Lily Stoicheff is a Murphys native, 2007 Bret Harte graduate, and former Enterprise intern. After earning a degree in history from UC Santa Cruz, she interned with a novelist in County Mayo, Ireland. This is the final instalment in a series exploring her experience. The Enterprise welcomes submissions for Global Calaveras from other current and former Calaveras County residents.

After one very long day of continent hopping, I’m mere hours away from sleeping in my own bed. Between the airport chaos and cramped seating arrangements, I’ve been reflecting on my time in Ireland over the past few months, and I can already feel my heart ache a little for the stunning landscape and friendly people. But as I fly over the San Bernadino Mountains on my way to Los Angeles Inter-national Airport, the sun happens to set in particularly spectacular glory and I realize that one thing I did not expect to return with was a new-found appreciation for home.

When I graduated from college last June, I was determined to do something other than move back home with my parents. But I knew I was one of thousands of recent graduates snatching desperately at scarce job opportunities, and even though I had done well in college, I didn’t know how to translate my work there to the real world. Facing the bottomless pit of job applications seemed so futile that when my friend presented me with an offer to move in with her to her parents’ house in New York City, my first thought was, sure, it’s not like there’s anything here for me.

Except there was. I had amazing friends, family, and a community and home in one of the most beautiful towns in California. But I pushed that aside in search of movement.

Luckily my impulsiveness paid off when I met the historical novelist Kate Kerrigan while I was living in New York. I volunteered my skills as a history grad and she offered me an internship doing research for her novels and assisting her with her social media. Excitement pushed the word “Yes!” out of my mouth before my brain could fully process what that meant: 10 weeks living and working in the west of Ireland where she lived with her family.

My time there was equal parts invaluable work experience and unforgettable adventure. And, quite unexpectedly, being there taught me about the value of what I had temporarily left behind.

Before I got on that airplane, it hadn’t even occurred to me that homesickness would be an issue, but before too long it became an accepted part of my life. The work I was doing in Ireland inspired me, and my new community was soon filled with familiar faces, but I missed the support and companionship of my friends and family. I enjoyed learning the quirks and nuances of the life these locals lead, but it still was not my home. I was a visitor peeking in.

I’ve always believed in focusing on where you are with the people you’re with, but when it came time for that belief to be tested, I’ve found it’s more difficult than I thought it would be. My heart is at home, but before this trip my adventurous self would never have let that influence my decisions. I knew I would learn things about myself on this unexpected journey, but I never thought this would be on the syllabus.

As the plane touched down, I was jolted by the idea that my little life in Ireland was really over. I recall how intensely I anticipated this trip, and how expectant and unsure I was about what I would discover once I arrived. I was so excited for the opportunities I was about to have in a country I had always wanted to visit, and it was more than I could have imagined. When I look back at the frightened but determined girl I was a year ago, I’m in awe at the serendipity that has led to my current surroundings.

There are still a hundred places left in this world that I want to see, but since I’ve started my adventure I’ve learned where my true north is.