On August 23, 2011 – 366 days ago – I left a beautiful Chicago, Illinois apartment and began my road trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. I made that voluntary move kicking and screaming. I loved Chicago and, while I looked forward to graduate school at Tulane University, I knew the South would be a challenge for my vegetarian diet and fast-paced lifestyle.
I have moved a lot since college. If I start counting from my study abroad experience in 2004, I have lived in seven cities, two countries and 13 apartments in eight years. All my moves have been by choice. All have been intended for and successful in personal growth. All have been worth it.
All have been hard.
Today, I leave the United States to add another city, country and apartment to my list. I will spend three months living in Rwanda, Africa in a city with no street names and no familiar faces. I will not even have an address. I eagerly await the adventure.
I have been looking forward to working abroad for years. But, new beginnings always have a bittersweet taste. And, New Orleans has charmed me in unexpected, unexplainable ways. We clash sometimes, that unorganized city and me, but it has thrown me a few pleasant surprises. I have witnessed some crazy festivals, relaxed my pace (just a little bit) and learned a bit more about the benefits of knowing your neighbors.
What has charmed me the most, however, is also what I will miss most: the people. I moved to New Orleans with the priority of focusing on grad school. It was the first time I moved to a city without having a priority of making friends. Not only did I make friends, but I met some lifers – people who I know will be around for the long haul.
We never know where we might meet the people with whom we deeply connect. Whether it’s
fighting for the same parade throws during Mardi Gras, striking up bar conversation about monster truck rallies, or discovering shared interests with a sister after 10 years of living apart, we need these small moments to discover connections.
These moments create memories, and these memories ride along with me throughout my travels.
Before reaching Rwanda, I will visit three countries – Iceland, Denmark and Turkey – with my friend Jessica. She, I believe, will be one of my lifers. And today, we begin an adventure that will sew new moments into our individual memory quilts…threaded just beside all the other life moments that we hold dear.