This winter break has been special, because it’s one of the only holiday seasons that my family hasn’t been at home. Well…home home. See, this year my mom and dad temporarily moved to Merano, Italy.
I know…like WHAT? The move definitely eased the traveling demands of my dad’s job, but it was sudden…and exciting! My sister had just moved to the west coast, I was well situated in Baltimore, and my parents packed up and moved halfway across the world to settle into a new home. My sister and I were worried that we might not be able to see them until they moved back to the States, but this winter break, we were lucky enough to come over and visit them. One week in, I can confirm that it is absolutely beautiful. The town that my parents are living in, Merano, is in Northern Italy right by the border of Italy, Austria and Switzerland. So it’s in the Alps…need I say more?
This week, we traveled to Rome where we visited the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, and traveled to Vatican City to see the famous St. Peter’s Basilica and of course the Sistine Chapel, and Florence, where we saw my all-time favorite, Brunelleschi’s Dome (AP European History nerds unite!!), and Michelangelo’s David. Seeing these famous landmarks was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe that I was standing under the famous architecture, sculptures and artwork by artists that we’ve learned so much about. But while I could write an entire post about my time in Italy and drown you in pictures, I want this post to be a little bit different—I want it to be about the concept of a home. About leaving what you know behind and starting a new adventure.
I grew up in a county of St. Louis, Missouri, and since high school, I knew I wanted to leave. This desire didn’t mean I didn’t love it, because I did. I loved growing up in the Midwest, surrounded by a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I loved high school (s/o to MICDS). I couldn’t have asked for a better education or better teachers—I know they’ve changed my life. But as I got older, I knew I wanted more. I liked Missouri, but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my living in that type of environment. I craved the busy, fast life of the city. I wanted to be in a place where I could walk to where I wanted to go, where I could use the bus or metro system, and where driving 15 minutes in one direction wouldn’t lead to farmland. I wanted to live in a place where the people were open-minded to improvement and change. When it came time to graduate, I was ecstatic to be moving to the East Coast. I was so ready to leave, that I barely attached any sentimental value to St. Louis. I was immediately able to call Hopkins “home,” something that surprised my friends, both from high school and at college. When I traveled back to St. Louis for the Holidays, I would tell my mom that I wanted to take things back “home,” referring of course, to my cozy dorm room.
And it’s amazing that I was able to feel so comfortable at college, it meant that I had made the perfect choice for myself. But when I think about it, I realize that it’s always been so easy for me to call something “home.” If we go on a trip, give me five minutes and I’ll be referring to our hotel as ‘home.’ Like I said before, ten minutes in my dorm, and I was calling it ‘home.’ Maybe my eagerness to declare a place as home stems from my family’s love of traveling. My parents always taught my sister and I that it’s important to travel to widen our perspectives. That only through traveling will we learn the true significance of a different language and culture, and understand what it means to have a new experience. That traveling truly is good for the soul. And they taught through example. When we were young, my parents took us to India as much as they could, so we could keep in touch with our family and also our heritage. We learned an incredible amount from these travels by learning how to stay open to the differences in living style and adapt to them on our own.
When it comes down to it, that adaptation is key. It’s the ability to gain something from every uncomfortable experience, and the ability to laugh off every strange or annoying encounter. Packing up and placing yourself in a completely new environment forces that adaptive behavior, and that’s what I love so much about traveling. Leaving a place behind to create a new home is eye-opening. I love learning about new customs and traditions and styles of living. I love adapting to a new way of life because there’s so much to be gained. I love calling places home because I love trying to make places my home.
But of course, as I’ve learned and continue to learn, there is a lot to be gained from valuing home home. I’ve watched my parents and friends and teachers all talk about their homes with pride, never forgetting where they came from and what it taught them. Though I was excited to leave Missouri, I know that St. Louis will be special. It’s a part of me that I will always carry around, and happily so.
So as I navigate my way around my parents’ new apartment and city, I’ll remember that I’m never going to stop loving the feeling of finding a new home but that I’ll also never stop loving home.