At the confluence of Ouse and Foss lies the historic, walled-in city of York, England—the nation that charmed me with Jane Eyre’s countryside tale and Paul McCartney’s legendary tunes. On the campus of York St. John University, my American lifestyle collides with the British culture, and on the trains across Western Europe, I will see how this so-called “culture shock” shapes the most anticipated journey of my life: my first adventure abroad.
As humans, we've all experienced broken hearts, but a broken heart heals. It's a stretched heart that hurts the most, like walking a mile on a pulled muscle.
Living in England and traveling Europe has stretched my heart further than I ever anticipated, and I was completely oblivious until a week ago when I set foot back in England, walking through the Manchester airport. It felt like I was home. I knew the language and the routine, I could read the signs, and navigate my surroundings, and I didn't have to ask a question 5 different ways to get an answer—I was home, back where I'm comfortable. 3 months ago, I flew into the same airport and walked through the same customs office, scared out of my mind and excited beyond explanation because for the first time in my life, I was out of my comfort zone. I was in a strange country where the people talk prettier and the signs are worded differently ("Way Out" = Exit). When I first arrived in England, I was a tourist, but when I came back from touring the non-English speaking continent, I fit right in with the British—after the customs guy approved my passport, of course. Apparently, the French didn't think to look at the page they slapped their ink on before adding another stamp; they just covered England's stamp right up. Way to go, France.
Walking the homestretch back to my York flat that warm spring evening, I realized exactly how comfortable I've become in this country, and how terribly I'll miss it when I leave in a month. After 3 weeks of solid travel, exploring the boundaries of 6 countries, 5 cities, and 15 small towns, I've experienced what it feels like to travel with little communication and comprehension, making the culture shock I felt in England seem minor. Though I didn't want to leave France or Normandy, Belgium or Switzerland, and definitely not the motherland, returning to England became a whole new adventure, a whole new strain on my already torn heart because though I feel at home in England, I can't say it's my home.
I have roots in the Netherlands, I have a heart for England, and I belong in Colorado, so where do I go from here? No matter where I call home, my heart will always be stretched across oceans. Traveling is an incredible adventure and though I envy World Travelers, I do not envy the daily strain on their hearts, falling in love with countries they can't call home.