This pre-trip benchmark reflection is dedicated to pre-trip emotions and thoughts, and to my parents who are so willing to drive me all the way down to Nashville from Cincinnati to catch a flight.
I have this extremely odd feeling of limbo – floating in the in-between. I have neither sadness for those loved ones I am leaving behind, nor a crazy excitement for the wonderful and what many call ‘life changing’ experiences. I have had this feeling for the past few days and don’t really understand how to explain them. I should be graduating today with the rest of my friends, sitting there in an ocean of black hats, unrecognizable by my parents who arrived late and sat too far away. I asked my friend how she was feeling moments before she graduated and in reply said, “…like I’m being herded into a huge pile of runners waiting for the gunshot to signify the start of a marathon with the finish line being a single job.” To this I made a slight mention of there being a choice involved when running a marathon. I feel like I am abandoning my duty of academia and running the other way by going to Greece instead. It is not that I have a fear of graduation – goodness knows I was ready to be out of this place months ago – I just found another path.
In an odd sense going to Greece will act for me as graduation does for many others, as a closure and a new beginning. For me this trip to Greece becomes a transitory door: it ends an era of my life while opening up worldviews, future possibilities, and a new page on which to transcribe my life. Before my departure, someone very dear to me kept mentioning, “You were born for this.” I was born for this? I was born for this. This will be the first of many abroad trips. Going to Greece will be an irreplaceable experience, just like graduation would be for me. It will provide for me opportunities, just like graduation will provide opportunities for others.
My expectations for graduation are for it to be long, boring, underwhelming, and hoping that I do not do something embarrassing in front of hundreds of strangers and classmates. My expectations for Greece are quite the opposite. This trip will not last long enough; I would trade years of my life for chances to interact with other cultures, embrace their unique personalities and traditions. There will not be a moment in the ordinary; every experience will be new and exotic. Also, my expectations for my emotions are to be completely overwhelmed, intoxicated with excitement and exhausted from the hyper energy elicited trying to absorb and catalog every moment awake.
My only fear for this trip is not indulging enough in Greece and coming home with a ‘tasting’ rather than a full drink of the culture. This doesn’t mean wild nights, rambling the streets during the midnight hours, but it means I’m concerned with not taking advantage of the opportunities I am presented. I want to bargain with the man I am buying my trinkets from. I want to taste new foods, rather than reverting to ‘American’ food. I want to speak the language, not being afraid of being laughed at for saying something incorrectly. Actually, I look forward to that, because it means I tried to engage with someone. I didn’t just sit back and let them speak English because this is what would be easiest, but I’m placing myself within the context of their culture, getting my full experience.