“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” –Cesare Pavese
This quote is a very interesting one, indeed. Although some of it I can understand completely perfectly, other parts are not quite so correct in my eyes. Traveling abroad definitely forces one to rely on strangers, but this is not always, or even usually, a bad thing. Relying on the help or the directions of another person is a very humbling experience and it reminds us all that we are not alone, but part of a larger world-community. I always find that it feels really good to receive directions or help from a stranger, but it really feels fantastic passing that helpful hand on to someone else. That need for help is something that unites us all as humans; none of us could make it day in and day out without others, but sometimes we lose track of that need because we do not realize we are relying on others. It is often easy to forget that you are relying on your parents, your friends or your family because it is so normal.
As for the second part, it can be true that nothing is yours if you let it be. On some of my more hopelessly homesick days, it definitely felt as if nothing was mine, nothing was normal or familiar. It was all too easy to become preoccupied with everything strange and unfamiliar. I have learned best on those days, that it is so important to keep a sense of what IS yours and what you CAN control. Yes, the air, sleep, dreams, etc. that Pavese mentions are yours, but also your memories of friends and family are. Your experiences and opportunities while traveling are most surely yours and if you are so worried about what does not fall under your control you may miss the chance to really experience the smallest moments of your days or miss the opportunities you are offered.
Really what this quote comes down to is one’s perspective. If you spend each day seizing the opportunities and living the moments given to you, you will find new things that will become yours. The commute to class, friends, new food or whatever else you encounter will soon make the shift from being strange to being yours. They will not replace the things that were yours before, but they are still a valuable part of being abroad. You may have to put your faith in people you have never met, but as long as you do it the smart way you will definitely see that these experiences can often be very positive. These experiences have brought me to a place where I can say that Germany feels much more like home than I ever imagined it would.