I finished my summer job exactly four days ago. And while I'm ecstatic that my sweaty days of leading little kids around and taking fish off the hook and hiking with twelve first-graders and cleaning up someone else's vomit off of the cabin floor are over, I can't help but miss being a camp counselor at the same time. It's a strange but not unfamiliar feeling-- longing for somewhere, something, someplace, a period of time in your life that you can never return to. I guess they call it nostalgia. For someone who's never content staying in one place for very long, I have the hardest time letting go of the happy times in my life. Which is probably why I found myself scrolling through Yahoo's travel section this morning. Among the Top 10 California Beaches and the Truth About Summer Road trips, I come across articles about the places I've been. And I miss the glittering lights and sweater weather of romantic Paris that Paige and I spent a week in this past November. And I miss the stunning view of the Swiss Alps from my hotel window. And I miss freezing in Amsterdam in February, waiting in line to visit the Anne Frank House. And I miss staying in a house with no roof or shower in the Moroccan heat. And most of all, I miss my Spanish home, Sevilla. This morning, my host mom sent me a text, "echo de menos tu sonrisa, "I miss your smile." And if my Spanish were better, I would tell her that I miss how her home always smelled like lemon cleaning supplies, how I loved coming home to a huge meal at 3 in the afternoon (and that she fed me when I wasn't hungry), and how grateful I am for the kindness she showed to a little, jet lagged American girl that showed up in a taxi at her door speaking no Spanish. Sometimes people ask me if I was scared about living with strangers in a foreign country where I don't speak the language. I wasn't at all-- I was beyond excited that life would become interesting again. Maybe I should have been scared, but things have a way of working themselves out. If had let fear keep me from Spain, I would have missed out on the grandest adventure of my life. And so, while I'm sitting here, flipping nostalgically through photos of my travels, I'm telling myself that it shouldn't make me sad. One day I'll get to experience the rush of getting on an international flight by myself again. One day, I'll visit the cities that I fell in love with. One day, my path will cross again with the people who shared my journey. The absolute biggest challenge upon returning home has been learning how to be content with staying still. So far, the remedies are taking siestas, writing about my experiences, and talking about travel with anyone who will listen. I've been really lucky this summer to have made some friends from Colombia, England, Kenya, and New Zealand. Their daily presence reminded me of the world beyond Arkansas and that yes, it still exists. (I've added a few more places to my bucket list, too. Next stop, Bogota.)
I was sad to leave Spain, am sad that the amazing people I've met this summer have moved on to better things, but happy knowing that each change in life presents new opportunities and adventures. It doesn't mean that people and places won't find their way back into your life again. Because they will, if they're meant to be there.
"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." -- Lao Tzu
Always looking up, still independent, still fiercely passionate about travel, just a little bit stuck in Arkansas,