When I was a child I was terrified of traveling. Not of airplanes or boats or anything specific - I hated any movement of any kind that took me away from home. My aversion to exploration was so terrible that my father once drove me just barely into Massachusetts, and I cried uncontrollably as soon as I realized we had crossed the state line.
I continued to be a homebody until leaving for college. At orientation they brought in a representative from the study abroad office, and when my mom asked if I might consider going somewhere fabulous during my junior year as they suggested, I only cackled in response. I could barely handle having chosen a college 3 hours away, let alone allow the entire Atlantic Ocean come between my family and me.
Yet three years later I somehow found myself in Florence, Italy, doing exactly the thing I had laughed at those years before. At the risk of sounding like an Eat, Pray, Love cliché, Italy fundamentally changed who I was. I missed my family constantly, and yes, I did once ugly cry into a panino when I realized I was missing Thanksgiving back home. But I learned how to be on my own, to explore without the fear which once held me back. I fell in love with my independence and the idiosyncrasies of my new environment. I knew after my few months away that I would do anything to live abroad again.
When I applied for a Fulbright, I never anticipated I would actually have this opportunity. It seemed too competitive, too unlikely, too good to be true. But I applied anyway, because I love what I do, I think art is important, and because...why not? If it would take me abroad again, I would try. I was fairly positive I wouldn’t get the scholarship, which was fine by me (at least that’s what I said at the time - had I not been selected there likely would have been a sandwich crying redux) as Tyler and I were looking forward to me finishing school/him starting school. I also knew it would be a great experience just to go through the Fulbright application process. It was a win/win. Either I’d graduate and start my life and career as an artist & educator, or we’d be moving to Australia.
I bring all this up as a preface to my journey here because up until the day I left, there was still a massive part of me that couldn’t believe what was happening. After the months of work, my brain still wouldn’t let me accept that I was going to be leaving everyone I love and everything I knew behind to go on this great adventure. Part of this was an archaic childhood section of my brain screaming “DON’T EVEN GO TO LOGAN, KALEIGH!!!” and part of it was the unfortunate effect of so frequently and easily telling myself and others that this exact thing would never actually happen.
After nearly 8 months of waiting, the time has come to finally leave for Australia. Though my bags are packed and I’ve said many tearful goodbyes, there still is that tiny part of my brain that refuses to believe this is real. My stomach has been in knots for days, and I woke up the other night from a terrible dream that my plane crashed because the pilot forgot to land on the left side of the road (brains are weird and, spoiler alert, it didn’t happen). But I’m quieting this part of me for now, setting it to airplane mode if you will.
The fact of the matter is that I did apply, and I did get the scholarship. It started as an unreachable goal, but it’s all finally happening. And because of it I’m going farther from home, farther than I’ve ever been. It’s time to cross not just multiple state lines, but vast countries and continents - and to try my hardest to just enjoy the ride.