Like so many of my dear friends, I am beginning my study abroad adventure. In a few weeks I will be jetting of to Granada, Spain for four months with my "sister from another mister" Micki, to study Spanish language and culture. And after that, I head to Mexico for another six months.
My feelings are mixed. I have spent the past two years spending countless nights hunched over the dismal glow of my laptop in an otherwise abandoned library, waiting for the day when I could finally start what I had been planning for years- a year abroad, learning my father's language and understanding a little more about how the shards of the world fit together.
On the other hand, I know what it means to travel. To travel well is not to have what you later describe to your friends as "crazy adventures" with photographic evidence of yourself posing awkwardly in front of monuments and museums or in dimly lit bars and restaurants, sometimes (God forbid) flashing the peace sign. Not that there is anything wrong with crazy adventures. We all need those too.
To travel well is to allow yourself to be hurt by what you experience. To sometimes embrace the feeling of inevitable loneliness that comes with starting a new life, to feel the pain of others who have lives harder than your own, to reserve the right to feel underwhelmed, bored, or homesick.
My prayer for this year is to allow myself to fully accept and participate in whatever it brings, the moments of joy and adventure and also the moments of adjustment and pain. So often it seems we are too eager to sugarcoat our travel experiences without understanding that the less-than-perfect, less-than-thrilling moments are just as much a part of our own story, and ultimately, just as valuable.