A few days ago, I was listening to a podcast hosted by a woman from Poland, Joanna Okuniewska, who decided to emigrate to Iceland with her partner. She has been living in that isolated country known for its unpredictable weather and indecipherable language for several years now, welcomed her first child there, and became one of the most successful podcast hosts among the Polish audience.
In this episode, she recounted her recent trip back to Poland where she spent the summer catching up with her family, savouring blueberry pierogis, and taking in the beauty of the Polish countryside. She revisited all the beautiful memories she had made throughout her childhood and reflected on how immense of a challenge it was to leave her hometown and her loved ones all those years ago.
As I am writing this article, it is the night before I leave for university, and I am wondering if, on the night before her move to Iceland, the Polish podcast host experienced the same overwhelming mix of emotions that I am experiencing. I am feeling anxious about all the things I still need to pack before my flight leaves tomorrow morning, saddened by all the goodbyes I had to say in the past week, and excited to meet new people and make lifelong friendships. But the overarching feeling that accompanies me on this summer evening is that of uncertainty, knowing that all the people, places, and things that constituted my home up until this day will soon be left behind as I enter a new chapter of my life.
What Joanna Okuniewska vulnerably admits in the episode, is that when made the leap and moved to Iceland, she briefly lost her sense of home. She was an ocean away from the familiarity of her country, surrounded by people she could not understand, and buildings she did not recognise. But despite all the hardships, homesickness, and worries, she now wakes up to the view of Reykjavik’s snow-clad townhouses glistening in the winter sun and she finally feels at home. All I can do now is to hope that this will be my experience too and that sooner rather than later I will find myself strolling down the river Wear, taking in Durham’s majestic panorama, and realising that somewhere along the way it is has become my second home.
Whether it is a day trip to a new city, a two-week vacation, or a permanent move abroad – no matter how long or how far our journeys are, they challenge us and our resilience in unexpected ways. Travelling, in all shapes and forms, is a powerful way to enrich our perspective on life and build our autonomy and so, I hope that the travel section inspires you to embark on new adventures and compels you to find out who you are when you step out of your comfort zone.