Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Feeding My Travel Bug

One of my primary motivations for dragging myself off of Reed campus was the insatiable travel bug that has afflicted me since birth. I doubtlessly inherited it from my grandmother, who is likely the most well traveled person that I will ever come across in my life. While moving to Paris for six months seems an obvious cure (for now) for my travel bug, I’m now realizing how much being in Europe in general affects my incurable ailment.

This past week was the final portion of the Parisian winter break (it’s split up in an incredibly confusing, three-section manner) so I hopped on a big yellow bus and spent fourteen hours surveying the French, German, and Czech landscapes, en route to Prague to spend the week with my boyfriend, who lives there permanently as an expat and writer. While I certainly don’t think that driving through a country constitutes visiting it, I did get a little thrill when I realized that I had read road signs in three different maternal languages, without leaving the same time zone, all in the same day.

I started to think about the difference between travel in the US and travel in Europe. It is, of course, true that each section of the US has a culture and personality of its own, but this was a different story. I then realized that one opportunity I absolutely could not miss out on over the course of the semester is inner-continental travel.

The next day, while walking the snowy streets of Prague, I was thinking of my newly-found Parisian friends, and it came to me that at the time, my friends had dispersed around the world: Amsterdam, Brussels, London, Madrid, Bruges, Morocco… the list goes on. With the availability of hostels, and the blessing of nationalized travel systems (i.e., really cheap tickets), and a passport in hand, seeing Europe one weekend-long trip at a time is one of the greatest advantages of studying here.

That being said, I have to admit, getting off the bus in Paris after the fourteen-hour return trip felt like a great exhale. I had missed the fair city, and I was looking forward to getting back to classes on Monday morning. Even if Reed is the place I currently refer to as “home”, it was nice to be able to have Paris as a home-base of sorts—a place where I know the streets (well, sort of… I’m getting there) and have a house key and know which bakery on my block is open on Saturdays.

However, as I said, I consider Reed my home, and it has been quite odd being so far removed from what’s been happening on campus. Yes, I read the SB emails, and get regular email and Facebook updates from my faithful friends, but it’s much different from being front-row at senate meetings and seeing posters and announcements on the way to class. From recent reports, times are tumultuous at 3203, and I’ve been feeling a bizarre mixture of relief, confusion, and sadness that I’m not there to be in the midst of it all. My primal instinct to avoid drama by any means necessary is conflicting with my conception of Reed as a big family: With families come drunken Thanksgiving dinners, with people crying, yelling, criticizing, laughing, puking, and generally eye-rolling. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I suppose, in sum, that while I’m enjoying my French, (relatively) fancy-free time, there is a part of me that feels like I should be with my Reed family, dealing with these difficult things, and nursing the (again, metaphorical) hangover to come.

But I digress. My point is that as much as wanderlust will take hold of a person, body and soul, and allow for so many incredible opportunities and experiences, there is no replacement for a home-base, nor is there one for a family. Take care of each other, and try not to throw too much turkey. And when the dust has settled, check in with your travel bug, and see where it takes you.