
So, friends, family, readers, please bear with me here. I certainly don’t want to leave anyone, and I know I’ll seriously wish I hadn’t made this decision a couple weeks while abroad, but if I was forced to stay in one spot I don’t think I could be a very good friend or fellow human. Everyone knows that powerful feeling of being on the road again, and I find it incredibly addicting. Here’s to finding more of myself every new city I travel to. See you in Peru!