I cannot believe that at the exact moment in time I'm writing this, I am a day and a half from leaving Cape Town. Of course, by the time you read this, I will have less than that, or possibly even be already home.
I find that packing makes me nostalgic. Maybe it's the fact that I'm coming across things that I've buried behind clothes or in cupboards, or maybe it's just the simple act of packing down my life here into easily transportable piles. There's the trash pile, which contains random receipts, newspapers, orientation information that lost its usefulness about four months ago. There's the donation pile, brimming with clothes I never want to see again, cleaning supplies that I refuse to give the luggage space, and non-perishables.
But then there's the pile of things I plan to keep. In this pile, there are things I came here with and things I've acquired along the way: ticket stubs, photographs, seashells, souvenirs, books, clothes. This, by far, is the biggest pile, and I somehow have to condense it into two suitcases, a carry-on and my camera bag. Physically, it seemed like it couldn't be done, but now that I've gotten through most of it, I'm realizing that it seemed that way because I'm bringing home a lot more spiritually and emotionally. The stuff that comes home in my head makes the stuff that comes home in a bag seem tall and daunting.
Four and a half months ago, I came here wide-eyed, hopeful, and chomping at the bit for some adventure. I'm happy to say that along the way, I found more adventure than I could have ever dreamed of. I came to Cape Town and it changed me. I am so much better for having climbed table mountain, for going on a safari, for seeing the inside of Nelson Mandela's prison cell, and for every adventure in between. I have made so many friendships that I'll maintain for life, not because I feel an obligation to, but because those people went through the same changes I did. In a lot of ways, we expanded and remolded ourselves together. That shared experience will bond us for life, and I'm grateful for that in every way.
And who am I now? I don't really think I can say for sure, and to me, that's okay. Because I feel like I'm getting a better picture of it. I've realized lots of things about who I am and what I want. I've come to form opinions about social and political issues that affect my life here and back home. I've learned that culture is something we have to be both sensitive towards, and inquisitive for. I've learned that privilege means nothing until you learn to give that privilege away. I know I want to travel more, and probably for the rest of my life. And I've come to hundreds of other conclusions that I would have never come to if I didn't completely remove myself from my life and live it by myself across the world.
Four months ago, I wanted a new perspective, and boy, did I get it. Sometimes you don't realize just how far you've come until you're sitting in a pile of things you think are precious, personally. These things that I care enough about to take home tell the story of my adventure in Cape Town. It's very much a timeline of events that led me to be this person in this moment. As people, we're ever-changing and building upon ourselves, and I think this time in Cape Town has been some of the most important time I've ever spend with myself.
The trick now is to keep the building going once I get home; to not become complacent in the lessons Cape Town taught me.
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<div>Cortney Cordero is a senior majoring in journalism at Hofstra University with a minor in creative writing. This New <span style="font-size: 13.0080003738403px; line-height: 1.538em;">Yorker has wanted to travel to Africa since she was in Kindergarten. This fall, her dream is finally coming true, and she </span><span style="font-size: 13.0080003738403px; line-height: 1.538em;">wants to share her experience with you.</span></div>