TO TRAVEL IS TO LEAVE BEHIND

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On the Bolivian salt flats.

“All we ever do is throw goodbye parties for you.” Part joke while clinking beers, part accusation. This thing one of my friends said to me during my last goodbye kind of stuck with me. I have said goodbye to my family and friends back home an awful lot in the past few years.

A year in Italy, a few months in the hometown of the English love, almost half a year in South America and now London. Which I hope to be able to truly, from the heart, call home in the near future.

Almost two months after crossing the channel with as much of my worldly possessions as I could carry, I miss my friends. I miss them so, so much.

I miss the ‘one drink’ that turned into stumbling out of our favourite place for a dance at 6am while we should probably have been studying for exams instead. I miss the quick coffee that turned into impromptu dinner party for 12.

I can still see the plotting for weekends away and concerts on Facebook. Life of loved ones goes on, and I’m not there. And that really, really sucks.

And yet, I still leave.

I leave because I just can’t resist it. The adventure, the promise of new opportunities, new places, new people. Maybe I also leave because after leaving for the first time for a year in Milan, I realised just how easy it is.

I’m not the only one that keeps getting itchy feet. I have quite a few friends with equally or even more severe nomadic tendencies, so I thought I’d get them to share some of their thoughts.

I met Melissa in Milan (find her blog here). We share the same mother tongue, but not the same nationality (aka she’s Dutch).

On her nomadic ways: I moved to Italy twice: the first time because I was in love with the country, the second time because I was in love with someone from that country. Unfortunately I had to come back home for my masters degree, but the moment I graduate I’m planning to move abroad again. I think this time it might be London!”

Melissa agrees that leaving friends behind is hard. Why do it anyway? “Thinking about what I can get in return makes me do it anyway. You learn a lot about yourself and it’s an important experience. Especially the first time in Italy made me learn so much about other cultures: not only about Italy but all the other ‘homes’ of erasmus students. It’s awesome to have met so many people from all over.”

Moving to a new city at the start can be less romantic than you imagine it to be. “The first time I moved to Milan I felt lonely because my mom and grandmother brought me there and stayed to see Italy for about a week. And then they left. I started panicking when I realised it was the first time that I was completely alone in a city where I didn’t know anyone. The second time, I felt quite lonely as well in the beginning. Even though I already knew some people in Milan, I had to get used to the city again and make myself feel at home. It took a while, but it was definitely worth it. My advice to anyone who ever thinks about going back because you’re going through a hard time or you feel lonely is to not give into that feeling. Once you really settle in a new city, you WILL feel right at home and you will realise it was all just temporary.

 My second guest is my friend Yasmine, who I met in my home town a few years ago, but hasn’t spent much time there since. She is working on a project with her brother on the very topic of their nomadic ways. More info about that here.

“My nomadic ways have taken me everywhere. I was born in Belgium to Iranian parents, raised between that small Belgian town and California and have been nearly everywhere to visit family. I would say the nomadic lifestyle is something that has shaped me, and I am thankful on a daily basis that I wasn’t stuck on some farm or in a small city for twenty-two years on end. It would probably be the death of me. Then again, I never knew anything other than this lifestyle.”

On leaving people behind: “Leaving friends and family, aka saying goodbye is hard. It is perhaps one of the hardest things a nomad has to do. But after a while it gets easier. Because when you are a self-proclaimed nomad you will realise that no matter how much you travel, relocate or go somewhere you haven’t been before, you will always end up in the right place with the right people. And the family and friends who can’t be there at that time will always show their love and appreciation. It almost gets better as the time goes on, because everyone in your life knows what you mean to them and vice versa.”

When I ask Yasmine if she has ever been lonely due to her nomadic ways, she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I’m not that surprised. Yasmine is the embodiment of a social butterfly. I remember being a bit overwhelmed by her extremely outgoing personality the first time we met, but now I can only admire her for it.

I’ll leave you with the last thing Yasmine said on travel and leaving behind, because I think it sums up the desire to explore pretty damn well.

Often times I like to sit somewhere, in any given random place wherever I am at that point in life and reflect on what it means to travel, to explore, to be a nomad. Honestly, I feel sorry for the people who have been sheltered by the glory of their hometown their entire lives. There is more to life than what surrounds you on a daily basis.”

 

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