I’ve traveled a bit lately: Milwaukee to Cleveland, Chicago to Milwaukee, New Orleans to Milwaukee, and later today, Chicago to Paris. It’s been a month filled with just as much dry cereal and back sweat as good times and on-the-road epiphanies.
And at this point, I don’t mind the discomforts of traveling anymore – I’ve gained the ability to squeeze into small spaces quite easily and can sleep on command. All these trips have given me a similar feeling: every time I left one place, I felt like I was going home to the next. All different places, but home nonetheless.
It makes sense to feel that way going to Cleveland. It’s my default home, the one that was handed to me without my say (for the record). My family is there. Some friends are there, too. So when I tell myself I’m going home to Cleveland, it’s home.
Milwaukee is also home, but only because I’ve made it that way. I’ve established myself here over the past few years, and I’ll always feel comfortable coming back. Plus, I know my favorite food joints and have a library card.
New Orleans will always feel like home because of all the people who live there, whom I’ve gotten to know over the years through my service trips with MARDI GRAS. They’re kind, sincere, generous, self-aware, accommodating – they’re family, really, with everyone they meet. And maybe it’s home because I can pour barbecue sauce into my mac and cheese without feeling like an animal.
When it comes down to it, though, I don’t know what makes these places home other than the fact that they feel that way. I guess home isn’t truly home until you’ve made connections to the people there. At this point it’s always changing, but there are a few constants: a place to sleep, a general sense of direction when walking around, people who care about your well-being and a Chipotle within city limits.
It’s been nice visiting all my homes in a whirlwind tour this break. Paris is a little more difficult, though, seeing as I hardly speak the language and don’t yet have a place to sleep. Welcome home. At least there’s a Chipotle.
Tony Manno is a junior in the College of Communication, currently studying abroad in Paris, France. Email him at email@example.com