Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Of travel and projective homesickness

An amazing sunset over the clouds.
The bags are (almost) all packed. The passport is sitting on the kitchen counter, along with print-outs of my e-ticket and my e-tenerary, and the cat has promised me not to poop or vomit too much on our plane ride. All that had to be done has been done. Everything is ready.

It’s time for me to sit back and be homesick for a while.

Ever since I was very young I experienced what I call “projective homesickness”, an odd phenomenon that ails me on the day before any departure.

See, being homesick is a funny thing. Most people experience it when they are away from the house, the people, the life they love. Not me. Ever since I was very young I experienced what I call “projective homesickness”, an odd phenomenon that ails me on the night before any departure. On the eve of my going away I find myself looking at silly things around my house, the coffee maker that always leaks on the kitchen counter, my cookbooks on the shelf, the quiet familiarity of my bulletin board still showcasing memorabilia from high school, and all of the sudden I realize that I love all of it, in the same kind of way you love an old uncle that regularly embarrasses you at family gatherings.

I’ve left and returned to various places I called “home” many times in my life, but there’s a part of me that just can’t get used to it. At the same time, though, I know that the second I get there, the moment that my plane will pierce through the clouds and I’ll spot my hometown’s skyline from a distance, my heart will jolt and I’ll oddly feel at home again. Apparently, being a dual citizen is not only a political idiosyncrasy: it’s also the strange feeling you sense when you feel truly at home in two different continents.

As continents go, North America and Europe are pretty similar, if only for the fact that most North Americans have strong European roots. We look similar enough and share similar traditions and habits that makes it easy for us to get along: the custom of offering a bottle of wine to your hostess at a dinner party is regarded as polite whether you are in Seattle or Florence, as much as burping at the table is frowned upon in San Francisco and Paris. Still, there are differences that make trips to “the other side” of the Atlantic unique and memorable.

I will never forget walking around New York City when I was 6 years old and candidly asking my mom why all the buildings were so “new”. I’ve seen the same look of wonder on tourists’ faces in Italy when they look at a church built in the 1200s. How can everything be so new? How can everything be so old? How can everything be so different and, yet, so similar?

Some questions are difficult to answer when one is sitting in her cozy den in Southwest Florida. Usually you find the answers when least expected, in the oddest of all places. That is what I’m really looking forward to: hopping around from country to country, enjoying both my roots and traditions that are alien to me, learning things I’ve never even dreamed of, trying new foods and enjoying old favorites.

It’s easy to follow a tour guide, or even a guide book, around a foreign city, but when it comes to traveling “easy” isn’t always the best option. Traveling is about exploring, getting lost, making mistakes, meeting new people and gathering with old friends. Ultimately, it’s about discovering ourselves, because somehow, when we are away from home, we truly show our colors.

So tomorrow, as I will leave behind the place I've called home for eight years, I'll do so with a mixture of excitement and melancholy. And on Thursday, when I will write my first post from my cozy new spot on a cozy new couch, I know that I will already feel at home. Or at least, I hope I will.

1 comment:

  1. I'm wishing you happy and safe travel, Chiara! Bon Voyage!



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