It’s strange for me to be home. While I knew this day would eventually come, it is hard for me to believe that it’s actually here. And although I’ve been home for less than a week now, I feel as if I have been here longer than the length of time I had studied abroad. Reincorporating back into my home community is both easy and difficult. It is easy because everything is the same and familiar to me. Yet, this is not really a positive thing. Since everything is the same, I’ve found that the only thing that has really changed is myself. Everything is boring here and everything is the same and everything is in excess. When walking into my room again for the first time in three months, I remember thinking, “what do I need all this stuff for?” Because of this difficulty in reincorporating myself, I feel I could be considered as being in another liminal phase where I am ‘betwixt and between’ my old and new self.
After reading Slimbach’s text for this week, I was so surprised at how well his descriptions fit some of the ways I have been feeling that I kept saying in my head, “that’s me!” One thing that really resonated with me from the reading was how little interest people have when it comes to listening to your experiences. In his text Slimbach writes, “Once they’ve heard the highlights, most are ready for you to be your “old self” again” (213). Just as he described, I’ve found that people expect you to be exactly how you were before you left. Additionally, out of “politeness” people will ask you about your trip, looking for that single phrase answer along the lines of, “It was great!” But you can’t collate everything that happened into one phrase nor would you have the time to ramble on about all the foods you’ve had, all the beautiful places and landscapes you viewed, every person you met who inspired you, every laugh you had that made you lose your breath, or even every cry that made tears fall to the floor. Just like Slimbach describes, sometimes people don’t even know what to ask simply because they just cannot relate. People have their own lives here. All they may want is a quick summary of your experience.
When I was away, I was free to adventure in any way I pleased. Since that is over now, I am bored in my home community. Slimbach writes, “Why is travel so exciting? Partly because it triggers the thrill of escape, from the conscription of the daily, the job, the boss, the parents” (208). This “thrill of escape” is what I took the most pleasure in. I was always on the run going place to place. Now I am stuck home in the same place remembering to say “bye” instead of “ciao.” This is makes travel so spectacular. When you travel you break away from the norm and find a new self. More specifically, you create a new self. That is why it is so important to use what you have learned as you go forward in life. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “What lies ahead of you and what lies behind you is nothing compared to what lies within you.” This is the quotation I chose to share with my letter of reincorporation. It speaks to me because it describes how what you have inside is everything you need. While the study abroad experience is over and I am completely unsure of what lies ahead of me for my future, I know that everything that has happened to me up until today lies within me and it has made me a stronger and smarter person. What lies within is what is most important.
In order to carry my experience forward even more, I am going to live a more sustainable lifestyle as well as one where I simply have less. Italians live a much more sustainable lifestyle. They never waste food or water and basically throw a fit if the lights are left on and no one is using them. This all makes sense to me and I’m not sure why I lived any other way before. I also don’t know why I ever had so many clothes. I basically wore the same pair of jeans for two months in Italy (with a wash here and then). Any time I traveled, I’d bring one or two shirts, a toothbrush, and deodorant. Living a minimalist lifestyle is so much fun. I also grew accustomed to not having internet connection everywhere I went and feel much less inclined to use it now. I don’t even want to watch TV. However, I do love playing video games so I don’t think that will stop. But besides that, I also don’t know why I never just drank from the tap. I’m never using bottles again, it’s such a waste! While these are just a few of the gems I’ve taken back with me, I know that there are many other habits that I will do differently back home.
A quotation that resonates with me right now is “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” This similarly describes what Slimbach described earlier about the thrill of escape but with a certain twist. Life can becoming boring and dull when you do the same routine over and over again. Yet when you travel, life comes right back into you and awakens what’s within you. I can’t wait to do it again someday.