What is the hardest part about traveling? You are lost in a new country, with a new language, not aware of social norms, misreading people you thought you could trust, and adjusting to completely new way of life. And sometimes you might even forget your passport and miss your flight or take a train in a foreign country for 45 minutes in the wrong direction or even finding yourself nearly homeless on Easter in a tiny city where nobody speaks English. But were those really the hard parts? These issues challenged me to think creatively and independently to resolve them, and when you finally get it all sorted, the feelings of confusion and frustration are replaced with the complete highs you experience from knowing that you were able to figure it out on your own. You meet new people from all over the world, from all different walks of life and gain a perspective you could have never imagined before. You make beautiful friendships with people in your program and together you come to understand what it means to start alone in an entirely foreign place, and to learn, to change, to grow. From all the late nights that ended with sunrises to the all-day park picnics, I fell in love with all the best parts of this glorious city. And just when you are starting to feel like you have got some roots planted in the new place you love so much… it all just ends. The realization hit as I started to book plane tickets to my next destination and my final plane ticket home. The moment of returning home, the one we all imagined in our heads since the day we left but suddenly, you do not feel ready anymore. You think of all the people you have gotten close to over this time and feel sad, but you realize that now you have these people in your life for the rest of your life and look forward to the future opportunities of visiting them in their hometowns.
You start your 32 hour journey home and think about everything that has happened in the last six months trying to process everything and replay all the best parts in your head. For the first two weeks, you are the new shiny object that is finally home and you share with everyone your best experiences and things you have learned. You return to your childhood home and the swing of “normal” life and realize that really nothing has changed. Inside your mind you are thinking to yourself “look how much I’ve changed?” But everyone around you only remembers the you that you were before you left. You begin to wonder how you could possibly get anyone else to understand what you have just been through, but then you realize they just can’t without experiencing it for themselves. All we want to do when we get back from an experience such as this is leave again, they call it Wanderlust but really I think it is the desire to get back to the people that speak the same language. That doesn’t mean English, German, Chinese, or even Hebrew, but a place where people know what it feels like to be scared, confused, and alone, but also completely happy and whole in a foreign country and then come back to their “home” and feel more lost than they ever did in the most foreign of places they have visited.