“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
It was on the plane above Switzerland, watching the mountains break through the white clouds as if they were reaching to bring me back as soon as I left.
And then it was another plane, over a dazzling blue sea, traveling to meet friends I had never met but would end up spending a weekend together bonding over broken Italian.
And then it was a stick-shift car, steadily cruising through the suburbs of the rolling Austrian hills with light rain drops gliding down the window.
It was riding a decent rental bike along a river in Portugal, peddling and arriving where the freshwater river collides with the saltiness of the Atlantic ocean shoreline just in time for the sun to disappear beneath the ongoing line of waves.
And then it was the final plane ride, the one that crosses that salty Atlantic water, the one that was supposed to take me “home.” Funny how it’s called home, even though I hadn’t been there for a year.
I spent a year in Barcelona, Spain living and learning. I nannied for children that broke my heart to leave, and I became nearly-fluent in a captivating language. Before I uprooted and moved to beautiful and culturally-rich Catalunya, I had barely stepped foot out of the American Mid-West. I carried no foreign experience, only textbook knowledge and stories from traveling friends and family.
But then I came home, realizing that I left another home. I became aware that home is so much more than my old bed and my pillow, so much more than a place. Home is a feeling. It’s how I felt at every Air bnb, when I unpacked my 50L backpack with minimal belongings and organized them, designating my own space. It was when I sat down at a table eating a meal with 11 different nationalities yet feeling more comfortable than ever before. It was every time I drank a cafe con leche and the camarero would take too long to get the check. It was the realization that I needed to stop worrying about how long he’s taking with the check, and just enjoy where I am, who I’m with, and just be there.
I came “home,” having seen 9 countries in a year, learning a new language, and gaining so many sets of eyes. It wasn’t the photos I took, it was the friends in the photos and the stories that they tell. The mountaintops I climbed, the roads I drove, and the monuments I gawked at. The strangers I met and exchanged friendly stories with. It was the moments that weren’t spent with technology or cell phone service, the moments where I was so far out of my comfort zone, that I truly experienced what they deem “adventure.”
Traveling changes you, and that feeling isn’t kept hostage in the two week vacation, or a short term study abroad, or even in my year long venture. It’s everlasting, longer than lifetimes. When you travel, when you explore, when you really push the limits and dive headfirst into the unknown and foreign, this is where you learn and where you grow.
“I am not the same, having seen the moon on the other side of the world.”
-Mary Anne Radmacher
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Photo and words by Madeleine Roberts | @raddiemoberts