15 May 2012, 13:20
Wander Postcard Project: No. 26 / Lin Mei.
FROM A READER:
“I am a 20 year old theatre major studying abroad in Florence, Italy with a group of 15 of my friends and fellow theatre majors. I am lucky enough to be in a beautiful city for a month and I should be having the time of my life, right?! Wrong. Since I left, I have not been able to stop missing my boyfriend Chris… I don’t want to wreck my relationship by clinging and begging Chris to email me every second. Most importantly, I want to enjoy the time I have here! This is an amazing opportunity for me and I want to grow and become a strong, independent young woman. I don’t want to be afraid of doing things by myself, and I would hate to waste my trip feeling miserable. Please let me know if you have any suggestions!”
Trust me, I relate! When I was 15 years old, I was fortunate enough to go to Germany for a month with a group from my school. It should have been a dream come true, but it felt more like a nightmare. Why? I had just started dating my first ever boyfriend, & anything that involved me being away from him was like, THE WORST THING EVER.
We started dating just before Christmas, & when I went to Australia with my parents for New Year’s Eve, I spent almost all of my time in an internet cafe, chatting to him. My level of obsession didn’t wane at all in the next six months, & in fact, when our plane took off, heading for Germany, I remember sobbing in my seat. Very dramatic!
Our romance happened in the days before everyone was super-connected. The host family I stayed with (in Karlsruhe — represent!) didn’t even own a computer; it was like torture for my super-internet-addicted self. The only way we could communicate was when I would take a box of Lucky Strikes to the pay-phone down the street. I would smoke cigarettes while I dialled a million numbers (which, of course, I had memorised) & we would talk.
It probably went like this…
Me: How’s Wellington?
Him: The same. How’s Germany?
Me: Totally not like Wellington.
God, what a waste of air-time!
Everything about the situation was pushing my buttons like mad. I couldn’t be online, I couldn’t see my boyfriend, & I wasn’t super good friends with anyone else on my trip. I didn’t really have anyone to talk to, just a Discman & a notebook for company. I felt totally out of my depth & really uncomfortable, but looking back, this was incredibly formative for me. In fact, it was GREAT. It forced me to participate in what was happening; I had no choice.
Instead of obsessing about my boyfriend, I was concerned with lugging my 25kg backpack across a foreign city, or stringing a sentence together in another language. It taught me the importance of good chocolate, & that Germans make some of the best sandwiches in the world!
It meant that when our bus pulled up at Schloss Neuschwanstein, with the turrets peaking out of low cloud, it took my breath away. I wasn’t staring at my phone, hoping desperately for a text message from my beloved.
It gave me time to browse record stores & buy Dig Me Out by Sleater-Kinney & Richard D. James Album by Aphex Twin. Even today, whenever I hear those albums, it transports me right back to a train in Germany, the soundtrack to an ever-changing view.
From Berlin to Baden-Baden & the Black Forest, I was immersed in all things German… & I loved it. My experiences when I was 15 years old cemented Germany’s place as one of my favourite all-time countries, & taught me a different way of seeing the world. Sehr gut!
What can you learn from my (mis)adventures in
homesickness boyfriend-sickness? As with everything, the very best way to deal with it is to jump right into your present reality & embrace it with everything you’ve got. All the crying & long phone-calls in the world won’t change the cold hard fact that right now, there is an ocean separating you.
When you think about it, what do you have to gain from obsessing about your beau? Nothing. What do you have to lose? A thousand fabulous memories from the opportunity of a lifetime.
Even if this experience doesn’t strengthen your relationship, it will certainly strengthen you as a person. Travelling is one of the best things we can do for our spirit & our confidence: it shows us what we’re really made of in a way that we can never experience if we just stay in one place. It’s when we’re out of our depth that we learn to swim, & it’s in unfamiliar situations that we really blossom.
Don’t forget about him completely, of course — & I know you couldn’t even if you tried. Write him postcards or put together a scrapbook of memories which you can show him when you get back. But don’t spend this month in Italy — one of the MOST beautiful places in the world — wishin’ & hopin’ for something that is out of reach. Try to limit your contact, too. You won’t regret this!
Don’t let love-sickness stop you from going out there & experiencing the world! Aim to come back home with a glut of stories to tell, about summertime Vespa rides & great conversation in the Piazza della Repubblica. Return with stories of your favourite gelato place & the espresso you drank which kept you up all night, toes jittering.
I once knew a girl who was so excited to leave New Zealand & move to Europe; it was all she talked about. When she got there, though, she decided she missed her boyfriend too much. She came home after less than a week. They broke up, & she never went back to Europe. Yes, this is a cautionary tale. Don’t be that girl!
Travelling is sublime: a way of escaping the everyday & launching yourself into a new reality. It teaches us about the world as much as it teaches us about ourselves. It always changes you & provides new perspectives. Sometimes it even provides you with new shoes!
Get out there & earn your international playgirl stripes!
Has this ever happened to you? What advice would you give to this girl? Let us know!