I had the armrest of the seat in a death grip as the plane hurdled forward, but it wasn’t because I was afraid of flying.
I thought maybe, just maybe, if I anchored myself enough that I wouldn’t have to leave the country I have grown to love in the last month.
As we lifted into the air, I glanced out at the green rows of fields below me and just started crying. The woman next to me probably thought I was crazy, but I just had to say goodbye to some of the best people I have ever met.
You know, they don’t prepare you for this part. The TikToks, the YouTube videos, and friends who had studied abroad before me prepared me for packing, currency exchange, public transportation, and everything in between, but they didn’t warn me of this. This empty feeling.
I am sitting back at my kitchen counter in my childhood home writing this and just feeling hollow. I go back for my last year of college in a week, and it’s like I don’t know who to be anymore. It’s so cliché when you think about it, but this experience has seriously changed my life.
It’s funny because I use to poke fun at those people who made study abroad their entire personality, but I can see why that’s the case now. These people and these memories are unlike anything I’ve experienced in life. Yes, there were hard times. The ant infestation in my room and ruining my shoes in Galway were not fun experiences, but all of the bad combined could never come close to outweighing the good.
While backpacking in Belfast the first weekend, my roommate, Mattie, and I came across a farmers’ market. There were various different booths and one in particular caught my eye. They were selling handcrafted glass dishes, incense trays, and other objects with Celtic touches. There were these Celtic runes carved on stones at the booth with a piece of paper with the meanings on them.
One in particular has highlighted my experience in Ireland. Othala stands for home (or Odla meaning sacred ancestral land) and is a rune of wealth. But unlike other runes of Celtic origin, Othala represents a wealth that can’t be sold. This is the wealth of family, friendships, or our culture and heritage that is passed down to us. It represents an enclosure and maintains the existing state of things as they presently are.
I have loved that description since I read it. It maintains the existing state of things as they presently are. I struggled with imposter syndrome at the beginning of study abroad and I am once again struggling with it being back, but I keep reminding myself of Othala. Things are exactly how they are meant to be in any given time, and I need to come to terms with that.
I was thinking about all of these things as I stared out a plane window flying over the United States as I returned to my own home. But it wasn’t my home anymore, not really. My home has become the people in my life. My parents, who I was happy to see despite my longing to return to Ireland, my friends, both those I already had and the ones I met abroad, and the travelers I fell in love with for a moment in time along the way. My home is my heart and my newfound love of international travel.
Now, even though the title of this article says so, I did in fact not pull an Irish goodbye when we all left on our flights. I don’t think I would have had it in me to just leave these people that have become like family without saying goodbye. With plans being made for future trips to others’ hometowns, I guess I didn’t really say goodbye at all.
So, for now, I will be content with where I am exactly as it is meant to be until the next time I cross paths with them…and enjoy my view from the window seat as the world passes by.