Having grown up in a town that is one-third the size of the student population of my university, I made it my aim to reject the small-town stereotype attached to my lifestyle as soon as I moved to college in Columbus. Freshman year is filled with instances and activities in which one question always emerges: “Where are you from?” I used to debate bending the truth just a little when it came to that question just so I wouldn’t have to mutter the once-deemed longest town name of “Washington Court House” just so it could be instantly followed up by “Where is that?” It would simplify things immensely if I were from Dayton or even Cincinnati, places people know by name. But I never did. So in a sea of young adults all more interesting than I, uttering places such as Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston, Long Island, and Los Angeles, I prepared myself for the response of “It’s a really small town halfway between Columbus and Cincinnati on I-71.” This response opens the door for either further questions such as “How many people were in your graduating class?” or just the simple visual assumption of cornfields and county fairs. Okay, that assumption isn’t wrong. And as much as I enjoy the lights of the city and my access to endless entertainment at my fingertips, I can’t deny that part of me that looked forward to our county fair for months. I can’t forget that little girl who spent her summers outside in the barn telling her 9 year old problems to the cows. That little girl still lives inside of me.
I recently returned home from a 3 week trip to India. In case you’re wondering that’s 8,600 miles from my hometown. When this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself to me, I, of course, said yes. However, I had no idea what I was really getting myself into. In fact, my knowledge of Indian geography was at the level of me falsely identifying Dubai as part of the country of India, at the dinner table with my Indian host family, no less. Dubai is actually part of a country known as United Arab Emirates, just in case you may have made the same assumption as me. Anyway, my very limited expectations were shattered and identifying my experiences as “culture shock” would be an understatement. It was when I was in this beautiful, new country that I started thinking about my little home, 8,600 miles away. No, it wasn’t a case of homesickness. It was simply a case of my eyes being opened in a whole new way.
In case you haven’t experienced this feeling, I’ll describe it for you briefly. When you are surrounded by the unknown, and by unknown, I mean the culture couldn’t be more opposite, you acquire a sense of childlike observational abilities. I was able to leave my adult eyes at home, the eyes that see what I expect and grow accustomed to routine and familiarity. I was surprised and even challenged by the most ordinary of tasks and sights. I had to relearn how to take a shower, this time using only a bucket, pitcher, and stream of cold water. As locals hurried past the cows and dogs on the streets, I stopped to take photos, I simply couldn’t believe that cows just wandered around through the crazy traffic. The first time I was in a car in India, I thought it was a near-death experience, only to discover that it was just a day with surprisingly light traffic. Everything was new. Everything was different. And my eyes saw it all. I was hyper-aware of my surroundings. I would often envision in my mind the Earth as a whole and I would mentally zoom in and out, trying to wrap my brain around the distance I had traveled. It’s quite unfortunate that it takes a trip around the world to really see things. This is one of the many reasons that traveling is a priceless endeavor. I acknowledge that is an immense privilege to be able to do it and I consider it one of my biggest blessings.
My trip was quite unlike a typical tourist experience. I was traveling alongside my best friend, who calls Bangalore, India home. I was able to meet many of her family members in several different parts of the country, all of whom provided us with a traditional Indian meal. Each dish was a flashback to my best friend’s childhood. What was new to me, was a familiar home comfort for her. The customs, culture, and food were all part of her version of home, something which I never considered the past three years I have known her; I have only experienced her life in Ohio. This trip reaffirmed my recognition of her courage. I can’t imagine the courage it took to move to another country by yourself in which you know no one.
I began defining the aspects of my home. I came to the realization that home may be a geographical location, but it is mostly defined by a feeling. Home is a place to be comfortable. Home is the beginning of your story. No matter what page of your story you are on now, you must recognize that the first page started wherever it is you call home. And without the people at home, your family, you wouldn’t be where you are today or in the future. So as much as you disagree politically with your family or as much as you’ve grown since leaving home, I think that there is value in acknowledging its significance. It is a very important part of what makes you, you.
I thrive on new experiences and one of my greatest joys in life is discovering new places. I fear stagnancy. I love flying in airplanes. That feeling in your stomach when the plane hits the ground after being in the air for thousands of miles crossing over oceans and continents, gives me an adrenaline rush. I love adventures. But I also love home, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Stay curious, fellow blog readers 🙂
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all one’s lifetime. -Mark Twain