Written by Swati
March 3rd, 2023
What does it mean to find a piece of home everywhere you go? To me it’s following the heart, doing what feels right, chasing impulses with wild abandon, whether it means I spend the day staring at water or wander the streets of a new city and strike up small talk with shop owners and seat neighbors on trains. It means leaving a piece of your soul in every city, just hoping you’ll have a chance to come back to find it one day.
This week I was infinitely lucky to plan part of my spring break to spend time with a good friend of mine from high school, Shelby! She traveled to Europe a few times in high school and her love of adventure and interest in politics and culture always inspired me to reach further out of my comfort zone to see what else I could learn. She was often the first of my friends to catch on to international trends, music, and TV shows, and her openness to the unknown still continues today. When I found out she’d be in Florence studying abroad for the semester, I knew we had to plan to spend some time together.
After a particularly life-changing train ride to Florence from Venice, I trudged down the cobblestone streets with a backpack too full for my own two feet, and settled into an apartment turned into a homestay for guests. Shelby and I settled on meeting for dinner and strolled the streets of Florence before finding a restaurant. It was in her eyes and in her presence that I could truly feel how much I had changed. Gone were the days crying over points lost on exams, fitting in meetings at the crack of dawn and between lunch and class, signing myself up for leadership of any club I could get my hands on. I could finally live. I could finally breathe. I could finally understand life is all about balance.
When I went to visit Seattle last summer, it was my first time truly traveling and learning what was beyond the world that I knew. It was the first time I’d stood on a pier and thought to myself: if this is life, I must be living it. Staring out at the water I felt limitless. Ever since then I’ve chased that feeling. And I’ve found it hidden in narrow alleyways in Venice, in smiling strangers turned to friends in Glasgow, between pages at the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh, in collecting seashells by the shore at Como Lago, and in front of my own two feet.
Wandering Florence with Shelby and speaking fondly of our days in high school I was once again hit with the sudden realization of how much we had both grown up. How suddenly we make decisions like tidal waves in our lives that seem like ripples at the time. How easily we can find ourselves thousands of miles away from where we met, meeting again as the same but somehow fundamentally different. How three years as young adults helped solidify our senses of self and knowing that which we truly desire, even if it changes every day.
And how sometimes pieces of home are sharing pizza with a familiar face, hearing recognizable laughter, and easy-flowing conversation. Sometimes we don’t need to go search for pieces of home in bookstores and museums in new cities. They just as easily come to find us.
Lately I’ve been thinking about people. How people make a city. How I won’t quite remember the restaurants or exhibits I visited but I’ll always remember people and the conversations and memories that I’ve made with them. Everywhere I go I find myself staring at busy streets wondering what goes in people’s minds, what they worry about, what takes over their conversations, where they’re headed.
And I wish I could meet fateful strangers every day, Scottish philosophers that ease the weight of the world, Korean families owning seaside restaurants, college students abroad on weekend getaways. But then I remember that not everything can matter and not everything can break and make the world whole because it would be like highlighting the entire planet. But it’s the highlights that color a memory, and it’s the feelings that make those memories last. And home can be found in people, not in places.