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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks


On January 7, Paul and I moved Madi back to UNC for spring semester. She was so excited and ready to be there. She could barely stand it. She was packed and had the car loaded a full hour before the agreed-upon time of departure.

Madi had been abroad for fall semester, splitting the time between London and Italy. She loved it, but she was home now, and had not been on campus or seen her friends since summer. When we arrived, she unloaded the car and hugged us goodbye almost before we had found parking. We were thrilled for her though.

Paul and I returned home. Happy that she was happy to be back at school and at least in the same time zone as us!

I think we got the first phone call before we were fully home – just asking us a question of whether something or other had gotten packed. Normal stuff. Over the next several days, the calls increased in frequency and lengthened in duration.

All was not well on campus. It makes sense that when you’ve spent the last four months deciding if you would spend the weekend in Paris or Amsterdam, it’s hard to be OK with deciding whether to eat at Chase dining hall or Lenoir. The campus felt smaller.

Hoping to figure out why she felt the way she did, Madi talked to the others who had traveled with her the previous semester, and here’s where the surprise came in.

There was a split. Most of the group was happy to be back and had settled in nicely. They were much more ready to talk about their current classes than they were about the trip that was in the past.

And then there were a couple of others who were struggling as Madi was. They were rattled and unsettled. They were also the ones who took the extra trips when they could and took advantage of every opportunity. Even when they were exhausted, the consensus was we’ll rest when we get home.

But they couldn’t understand why they were struggling so much when the others weren’t. I suggested that Madi talk with the professor who had traveled with them. This particular program is offered roughly every year and a half, and he has been going with the students and making the trip for the last 45 years. And for those 45 years, he explained that he had struggled upon return each and every time.

He explained that there are two types of travelers: one type enjoys the experience, but that’s what it is. An experience. Something that happened to them. It’s more of a passive event. The other type is more actively involved. They eat, sleep, live, and breathe the traveling. It becomes ingrained in them, and it makes returning so very difficult.

It made me wonder if this is true about life as well. Don’t we sometimes experience life passively when we should be actively pursuing it? It’s so much easier to accept what’s dropped in our laps instead of reaching out for our dreams. I guess the kind of trip you have depends on how you decide to travel.

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