The world is big.
It’s obvious but it’s true.
As I do my research into all the places I want to visit while I’m on this side of the world, I am utterly daunted. A list of destinations takes up an entire page in my notebook, and that’s only of places in mainland China. The list of places in Asia, the continent takes up the rest of the notebook. And nevermind places outside of Asia.
I’ll live for a year in China, and then I’ll know China, and that’ll be one corner of the globe I can check off my list. That’s what I had thought at first. But it’s been a few months, and I’ve only inhabited one tiny dot on China. I haven’t seen the rice terraces at Guilin or hugged the pandas at Chengdu. I’m realizing that my allotted ten vacation days -which had looked so generous fresh off of my American daycare gig- is scarcely enough time to truly get acquainted with any of these places.
In those moments, I think that I can basically never go home. I’ll have to spend the rest of my life abroad in order to see all that I want to see. I scroll through endless lists of EFL jobs in my spare time which all promise a new berth every year for the rest of my life.
And probably, I think, I won’t even miss America. America seems colorless and insignificant next to the lonelyplanet pictures of prayer flags fluttering over the Himalayas that I gaze at lustfully.
It doesn’t happen much or often but it happens.
I said before, I haven’t been homesick, and that’s true. There’s been too much to see and do.
But I’m settled in now, I’m in the daily grind of a full time job and grocery shopping and apartment cleaning. And every now and then, I will feel a sharp stab.
It happens when I receive an invitation for a wedding that I won’t be able to attend. It happens when I see a picture of a relative’s kid and realize that nobody told me he has started walking. It happens when I see a tweet from my favorite donut company, and get emails urging me to register for a race that I’ve run every year for the past three years.
I miss my friends who used to jump on my bed and have fancy tea parties. I miss visiting my parents on the weekend and getting spoiled to death. I miss the children’s section of the Urbana Free Library.
When that happens I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, read some Anne of Green Gables on my kindle, and shake it off. It only just so happened that I lived in the same state for most of my life. Sooner or later, I may have moved further away. There’s no guarantee that I was going to live so close to the same friends, same family, and same donuts for the rest of my life.
Moving out and moving on is part of growing up, they always tell you. I just happened to move farther away than most.
So no, I’m not a grizzled world traveler. I won’t be sawing off my own arm in a canyon anytime soon, I’m just someone who’s lived within the same few hundred mile radius for her whole life. But I’ll do my best and see all that I can.