Here I am, another month gone by in Crema and procrastination has, as usual, prevented me from writing about my first month (the second time around). I’m happily back at the same high school I worked at last year, with some changes this year. More hours, more pay, different classes and subjects – basically totally different than last year. This month has been jam-packed. Multiple trips to Bologna (hallelujah) and one weekend in Trieste for La Barcolana, the world’s largest regatta (1,900 sailboats signed up!). I’ve also been zipping around Crema for lessons, catching up with friends and colleagues and cooking up a storm. I’ve got a new apartment and I’m adapting. As usual, I’m enjoying the fact that my work isn’t boring. It doesn’t feel like work, which is good because I don’t do well with monotony.
Speaking of which, since the end of last year I’ve been reading more and more about the guilt of traveling, the guilt of leaving behind and the guilt of returning to a place that you call home but just doesn’t fit you right. One of the articles that best captures these feelings is this one. Noteworthy excerpts include:
“They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited.”
Talk about killing me softly with his (or her, in this case) song. So here I sit, ruminating on guilt in most of my free time. Now, don’t get the wrong idea, MOM (I know you’re worrying about my mental health at this point) – I’m not sitting in my room under the covers with the shades drawn. I just wonder. Looking at my American collegues here and Facebook friends that are going through similar travel experiences – I can’t be the only one feeling guilty. Irrationally guilty, while we’re at it. And the more I read about it, the more I ask, I realize I’m not the only one. Most of us ex-pats have felt that twinge of uncertainty, that fleeting feeling as your brain tells you “THIS IS WRONG. GET OFF THE PLANE. WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” As it usually goes with leaving the ones you love, the ones who support you, for far-away lands.
Am I guilty of choosing to move hundreds of miles and multiple time zones away from my family? Guilty of wanting to explore and understand that which isn’t available to me at home? Guilty of feeling more at home in some places than I actually do at my original home? Yes, yes and yes. But I do stop at home, whether it be for a couple of weeks or a couple of months. And I call (not as much as I should). I make the effort. And that is enough. It has to be enough, because I don’t know how else to stop feeling guilty.
This picture pretty much sums up my internal debate: