A friend of mine who, like his fellow third years, had stayed in college revising for their final exam, envied that many visiting students, including yours truly, had been traveling the entire break. Truth been told, though, traveling, for the majority of the time, solo over a month can be taxing. Not necessarily financially, since the flight home could be equally steep; but rather mentally, especially when you are endowed with a sense of direction – more like the lack thereof – as horrible as mine.
Getting lost surely is a great way to explore, but there are always things on the backburner that kept me from just completely letting go and taking it all in: when museums open and close, which place has the best exchange rate, how public transportation is ticketed, what is the closest local approximation to cottage cheese – tvaroh, by the way, is more like the love child of ricotta and greek yogurt – etc. And that information expires quickly; you gotta start the whole learning curve all over again in the next city. It was a great amount of work, really, sussing out a brand new place on the run, then rinse and repeat. Only after I got back did I finally started relaxing, because I know exactly where I am going, what place serves what food when. Moral of the story: being on autopilot is such a treat. Kick back and enjoy the mundane.
But now I sound like an unappreciative brat. Despite being neither particularly carefree nor spontaneous, I still enjoyed my travels tremendously. And there were certain times when all of a sudden I became aware that I was, at that very moment, living someone’s dream. Self-aggrandizing as it sounds, there must be thousands of people dying to walk down the street I was on and to see the sights I just photographed. This put all my minor, ongoing worries into perspective in a very humbling way.
And what is studying abroad if not a prolonged period of travel? I am grateful beyond words that I got to inhabit your dream for three terms, dear reader – assuming that there are actual applicants following this blog. (If so, apologies for updating in bursts at weird increments; if not, pardon my megalomania.) Not to mention that I get to do my favorite thing while traveling – masquerading as a local.