My return to the U.S. was more exhausting than anything else. The full day of travel helped to ease my anxiousness about letting my life change so completely once again. By this time, I had realized that everything back home did not pause simply because I left. I was not just returning to the life I had left behind three months ago, unchanged. My whole world in Richmond continued moving and evolving, just as I had been doing in Derry. It was traveling down one path, while I was following a completely different one. My task now was to make these two paths reconnect somehow.

On the seven hour flight home, I attempted to compartmentalize my feelings. I decided that, during the first half of my flight, I was allowed to mourn my departure from Derry. The second half, however, was dedicated to yearning to see my family again. I could think of nothing better than just sitting on the couch watching television with my dad and mom. I wanted to play with my dogs and drive around in my car with the windows down and music blasting. I saw so many amazing things while I traveled, but coming back home would be just as beautiful.

The cliche saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” never made so much sense to me. It applies to coming back home to Richmond as well as leaving my home in Derry. I made a revelation during my time abroad about the meaning of life. Humans have been trying to decipher this universal mystery since we could think and analyze. I decided that at least part of it must involve creating as many homes in the world as you possibly can. The world exists for people to explore and discover and adapt to. Derry will now always be a place where I can be comfortable and feel at home. It has a meaning for me that only a select few would actually be able to understand. If my conclusion about life is true, I, myself, am not doing so bad. I was born and lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin until I was eleven years old — home number one. I then moved to Richmond, where I have been living for almost ten years — home number two. Living in Derry for those three months created my home number three. I can only hope that I continue this trend in years to come.

The worst part about my travels back to America was not the sadness of leaving Derry, or the anticipation to be in my house again, but the feeling of being in a limbo between the two places. While choosing the cheapest flights with the best times, I signed myself up for a 7 hour layover in the Newark airport. You can imagine my frustration when contemplating the fact that my layover was indeed longer than my flight from Belfast. This was the time that seemed like an agonizing purgatory. I no longer could call Derry my place of residence, but I was not home, either. I was a nomad, wanting to find the next place to set up shop, but every obstacle was in my way.

Sitting in those uncomfortable airport seats, I watched people come and go. Some sat down longer than others, but none as long as me. I tried to read a book, but could not concentrate. Music wasn’t satisfying either. All I could do was sit and think and wait. The hours dwindled down until there were only around 30 people sitting around one last gate when boarding started. My exhaustion overcame me before our tiny plane even took off. I awoke just as we were landing in Richmond. I pulled together all of the energy that I could muster to trudge to my baggage claim carousel. I stood in a daze as luggage slipped by me when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my mother. With a surprised exclamation of “Ma!”, I gave her a hug, and I was home. It felt like I was finally sitting down to relax after the longest and most tiring, yet satisfying, day of my life.

This experience has changed me completely. I would not be the person I am today had I not studied abroad. It made me hungry to delve into more cultures and explore more places. It made traveling less of an impossible unknown and more of a feasible necessity. I conquered one city. There is no telling what I am capable of doing now. As for me, I’m just excited to find out.

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