The ever-changing concept of ‘home’ for travelers 

For some, seeing the world is not just an option– it’s a necessity. 

Through the past few years of traveling, I have determined that the concept of home is always transforming. For adventure-seekers like myself, the very definition of home doesn’t necessarily exist. When you’re constantly in motion, you learn to make a home within yourself, the people you meet, and the new places you fall in love with. 

We hear all the time that home is where the heart is. The reality is that I’ve left my heart in so many places in the past few years of studying abroad. I have seen over 15 countries in three years, and would argue that I’ve left a little piece of myself in each one, with some pieces larger than others. Ireland, for example, has served as my stationary constant for the past three years. It is where I fell in love with learning again, as well as the place I became inspired to see as much of the world as I can. I feel most alive, secure, and confident in Ireland. I am prepared to make my return to my favorite place, with plans to stay indefinitely. 

Cliffs of Moher, September 2015

When I studied abroad for the first time three years ago, I was truly a lost soul. I spent my time controlled by my anxiety, obsessing over small details and having difficulty making friends. Making the leap to study abroad in the summer following my freshman year of college took all the courage I’d never know I had within me. This of course led to a second round of study abroad, this time, for a full academic year.

In these transformative times of adventure, I found that each city or country I visited reminded me a little of home. I had the privilege of seeing mothers playing with young children in Portugal, watching families leave places of worship together in Italy, and dancing along the shores of France among families and couples alike. No location is the same of course, but wherever you find yourself most captivated will stay with you, even long after you depart. If you’re lucky, you become a part of this place, even just for a second. 

Sligo, Ireland, November 2015

This changing definition of home is undeniably beautiful, but also terrifying. To those that don’t embark on a nomadic existence, even temporarily, the idea of securing a home within yourself and new lands will sound daunting. Eventually, this becomes second nature. The goodbyes before you depart are no longer scary, they are a part of this life you chose. There will always be strong connections where you leave behind, but your bags have been packed since the day you were born. You know you were never meant to stay in one place. 

An ode to my backpack… (2014-2017)

I am undoubtedly a sentimental person. However, after traveling fourteen countries in under three years, I have been able to count on one constant companion: my LL Bean backpack. 

My parents gave me a new bright blue hiking backpack before embarking on Semester at Sea in June 2014. My backpack made it through my first goodbye with family, before leaving for Europe for three months. My backpack held my beloved stuffed animal close through my first transcontinental flight. It has been with me every step of the way for the past three years.

Hiking Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland, January 2016

If you search through this backpack, despite many washes, you’ll find grains of sand from a beach in Spain from that summer. There’s a mysterious stain near the large pocket, which I am fairly certain came from spilling my reindeer dinner while traveling in Finland. It has survived many countries, washes, and airport security screenings. 

My backpack is the last thing I pack before traveling, but contains the contents that are most important to me: my passport, glasses, and so much more. My passport allows me to stretch my wings, while my glasses allow me to see the world. Before every trip, my mom manages to slip a card in the backpack. This simple act, so sweet and so reassuring, has meant so much to me through years of travel. 

My backpack came with me every single day, after I made the decision to study in Ireland for my junior year of undergrad. I used it to carry the textbooks that made me fall in love with academics, as well as my essentials on various trips around the country. My LL Bean backpack has hiked up mountains with me, and traveled to nations with different languages and dialects. It has withstood both weather and time. 

Naturally, I’ve grown very attached to this backpack, but it is time to start a new chapter. 

I will start graduate school abroad in just four weeks. I will be moving to Ireland, and it’s time to retire my trusty blue backpack. I am grateful for all the times I’ve been able to count on it for support, and look forward to taking my new green one across the pond. It certainly has a lot to live up to. 

Six honest feelings you have before moving abroad 

In exactly one month from today, I will be arriving in Ireland to start a new chapter– graduate school. Of course, I am excited, but there are a number of other emotions that accompany a transatlantic move. There are many joys of starting a new adventure, but there are a few anxieties that arise, too. Here are six honest feelings you’ll have before moving to a new country.

Slight Panic

I’ll admit, some days the panic feels more than “slight.” There are immigration forms to fill out, visas to apply for, and currency to exchange. You’ll have to find health insurance, a place to live, and so much more. Even though you knew this change was coming, it suddenly feels like it’s approaching quickly. In my years of abundant travel, I have learned not to necessarily believe in fate. However, I believe in good things happening to the right people who take the right chances. Your situation will fall naturally into place, if you work for it. 

Exhilaration

Moving to a new place is undeniably thrilling. There will be new sights, smells, and food to try. You’ll get to know differentpeople, cultures, and ways of life. This is a wonderful time, and it’s important to savor every minute of it. On the days when you feel most excited and looking forward to the future, hold onto those feelings. They will come in handy during times of panic and anxiety that come with the territory. 


Independence

This is the first time you’ll truly be on your own. You’re going off into a whole new world, and it’s unlikely you’ll have the same guidance you received at home. This is both wonderful and can truthfully be downright terrifying. You’ll be in charge of yourself, and you won’t have people to answer to. Moving is a true test of your responsibility, your drive to succeed, and your ability to adapt in new situations. If you take the necessary steps to adjust smoothly and safely, you will surely thank yourself in years to come.

Nostalgia 

Before you leave, everything at home or wherever you are will sparkle a little brighter. You’ll spend more and more time reflecting on happy memories, and on some level, how hard it may be to leave them behind. Not only this, but you’re acutely aware of the goodbyes to come. Don’t let this overshadow your excitement. The cliche states that when one door closes, another opens. Try to remember that no door is truly closed, as your loved ones will always be there to support you in whatever adventure you decide. Each ‘goodbye’ could lead to another ‘hello.’

Hopefulness 

As much as moving abroad can be frightening, you are filled with hope that the experience will be everything you dreamed of. You walk with a little more pep to your step. Your dreams are filled with visions of new friendships and a fulfilling life in an exotic location. For every anxiety about moving, you are likely feeling equal parts hope that your experience will be joyful and lead to happy memories.

Gratitude

As much as this is an independent quest, you know that you could not do this without the support of others. This is your family, who have always believed you are capable of incredible feats. You know that without your friends to lean on, you would not have made it through the many trials and tribulations it took to get you to this pre-departure point. You know that if your professors hadn’t taken the time to talk with you about the upcoming changes, you would not have been able to stand on your own two feet during this process. Thank the ones that love you most before you go. 

This is how you prepare to start over

It’s time to shake things up, and you’re starting a new chapter. The rhyme or reason doesn’t matter, but for the first time, you’re about to be truly on your own.

This is how you prepare to turn a new leaf.

Mentally, there’s a checklist. You realize, as you’re sitting down to dinner, that this could be your last Tuesday afternoon in July watching Gilmore Girls with your mom. You think to yourself that last week was possibly your final road trip to see some long-time friends. You know, deep down, that you will perhaps never see some of these people again. Some things aren’t meant to last forever. You’ll find that the important things will continue, long after you depart. 

The word ‘closure’ takes on a whole new meaning. You know there’s some people you won’t see again, at least for a while. Yet, you’re at peace with it. Goodbyes don’t scare you. Ceremonial activities like graduations feel final, and it’s something you’re comfortable with. Your bags have been packed since the day you were born. 

Even though the goodbyes don’t scare you, the ‘hellos’ sometimes do. You’re about to make a name for yourself in a new place. There are new people to meet and do good by. The person you were in the city or continent before isn’t the same as the person who will step off the plane into a new universe. Logically, you know that the timing has never been better to become a new person. Better yet, the timing is where it needs to be in order to become the person you were always supposed to be. 

It’s easy to be scared leaving the world you’ve always known behind. It doesn’t matter how many adventures you’ve had previously, starting again somewhere new is frightening. If you’re fortunate, you have people that believe in you. If you’re even luckier, you believe in yourself. 

Here’s what you do in the mean time:

As cliche as it sounds, you cherish every moment while still looking at what’s to come. You hold onto each hug a little longer, and smile a little brighter. As much as you want to make a mark on somewhere new, leave a stronger mark on wherever you leave behind.