Packing up after one year in another country can be a daunting task, and tedious I might add. If you have never packed for a major trip, in short, there is a lot of folding, suctioning, cramming, sitting, zipping, and lifting involved to get the right size and weight of your suitcase. No thanks to major airlines, they have added additional obstacles to the ritual that is packing. Apart from the standard 50lb/23kg limit on bags, there is also a $100.00 fee for every extra bag that you bring. On top of the thousands of dollars spent on airfare, they get to kick you one last time in the butt before boarding. Fun right?

Regardless of the qualms I have with the corporatism of airlines, as I packed up my room I was reminded of all of the special memories I made this year. Getting my bags out of the closet reminded me of the first car ride to my new apartment and how nervous and excited I was to start a new life here. The choker necklace I found buried under the rest of my jewelry reminded me of the first time I drove down to Dubrovnik with my boyfriend to meet his family. We stopped along the way to take pictures and I thought I looked so cool in the necklace (I didn’t). My winter coat brought me back to a time filled with mulled wine, twinkly Christmas lights, horse carriage rides, lit up Cathedrals, massive Christmas trees in the middle of the city, and beautiful Christmas markets.

The more I packed the harder it became, suddenly I wanted to re-live it all over again except better this time. This time I would be more accustomed to the language, I wouldn’t get ripped off by my landlords, I would be familiar with the food and the wine and the currency conversion. I felt like this year was the trial period, and just as I had figured everything out it was time to leave. I was suddenly overcome with a type of travel sadness that I have experienced several times before. I wanted to stay for the fun part and finally get to enjoy Croatia without the stress of being in a foreign country and I certainly didn’t want to go back to the reality of my life in New Mexico.

Then it hit me, my reality wasn’t waiting for me in New Mexico. My reality went wherever I went, and just as my year in Croatia had come and gone I was free to make a new reality whenever and wherever I wanted to go next. And that is the story of how I found myself booking a week long return flight through New York City. Reality is a funny thing, we all get caught up in what is real and what is not when the truth is, it’s all real (or it’s all not real, which is a separate question for another time) So in light of my little packing epiphany, I am sad to go but not too sad. I am excited to go home and reunite with my loved ones, start another year of school and most importantly eat a lot of red and green. The best part is, I get to bring the ultimate Croatian souvenir home with me. His name is Mario. He starts at UNM in the fall.