Vacation or study abroad semester in college? The night before my flight to Europe I packed my luggage last minute and frantically googled tips about what to expect when I would go abroad. I spent my Winter Vacation lounging, and I would check in every now in then to make sure I was up to date with everything. It didn’t really hit me until my last week in California when I knew I’d be living in a completely foreign environment.
Of all the bullet points for things to pack, I ran onto this travel checklist website that said to remember to pack that one special thing about you. It could be something as simple as your favorite hobby. The travel checklist emphasized to bring this special thing with you, and make sure you’d be able to fit into your luggage. I followed the advice, but not completely…
I brought a couple of things to keep me busy in Madrid: some writing notebooks, running shoes, and workout gear. I tried to travel as light as possible because I knew I’d likely come back with a lot more stuff from traveling.
I left the two things that I brought when I first moved out to the East coast for college however. This time around I didn’t bring my skateboard, and my “special” thing…a classic acoustic guitar.
Before leaving California, I thought it’d be too much of a hassle to haul along my duffel bag, luggage, skateboard, and guitar travel case. I could tell myself that I didn’t want to risk losing my guitar and skateboard on the way over to Europe, but I should’ve at least brought my guitar.
Why do you need to bring that one “special” hobby or thing about you when you travel abroad?
“That one special thing” might not be on your typical travel checklist. After hours of waiting, traveling, and shifts in time zones, I was exhausted when I finally checked into the student residence. I set my things down in my room and then immediately decided to take a nap. There was still other NYU and Spanish students checking into the residence, but it would take up the whole day until everyone arrived. I woke up hours later after my nap shocked I was in an entirely new city and country.
I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t familiar with the area cause I just got there…I didn’t know what else to do other than to write. I wrote for hours cause that was a part of my “special” hobbies that I took with me. I logged on my experiences onto WordPress draft posts , and I took notes inside a journal. Even though writing kept me busy, I discovered that all I was writing about was how I left my guitar at home.
After an exhausting day of traveling, all I really needed was a chance to decompress. I needed to rest my hands on steel acoustic strings in my new bed, but my guitar was 6,000 miles away. My mind was in shock because I was in a foreign country, but the familiarity of a guitar would’ve eased the process.
Was I homesick? I’m not sure. It was my first unofficial day there. Everything was new to me. As I look over my drafts right now all I see is:
“I need to have my guitar with me…”
“…could I rent one?”
“I’ll meet someone new who has a guitar with them…”
“Was it a good move to leave behind my guitar?”
I have my running gear with me and my blog to keep me busy, but I can’t ignore the fact that I left my skateboard and guitar back at home. Those things represent a strong part of my identity.
I thought it was silly when I read online that you should pack that “one” special thing/hobby with you when you travel abroad. Now I understand. In fact, that one special thing should be near the top of your travel checklist. I needed that sense of familiarity during my first few hours in Madrid, but I left it at home.
Bringing a hobby with you is a great way to cope with culture shock or homesickness..
- When you first arrive at your destination you’ll likely feel exhausted, and if it’s an area you’ve never been to before you’ll want that sense of familiarity.
- Bringing something like your guitar could be used to branch out and meet other people who share the same interests as you.
- In reality, your study abroad experience won’t always be go-go-go-go-go… you’ll face downtime so bring something with you to spend it.
This hobby of yours is apart of your identity. Don’t underestimate how you’ll feel if you do decide to leave it at home to save some travel space.