Welcoming wanderlust: because life is too short to live in one place

Op/Ed Editor Hailey Novak expresses excitement to experience learning outside of the classroom

More stories from Hailey Novak

A lot of people are terrified of leaving a place where they’ve grown comfortable, a place that’s familiar. For me, staying in one place for too long is what’s truly terrifying.

Life isn’t meant to be lived in one place.

In two months I’ll be standing in the St. Paul International Airport waving goodbye to my parents as I board a flight to Florence, Italy, the place I’ll call home for four months.

My parents and I aren’t notorious for tearful goodbyes, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be worried about me from the moment I step onto the plane.

A lot of friends I’ve talked to who have studied abroad were afraid to leave. Yes, they were excited, but they also had a lot of anxiety about leaving home for so long and being thrown into an entirely new atmosphere.

As my departure date inches closer, I’ve grown more reluctant to leave my friends behind for a semester, but more than anything I’m excited to go. My biggest concern right now is whether or not all of the shoes I want to bring will fit into my limited luggage space.

I know this isn’t what my mom wants to hear. She wants me to say that I’ll be homesick, that I’m scared to leave for such a long time and that I’m worried about what could happen to me while I’m abroad.

She most definitely doesn’t want me to say that I’m eager to find a new place to call home, or that I’m not sure if four months will be long enough. And most of all she doesn’t want to hear me say that while I’m aware of the potential dangers, I have no desire to be paralyzed by all the “what if’s”.

The thought of going off on a fourth-month adventure doesn’t scare me. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been independent, but mostly it’s because I feel anxious being in one place for too long. These first two and half years here at UW-Eau Claire have been more than I could have asked for, but I desperately want to take a break and see what else is out there.

As students, we get caught up in our academic lives and adopt tunnel vision toward the future. We have one goal in mind and we view the work we’re doing right now as the end-all to our future selves in regards to a career.

While I’m not discrediting the education and careers us students are seeking, I do believe it’s important to keep in mind that cliche as it may be, life is short.

There is much of the world around us unexplored and too many places unseen, yet we continually worry about the one tiny slice of the pie in front of us.

Mom and dad, it may seem like I’m all too eager to take off without a plan in mind, but that’s because I am. I’m not giving up school and parts of my life abroad will still be focused on my future and a career, but I’m going to learn more about another culture and hopefully myself than I would if I stayed in my familiar college town for another semester.

I’m not going completely off the grid on some soul-searching solo backpack adventure or anything. I’m going to be seeing all the typical tourist sites that have been documented by iPhones time and time again but they’ll be new to me and so will the people.

We take for granted what the people around us, not just our professors, can teach us.

Often times we learn the most when we find ourselves in a new place, where we happen upon someone we’ve never met before. There’s not enough to be said for what we can learn from our peers and ultimately ourselves.

Lastly mom and dad, don’t mistake my eagerness for ignorance or my excitement for oblivion. I know that I don’t just get to jet off to a land without responsibilities and a wallet without limits.

But with that in mind, while I may be limited in some ways, I have full confidence the experiences will be limitless and the lessons I learn from them will be more valuable than ones I can take from the pages of my university-issued textbook.

At the very least, I think I deserve my Lizzie McGuire moment, on the back of a Vespa in Rome with a cute Italian boy who’s bound to break my heart.