Paces - My Family Travels

20th of May, 2011

Today is important in a few ways:

  • It’s LSD, or Last School Day, for the ‘Seniors’ (6th Class) at my school, which means party party noise long lunch break screaming water party
  • I’m going to go see Pirates of the Caribbean 4 today. Monumental.
  • I only have two months left in Switzerland.

What? Huh? Two months? I mean, I’ve been here for more than nine months, but even now it’s barely caught on that this was it. I’m an exchange student in Switzerland – but now, more fittingly, I’ve been an exchange student in Switzerland. It’s bizarre and at the same time, fulfilling. I did it. I’m fluent in German; I survived three host families, a freezing winter, ski camp, fondue, and avalanches; I’ve ridden public transportation; I’ve built a new life in every day that separates me from those steps onto the plane in Los Angeles on August 13th, 2010.

â–º  Semi Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

That’s the thing about travelling. You go somewhere and suspect to find something, strive to discover, but in the end, you end up on paths you never expected. You blaze your own trail, whether it be through the alleys of Luzern or a crammed Italian market. And somehow, you come out on the end, confused and enlightened at once, the worse behind you, with a photo book of memories and lessons learned.

Maybe that was the challenge, learning these lessons in the past nine months, but I find what’s even harder are the last eight weeks between now and July 20th, 2011. While I may have spent the last 280 days constructing something would have previously been totally foreign to me, occupied the last forty weeks tunneling into everything new, there has been some part of me that has stood on the sidelines for the past 6,720 hours and kept watch.

I’m still Rachel. I still hate seafood, enjoy stuffy films and confusing literature, dress up for Harry Potter movies, and laugh my head off over political jokes and then spend the rest of the day worrying about the future of our country. Nothing could change that… but I am still Rachel: I can speak German, know the train schedules from and to Zug by heart, meander through European streets at night, I love Biberli and Läckerli and B-b-b-ünderfleisch, have dressed up in scarves and thick jackets but am already in shorts when it’s over 65, and I laugh my head off over the latest European hijinks but can only wonder over their repercussions.

And though the last forty weeks may have been a struggle at times, the next two months will be just as confusing. I want to go home. I am ready to go home. But in my race to the finish line, I cannot stumble or run out of breath. In every paced step I take to boarding call in Zürich, I will be looking for myself, in the places I have been here, and along the way back home. This wasn’t just a trip (and a wild one at that), it was truly living. And the real work will be in reconciling the still-unbelievable experience I have had here with my life. Because I’m not leaving my life or rejoining it. I’m just continuing it, day by day, and in sixty-one of them I will still be striding, still be going forwards – but, perhaps, in a slightly different direction


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