When K'Lynn and I returned to the states after fifteen days in Europe, we had some stories to tell.
We told about walking through the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and seeing the sun set among the ancient ruins on Palatnine Hill.
We described, to the best of our abilities, La Sagrada Familia, and the beautiful streets of Barcelona.
We told them about going to midnight mass at Notre Dame on Christmas eve, the Mona Lisa, the Venus De' Milo, and the anti-climactic Eiffel Tower.
We told them how cold it was in London and how much we loved their British accents.
But out of all the memories I have about that trip, I think the ones I value the most are the ones I didn't tell anyone about. The memories that people don't want to hear. Those times grew me. For those times, I am grateful.
We flew into Heathrow Airport from Houston IAH about a week before Christmas 2008. We crossed the pond overnight and landed about 8 am local time. I didn't sleep a wink on the flight. It was the result of built up excitement and a cramped seat in coach. We weren't even through customs yet and I was already exhausted.
We found our hostel after an hour or so of searching. I still remember the name of the street it was on, Borough. Not far from London Bridge. Since we exited the plane onto english soil there was an escalating sense between us that, while many things are familiar here, we were in a foreign place. The architecture, the clothes, the accents, the money, they all subtlety remind you that this is not your home; which is all together invigorating and humbling.
|My first few minutes on the streets of London.|
|Barcelona, Arc de Triumph|
My sophomore year at the University of New Mexico, I interviewed for a study abroad program. A friend and I planned to study for a semester at Linköping University in Sweden. We chose Linköping because it was the cheapest of the schools offered in Europe. For us it was about the travel, not the scholastic experience. We just needed a launching pad from which we could see the world once class let out on the Friday's.
In my interview, the director of the Study Abroad program asked me how I would deal with homesickness while abroad. I believe I chuckled, then rattled off a few reasons why that would NOT be a problem for me. But she continued to question me about it. I was surprised that she didn't accept my answers and move on. I had been out of the country before, I traveled during the summer for three months at a time; done. Let's continue with the interview, lady.
She began to tell me about how, during the winter, the sun rarely ever shines in Sweden, how cold it gets there, and how international students often become depressed as a result.
I left that interview a little frustrated, thinking she had grossly underestimated my John Wayneness.
I never actually went on that study abroad trip, but I did buy a non-refundable ticket to Stockholm and back in preparation for it. It was this ticket, which I rebooked, that got me to London about 4 months later.
On our second night in London we rode the Tube to Piccadilly Circus to see a production of Rain Man. K'Lynn bought the tickets way in advance, but we were on a tight budget, so they were in the balcony. So high in the balcony in fact, and at such a steep incline from the floor, I didn't want to lean forward because I was literally afraid I would tumble to my death. K'Lynn was very excited about the show and so was I. I don't care much about theatre, but couldn't wait to sit in that chair and turn my wandering brain off for a while.
So there I was. At the top of the Apollo Theatre in London, England, finally ready to admit that the woman from my study abroad interview was right. I was homesick.
I had never been homesick before that day, I'm quite sure of this. The culmination of all that was foreign to me in England found its way into my chest. I was tired of pretending that staying in a room with 13 drunk twenty something's didn't freak me out. I was tired of guessing what language the couple in the bed next to me was speaking and tired of telling myself they weren't plotting to kill and rob me in the night. I knew that England should have been the easiest country to travel in, so I worried about the next three countries that each spoke their own foreign language. But I couldn't let K'Lynn to see my fear because I knew her's was greater than mine.
I remember being excited that Josh Hartnett had a part in the play. I just wanted to hear a familiar accent.
I'd love to tie this story up in a nice bow and say that, after that night, nothing else freaked me out as we toured europe. But that's not true. I can say this though, that trip was perfect. I learned things about myself that I truly did not know before I left. It was an adventure and by the end of our days in Paris, I realized that I was made for such things.
God, continue to remind me that this world is not my home.