I’ve actively avoided writing this post for hours by procrastinating my time (I’m a college student, sue me) by watching marathon episodes of Suits, packing away my life in yet another triad of suitcases, and filling my day with endless lists and last-minute to-do’s. Upon showering and rekindling with my electronics, I came across a Facebook message recently written by my best friend Salima, with whom I have spent the past three weeks of my winter break.
It wasn’t the fact that she had written me something, or even that I was counting down the hours until my departure, but that she so succinctly and sincerely wrote every thought I could only hope to express to her, that showed me I had received one of the most heartfelt notes of my entire life. The core strength of her emotions touched me to the point where it encapsulated all of the fleeting thoughts I had that say, and I couldn’t even finish the first paragraph without so many tears in my eyes that the screen in front of me blurred completely, prohibiting reading the note any further. This is what it feels like to be homesick. This is what it feels like to be away from your family. This is what all the international students talk about. Salima wrote: “Just now, it finally hit me that you’re leaving.” And that was when it finally hit me, too.
Anxiety, nervousness, impatience, fear of the unknown. These are all common sentiments that many study abroad students feel before leaving home for an entire semester, right? But here was the catch–I didn’t even have a home. Home meant nothing to me because I am a nomad, given the ability to spring from place to place without recognizing and connecting with the emotions others around me feel when we separate from one another. We’ll always be able to call/text/Skype each other, I would tell myself. Yet finally, when all of these methods of communication have been made so much more difficult, and challenged my ability to connect with my friends and family as easily as before, the struggle to connect on an emotional level became real, too. And that’s when I knew I defined my home not by the place I had grown up or lived in, but where I felt most comfortable, most relied by, and most at ease.
Indeed, I am excited to venture off to Madrid for the next five months, I would be silly to say otherwise. Yet, what I do know is that Madrid is unfamiliar to me. It’s a place where I can choose to either make a home or miss my own, depending on how I embrace the experience. In my head, there are two options: I can either sulk over all that I will be missing out on throughout the upcoming months back in the US, or I can take a chance and await the opportunities that will unfold in what can potentially be the next home of my life. Being a nomad has taught me that the challenge is actually much broader and complex than finding stability. As The Nomad, my objective is to make the entire world my new home, to become comfortable with every place I encounter. I should strive to become so familiar with every country and city possible so as to, one day, share it with someone close. That is when I have truly harnessed being a nomad and simply allow another to indulge in the hidden treasures I’ve found for myself and them. Whether that be a best friend, a soulmate, or even a complete stranger, this is my new and refined prerogative in the time I spend exploring the art of travel, and I have found that Madrid is my first test to see if I am a well-fit candidate to take on this nomadic lifestyle.
I have taken this responsibility on with humility and pride, and I can ask for nothing less than an open world full of hidden treasures, waiting to be shared with me. I hope to be the stranger, best friend, or soulmate of another with which to share these next five months and be touched by the gifts I await to both give and receive. I don’t expect to find my own partner in crime to share my excitement for travel with just yet, but rather engage in my adventures enough to at least be sure it is a passion I find worth pursuing. This is what I have longed for, for so many years, and now the time has finally come. The exposé of my story has only just finished; I have yet to seek out the formal introduction and begin the body of my expeditions in the coming months. For now, it’s only the end of the beginning. But doesn’t that mean today is where my book begins? Alas, the rest is still Unwritten…