“On the road again/ just can’t wait to get on the road again…”
As a class, we’re about to board a plane for Scotland, and all I hear in my head is the sweet singing voice of country legend Willie Nelson. At this moment, I think I have a good idea what to expect because I have been on this road before. I’ve had the pleasure of going on a prior study abroad trip, where I was able to immerse myself in the exploration of a country unlike my own. I was forced to live in the moment: I didn’t speak the language, so I learned words as we went. I couldn’t order a cup of coffee, locate the toilet, or navigate my way to the hotel without help. At first. It’s like learning to walk and talk all over again, only this time I am an adult. I expect that I will be confused, in a place that I appear to recognize yet have no understanding of.
I expect it will go as planned: We’ll get on board a plane so large I dare not think about, and be whisked away to a place we couldn’t truly imagine a day ago. We’ll go to new locations and see things we each planned out meticulously, but had no real context of. I can’t even rightly picture it in my mind right now: not streets, not houses or mailboxes. Not even stoplights. I expect it to be like home, but it won’t be. While Scotland has these same normalities of life, it won’t be what we are used to. That is what gives any new country the mystery and suspense of discovery as soon as we arrive. Even the “normal” is unexpected.
And therein lies the thrill. While we travel through each of the chosen places, what will be our revelation? I sit here looking at each one of my classmates, curious about what insight they will gain about who they are. The best part is the anticipation of what we will find that we can’t possibly imagine: the happiness we experience as we explore a new destination, and the new way we view ourselves as human beings in a very large world. Each time I go away on a study abroad trip, I return as someone other than who I was when I left. It may be small changes that only I see, but they are there. Altered facts about myself. I’m not who I was when I left Boston. Yes, I’m excited to see who we will become, but as for this moment, we are simply “on the road again.”