One thing traveling has taught me, above all else, is that no matter how old I get I’ll never stop needing my mom.
I’m a fairly independent person. I left home for college at 18, and for the next five years, I never spent more than two or three consecutive months in my parents’ house. I’d visit on occasional weekends, and I’d spend most summers there. Then, when I went to Korea, I didn’t see my family in person for a year and three months.
In between my return from Korea and my recent departure to grad school, though, I moved back home and lived there again full-time, for eight solid months. Leaving after that was harder than ever. As you get older, you start to be more appreciative of time with your family, and you start to realize how special it is, in a way you didn’t when you were a teenager eagerly fleeing home for the glamor of university.
So here I am, an adult nearing my mid-twenties, and I confess that I spent my first day in London — one of the most amazing cities in the world — crying on and off. I wanted to be home watching bad reality TV with my mom, getting annoyed at my yappy dog, eating my grandmother’s cooking and laughing at my sister’s weird anecdotes.
I try to remind myself that I’m not trapped or exiled. I left by choice and I can always return by choice.
To calm myself down, and to ease the feeling of having made an irrevocable decision, I imagine myself leaving in detail. I make a hypothetical plan. First, I’ll have to get everything packed again; I’ll need to email this one person to start the un-enrollment process; I’ll have to cancel my housing contract and look at plane tickets. Etc.
And I tell myself: If I still feel like this in a few days, I’ll do all of that. I’ll just leave.
After those few days have passed, I’ll probably be feeling okay enough to say: Let’s give it just one more week. Let’s give it until the end of the month.
You keep busy, and you adjust, and you hope that home doesn’t change too much while you’re gone. You remind yourself why you left. Your reasons for leaving probably trump your reasons for wanting to return.
(And if they don’t, then, well — what are you waiting for?)
But, dang. For someone who has been determined all my life to get out of Florida, I really do miss it when I leave. Not just because my family’s there. I miss the ocean. I don’t miss the heat, the lack of decent public transport, the “Make America Great Again” bumper stickers, or the suburban wasteland where I live, lacking so much as one cute hipster coffee shop for me to retreat to. Still: the ocean, and my mom. Those are the things that make my throat go all tight when I let my mind stray back there.
Yesterday, I found a beach coverup in my suitcase, something I’d packed at the last minute even though I’m unlikely to be visiting any beaches this year. I hadn’t washed it before packing it, on purpose, predicting that very moment where I’d bury my face in it and breathe in the smell of sunscreen and salt water. I stood there for minutes, inhaling home.
Yeah. I’m feeling pretty low right now. But I’ll feel better soon enough. I’ll find things to love about this new place, too. I’ll accomplish things I want to accomplish.
And then? I can go home.