There’s a special feeling that comes with the word ‘home.’ Sometimes home is a smell; maybe your mother’s famous pumpkin pie baking in the oven. A taste – your favorite ice cream in the heat of summer. A sight, perhaps one of your stuffed animals named Beary or old track that you trained so hard on. Whatever or whoever it is that provokes the feeling of ‘home’ in you, I urge you to hold onto that.
I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania – so small in fact, you could guarantee you’d bump into someone you knew while grocery shopping. I didn’t realize this then, but I am thankful for my town and the people that I grew up with. It’s where I learned how to walk, how to shave my legs, how to shoot a bow and arrow (thanks Dad!). My small town has a big heart and a beautiful landscape that I took for granted until I left. It’s funny how sometimes it takes you leaving a place to really appreciate how much it meant to you.
While in high school, I was constantly thinking about seeing the world. I was extremely eager to graduate and move to a bigger city. And I did just that. I attended La Salle University in Philadelphia for 3 years. I experienced different cultures, I challenged my small-town mindedness, I danced in clubs with friends and stayed up until the sun-rose. I made a new home. One that expanded who I was and has played a pivotal part in who I am today.
When I decided to take a gap year after my junior year of college, I was certainly nervous. Not just for the judgment that taking a ‘non-conventional path’ brings you, but that I wouldn’t find a place that felt like home. It was a risk, but one that I decided I was willing to take. I first visited The Leadership Center in Honduras in 2018 on a weeklong trip. Once I decided to take the gap year, TLC was the first place that came to mind. I knew what the facilities were like, what the campus culture was like, etc. so I thought I could handle it. But the first few months were hard. It was as though I could feel the distance to home in my body – 5,500 miles to be exact. I missed my family and my friends. I missed the feeling of home.
A few months in, I started to create more bonds with the women here. I went on walks with people daily, sat in the library to help with homework, and played cards with girls. But I also spent much of my time alone. Reading, journaling, running, doing yoga. And suddenly, one day I woke up and realized this place is exactly where I am meant to be. I have laughed and cried with these women. I have twirled around in a field to the most beautiful sunsets. I have hiked 5+ hours to the most awe-inspiring waterfalls. I have sat in my hammock and stared at what seems like 100 types of foliage above my head. Not only have I made lifelong friendships, but I have also found a friend within myself. Before coming to Honduras, I would have told you how extraverted I am. I would have preferred to spend time with others rather than sit with myself. But now I will tell you how introverted I never knew I was! I have found a home within myself, and I love it here.
We all have periods in our lives that transform us in ways that seem hard to even articulate. I have three homes. One lies in rural PA, with 75% of the population being middle class citizens that look like me. Another is Philadelphia, where many of my friends that feel like home reside. The last is 45 minutes down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, Honduras, where I have found a home within myself.