It’s been over one year since I returned from studying abroad in India. I remember like it was yesterday, writing in my blog the night before my plane took off: This is my chance to go and I’m taking it. With few responsibilities midway through my college career, I didn’t have to think long about who and what I was leaving behind, I just left. Since returning, my hands have found their proper place using a knife and fork – they no longer shake. But I’m starting to forget what it meant to live in a country that is not my own, what the value of the rupee is and what the heart of India looks like.
As I approach graduation, fantasies of travel fill my dreams. My travel buddy in India, the one I rode the train with through the foothills of the Himalayas, who taught me how to haggle properly, and who showed me how to let go of the things we “needed” as we backpacked through southern India, is going to Cambodia for the Peace Corps. Instead of reading for my last seminar or transcribing interviews for my senior thesis, I am looking up cheap plane tickets to Southeast Asia to visit her. I am reading up on the most beautiful, cheap, and worthy destinations for backpackers in South America. I am trying to recruit travel buddies. But then I remember that I have a job waiting for me after graduation. I’m looking for a place to live and a car to buy. I have to go shopping for work clothes. There was a time when all I really wanted was for someone to give me a break and hand me a job. I have that now: teaching in Baltimore this summer is an accomplishment I’ve worked hard for. Yet, now I seem to want somebody to give me a plane ticket anywhere and a sturdy journal to write in.
Travel is not about escaping “real life,” I learned that in India. It is about finding out what is really important. It is about racing the sun up 500 steps to see the sunset from the peak of temple in the middle of rural Karnataka. It is about communicating with the man at your local grocery even though neither of you speak a word of each other’s language. It is about seeing the world with new eyes. All who have travelled abroad know at least a little of the world’s magic, and those who haven’t yet I envy the new experiences that await you.
The Indian food of Baltimore doesn’t have the same spice and it will only satiate my hunger for so long. Constantly adding new countries to my list of places to go will only curb my curiosity for the time being. But what I am supposed to do and what I want to do are always in conflict.
Everyone facing graduation, or preparing to study abroad, or adjusting to coming back, wants something that they don’t have: to return, to leave already, or for just a little more time. My plans will have to wait as my bank account is a sordid reminder that this is not yet possible. Hiking Machu Picchu, biking though the Irish countryside, walking the Great Wall of China, will all have to wait. For now I will prepare to enrich the minds of the future generations, or so I claim to accomplish. And when the time is right, when the weather is dry, and the fares are low, the world will be waiting. Remember that this is the time to explore, to discover, and this is your chance to take it, to leave without looking back.