Travel Log 15 “There’s No Place Like Home? Rites of Reincorporation” by Zelia Pantani in Branford, CT

No ToTo, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore- and we’re certainly not in the French Riviera. Coming home has been a wild ride of emotions that I had a harder time controlling than when I first arrived in Europe; in other words, I have found reincorporating much harder than I did separating. When preparing my reincorporation letter, I was trying to find the perfect quote to help exhibit how I was feeling and what I was thinking. But after searching for hours and countless conversations with friends and family asking “How was your trip?! Tell me the crazy experiences you had! What was your favorite memory? What do you miss the most?” and so forth, I found myself speechless or the generic three-word answer: “it was amazing”. I have just returned from undoubtedly the most incredible experience of my life, living in another country with little occupational responsibility and the ability to travel throughout with new friends during a crucial developmental period in my life. It’s hard to squeeze in the past four months into a quick 10-minute conversation, that my friends and family at home will probably lose interest in after a certain point purely because they were not there for that moment and have a harder time relating. I don’t blame them at all, but I found it harder to get this message across to them and have them understand what I was going through. At this point, I opened up Slimbach’s text to see if he could help me counteract this problem, help give me something to say or even a way to validate how I was feeling. The line that spoke to me was “We must now learn to reconstruct a new home in our home culture”. I realized that when I left for France, I had no idea what kind of culture I was submerging myself into. However, when I returned to the United States, I knew exactly what I was going back to—friends, family, social hobbies, grocery stores—you name it, I knew it purely because I had lived for 19 years as that being my only knowledge of life. Yet as Mary Anne Radmacher said: “I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world”. I have made crucial growth developments in my lifestyle in the past four months that I had never experienced before. I have seen the full night sky with too many stars to count in Switzerland, I have seen the Shoes on the Danube River exhibiting horrible acts of violence to the people of Buadpest, I have heard the side street musicians in Prague playing serene peaceful music overlooking the city, among so many other people and experiences that I can take with me moving forwards. For this reason, I made it a priority in my reincorporation letter to exhibit how everything at home was still so much the same that it was still so very different. I focused this letter more heavily to my friends than my family, as my separation letter was directed towards my parents. I included Slimbach’s quote regarding constructing a new home in my home culture and I even included another one of his quotes: “Your hometown hasn’t moved, and your network of family and friends is still intact—but both feel different, almost like a foreign land” (Slimbach). I did my best to highlight how my experiences abroad would not interfere with our friendships moving forwards rather how there is currently a void of some sorts where they have a four month period of stories and similar activities I did before leaving, that I can no longer join in on to reminisce about. The main reason however I directed this letter to my friends is so they would not think I suddenly find them “boring” or that being home no longer captivates me the way it used to despite their presence. I aimed to focus it more on my reincorporation being a difficult experience for me and I need time to slowly work my way back into my lifestyle. I even remember including how strange it felt to be able to plug my iPhone 6 into the wall outlet without an adapter. As I expected, they were supportive and understanding of my post-experience sentiments and gave me some time to gather myself.

Following the reincorporation letter, we talked as friends and they had asked if I “felt” any different after being home—as if some massive revelation had happened. Of course I chuckled and said no, but in some ways I do feel different after being home. I use my phone less often, I’m more focused on spending time with the people I’m physically with, I pay greater attention to the foods I am eating and in what portion and I’m more focused to be more appreciative for the life I am able to conduct on a daily basis (aka driving a car!! Wow!!). There are some negative feelings to being home I have as well such as being bored quicker and wanting “the next” thing to do, as there was always a new adventure in my life abroad. But I’m learning after being home for sometime that those feelings don’t have to be turned away just because I am no longer living my “life abroad”. I planned a trip to Florida, took a day trip to Block Island and even tried new cafes in my town. I have a greater sense of adventure, that’s for sure, but I aim to carry this forward with my family, friends and community in small or big ways. While abroad I aimed to try a new restaurant at least once a week, and if I’ve got the money to do it at home—why don’t I? In addition to that, I was never much of a cook prior to leaving and now I’ve become more interesting making my own meals. I’ve become much more independent than I was when home and I intend to encourage and continue this behavior. My last “gem” that I want to carry forward is investing myself where I am. Whether it is getting involved, having a greater voice, going out of my way to make conversation with new people, I want to be invested in where I am. I think that is what made my experience so vulnerable yet incredible and I don’t want to lose that ability to submerge myself into a new place and culture yet still be able to thrive.

 

Beginnings and ends are inevitable, just as reincorporation was a process I had to undergo in order to complete the rites of passage. But “We must always welcome the end of all things. For sometimes, knowing nothing lasts forever is the only way we can learn to fall in love with all the moments and all the people that are meant to take our breath away” (R.M. Drake). Without coming home, I think I would’ve missed realizing how valuable my time the last four months has been and how I am forever grateful for that.

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