Sunday, August 22, 2010

Final Thoughts from a World Traveler

The Tower Bridge

I left London from Heathrow Airport on a cold, typical morning. My primary focus was getting rid of my heavy bags––after that I would deal with my heavy heart. Suffering from a unique disease I call "travel depression," I found the morning was hard to get through and I bit my own quivering lip more than once. I was trying hard to relax as I sat in my terminal eating a chocolate croissant and staring at my boarding pass. Across the top it read, "ALISON AMORELLO, WORLD TRAVELER."

Less than 12 hours later I stood in my backyard on an 80 degree afternoon in Whitinsville, MA––sweating, trying to understand the difference between where I was and where I'd been. There were over 3,000 miles between the two places and that felt impossible to me. Wasn't it just yesterday I was walking Notting Hill in the rain? Hadn't it been only a few hours since I was singing along to the songs of the Elvis impersonator at the Oakwood pub? I could feel that rain and hear the music. I could still taste that chocolate croissant from breakfast and I wanted to know how, how could I be so far away from something that felt so close?

That was two weeks ago and the alienating confusion has since faded. I've kept busy with friends, family and sunshine. Time, as it always does, eventually pushed my mind through the 3,000 mile gap where it joined my body in Massachusetts. My new summer tan indicates that I've never even heard of England, though my empty bank account proves otherwise. I remember the smells and sounds and colors but I can't hear the rain outside my window. I remember everything well but I just can't feel London anymore.

I have very few regrets about my trip. I accomplished a lot of things I hoped to do––didn't run into Jude Law but I suppose that was never a genuine objective. I saw new beautiful places and I met new beautiful people and I did it all without obligation or assistance. I spent more time alone with my thoughts in 6 weeks then I had in the past two years. I conquered this one by myself and for myself.

But not all went according to plan. Nine weeks ago, I wrote my first blog entry about an "escape." For so long I'd been so tired and anxious and all the pressure seemed endless. I needed to get away from "the real world," I thought, I needed to hop on a plane and fly far away from the jobs, classes, friends and family––everything and everyone I couldn't remember why I'd once chose. I hate to admit it but I was miserable. I was scared. I was praying for a way out.

I wrote that first entry in the exact bed I lay on now, on a night not much different than this one. I was tired and worried then and I'm tired and worried today, about the same things, different things, too many things. My "escape" was unsuccessful because of one important truth: there is no where to run when you're running from yourself.

I couldn't run but I learned. I realized that its not my jobs or classes or relationships that make everything so hard, its simply part of who I am. In London I was not a Resident Assistant, Orientation Leader, CJC rep, Camp Counselor, desk attendant, full time student or obligated to anyone else. But I was still Alison. Optimistic, anxious, worried, excited, sarcastic. I was still me and I found that all the world is "the real world"––happy or sad, exciting or dull, calm or frightening.

And none of that matters. Circumstances will vary but all that counts is how we react. You can change your location, change your money and change your story a hundred times but the best and worst of who you are will never be too far away. I'm proud to say that I think I'm finally okay with that.

I miss London everyday. It was a truly great city and I know I barely scratched the surface of what it had to offer me. I may not be able to get back there anytime soon but I know it wasn't goodbye forever. Someday I'll spend another afternoon in Regent Park, avoiding the enthusiastic birds and smiling big at my own private thoughts and jokes. Someday I'll drink martinis in Leicester Square with the other girls for no real reason. Someday I'll get back to the Arsenal Football Club store and I'll pick up that ridiculous toaster I really wanted to buy. Someday I'll go back and I'll try something new and I'll remember how important it is to keep exploring, keep being myself, keep breathing and keep faith.

But for now I am here in Massachusetts. I have two days until I'm back in school––working, studying and most likely worrying about things beyond my control. But as always, I'll be trying to be happy and the best version of myself. All anyone can ever do is keep trying.

I didn't get a chance to exchange my british currency before I left so I have 18 pounds in my purse, mixed in with my American dollars. When I hold it in my hand it feels both foriegn and familiar all at once––like its a mysterious souvenier from an unlikely but vivid dream I once had, not evidence from any reality. And like many dreams, it seems wonderful and bizarre and unfinished and for a moment, I ache to get back to it.

But I remind myself that it wasn't a dream at all. My trip was real. I did live in London, I did visit Barcelona and Paris, I am ALISON AMORELLO, WORLD TRAVELER. I have pictures, scars and a blog to prove it.

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