A few weeks ago, while I was putting together a post at the feminist librarian about urban spaces where I’ve lived, I found myself going through photographs from the year I spent living in Aberdeen, Scotland, as an international student reading history, cultural history, and museum studies (September 2003-July 2004).
I have complicated feelings about the time I spent in Aberdeen — just like I have complicated feelings about anywhere I have lived. There were good things, there were bad things. There were things I didn’t miss about the United States (the freezing winter, the lack of public transit) and things I did (good Mexican food, my family). The quality of higher education at the Uni where I was was both more suited to my type of learning (extremely self-directed) and depressingly similar (apathetic students, uneven teaching). I returned to the States ready to be home again, and fairly certain I would not want to permanently relocate, despite childhood fantasies.
Which is why I was thrown off-balance by the wave of homesickness that washed over me when I was going through my photographs to find something for the urban living post.
It was a sudden, physical yearning to be in those spaces again: to walk through Seaton park or along the edge of the North Sea. To have lunch in my favorite French-inspired patisserie or browse the new book wall at the university branch of Waterston’s. To smell the ocean. To wake up to the sound of raucus seagulls, even at 4am. To board the train in Waverley Station late one evening and wake up as we pull into Euston Station, London. To pack up my backpack and pick up the Great Glen Way.
Hanna and I are starting to talk about the possibility of traveling to Britain next year — probably to England and Wales this time around, saving Scotland for another time. And I’m getting excited about being back there, despite reservations about what it will be like to travel as a tourist rather than live there as a student. Still, I find that knowing I’ll get to go back at some point doesn’t necessarily assuage the pain of homesickness, or nostalgia, for a particular time and place: I can still taste it, sharp on my tongue.
What about you, Harpies? Do you have times and places from your life that you find yourself perennially homesick for? Do those feelings surprise you? Have you had the experience of traveling back to places you once lived in and loved? What was that experience like? Share away in the comments!