“Well, my bag is packed, I’m ready to go . . . “

And I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that since I made my reservations for reading week,  I’ve vacillated between excitement and fear, with a few brief moments of something resembling calm thrown in just to keep things interesting.

Perhaps before I go on, I should explain why an avid reader like myself would fear “reading week”. I’m not sure of all the details — does it happen every term? do all universities have this? — but the university my students and I are fortunate enough to be a part of this semester has a week that used to be called “reading week”.  Think “spring break”, but instead of tanned coeds frolicking on the beach, picture studious scholars bent over books or computer keyboards, working on class papers in the library — well, that’s the idea at least. The title of the week was actually changed to something else this year, but everyone still calls it “reading week”, so I do as well. Many exchange/international students (maybe even non-international students) travel elsewhere in the UK and Europe during this break, and I will be traveling as well.

Of course, I’m excited. Never in my wildest dreams prior to this past October did I imagine I would travel to England, yet here I am. And now, I have the opportunity to take a whirlwind train trip through 6 countries (staying in 4 cities) in one week!

At times, I’m a bit concerned. Other than a few trips within the U.S. in the past 4 1/2 years, I’ve never travelled alone. And I’ve never travelled by myself in a foreign country! I feel more stressed as I remember that I’ve have to get to and from train stations and then find the right platforms; with my hearing problem (even with hearing aids, there are issues), I have difficulty understanding people with accents I’m not familiar with, and that makes solo travel a bit more daunting.

What is bothering me most, though, is that the prospect of this (albeit exciting) trip  has also raised a tidal wave of loneliness that’s as strong and as sharp as the one that engulfed me the week my son and daughter returned to med school and college after their father passed away.

I can’t really explain it; I’ve been sitting in front of this laptop for 20 minutes, trying to put into words how I feel. I simply can’t.

I keep telling myself this trip will be good for me, that I will be a stronger person for having done this, that I would always regret it if I didn’t do this.

And so, scared or not, lonely or not, I’m going. Tomorrow morning, I will wake up (if I fall asleep at all) at 5 a.m. and walk 20 or so minutes to the train station, where I will board a train which will take me to the continent and on an adventure I am sure I will never forget.

I’ll see you when I return!