The Art of Traveling to Stave off Homesickness

Elena Bauer
December 27, 2019

About a week and a half ago my IES program ended. My new friends flew back home for the holidays and a new semester in the States. I said goodbye to my favorite professors and started thinking about finding the best presents to bring home to family and friends and imagining the excitement of arriving home at SeaTac airport, met at baggage claim by my family.

But I’m not going home yet. I am thrilled and a little nervous to be staying in Berlin until February to do an amazing internship, which gives me the opportunity to work and create art with people with disabilities at a theater company. I made this decision last May and fought hard to make it happen, and now it’s time. I’m excited, at least I was in November. As December progressed, a new level of homesickness set in. 

To help with the ensuing homesickness, I headed south. My cousin Jackson and I met up in Berlin, and after a few days showing him around the must-see tourist attractions of my second home, we hopped on a plane to Rome. 

Just in case you weren’t aware, Rome is a very old city. There are a lot of rocks and stones laying around that I’m told used to be large impressive buildings a thousand years ago. Some of the stones are stacked on top of each other and some even resemble the buildings they once were. It is very exciting. Walking through the city is a constant surprise and delight. The city spent over two thousand years trying to squeeze another monument, square, staircase, castle, palace, and church between the ancient walls and medieval alleys. I think I lacked a story to connect the pilers and stones to living, breathing people. Jackson and I also took a day trip up to Tivoli, a town just an hour train ride from the city. The highlight of Tivoli was the villa’s garden, with its maze of fountains, waterfalls, ponds, streams, and luscious green foliage. There is nothing more refreshing than escaping the grey, dry winter and stepping into what would be a beautiful spring day at home.   

After a few days walking around Rome, we took off to Barcelona. We stayed at a lovely hostel in the Gothic Quarter, which I highly recommend. The best time to roam the alley labyrinth is by far late at night after all the tourist shops close, anyone not asleep is sitting at a bar, and the garbage trucks squeeze through the streets, while the helmet-wearing garbage men toss bags into the back. Of course, a must see is Gaudi’s astounding work, a testament to his genius and the technological advancements of his time. I will not look a window in an old building without noticing the size of the windows and considering whether it was built before or after iron rebar was adopted into architecture.

Despite the beauty and excitement of these two wonderful cities, the experience did very little to combat my persistent longing to be home. The airport made me think about my flight home in two months. The hostel room made me think of the dorm room I will move into in February. The hills made me dream of Mt. Rainier and the Chuckanut Mountains. The drive from the airport to the hostel made me think of Interstate 5 that will bring me to Bellingham in at the end of March, and spending time with my cousin was delightful, but there was something painful about knowing that he had just come from the place I long to be and would be back there in less than a week.

However, when away from family during the holidays, I recommend finding another family to share it with. The family I found lives in a small village forty-five minutes from Dresden in a home built and owned by the family since 1881. From the cozy, warm, wood-fire heated living room to the comfy couch, to the five meals a day, to the kind, welcoming German grandparents who brought me into their wonderful home, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend Christmas in Germany and it did wonders for my homesickness.

The last effort to get through my December away from home is a trip to Portugal with my sister for New Years.

I wish you all a very happy New Years!

Elena Bauer

<p>Apart from my first two years at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, I have lived my whole life in Bellingham, Washington, a college town surrounded by green hills and snowy mountains on one side and the Puget Sound on the other. Since I was eleven, I've made a point to ride my unicycle down my town's Memorial Day parade route before it starts, a tradition interrupted briefly in high school when I was in the marching band. My summer job is teaching swim lessons, and I have gotten quite good at talking a scared four-year-olds into jumping off the diving board.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2019 Fall
Home university:
Pacific Lutheran University
Hometown:
Bellingham, WA
Major:
English
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