There are certain things about home that simply cannot be replicated. I’ve learned that more and more as I spend time traveling the world. “Distance makes the heart grow stronger” is something that has shown in my respect for my parents and our strengthening relationship, my appreciation for my family and friends, and the yearnings of my heart for things I no longer have.

That being said, there are many things that I’ve realized I miss over these last four months, but I’ve narrowed it down to my top five, in no specific order.

1. Sushi dates with my Dad

It’s so easy to take your parents for granted. Even if you live a few hours away, it’s still easy because if you don’t see them as much as you’d like, you at least have the opportunity to. That’s something that I don’t have anymore. I can’t hop on a short plane ride and spend the weekend with my parents. I can’t go get sushi with my Dad at our favorite restaurant. I can’t spend time with him in the way that I wish I could. Shoot, I can’t even call them as much as I’d like with my work schedule and the differences in time zones. I get stressed out thinking about any lost time between us, something that’s hard not to consider when reality hits that I’m 5,000+ miles from home.

2. Watching my best friend’s boys grow up

Childhood is such a beautiful thing. I had a fantastic childhood. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Being around these two little boys has changed me in a way I can’t explain. I can’t imagine loving my own children as much as I love these two, something that only a mother can laugh at and say “Oh trust me, you will.” They’re growing taller at an exponential rate, it seems, and they’re talking so much I can’t believe how much things have changed in the last four months that I’ve been away. It pains me, but I try not to think about it. I know their Mama is so happy for me and that those boys will be there for me to love on when I get home.

3. Amazon

This is not a third world country. I can order off Amazon. However, I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to ship something to Serbia but I am here to tell you it is expensive. There’s nothing I need so bad that I would pay over $60 for shipping, and that’s on a small item. Also, there is no guarantee on the date of arrival, I don’t care what it says. You can order something in January and feel like you got a surprise present when your package arrives in March.

4. My mother’s laugh

There are a few things that are not like anything else in this world. My mother’s laugh is one of those things for me. It’s absolutely enchanting and when she really can’t stop, it’s completely contagious. My mom’s laugh is like bells ringing in the most beautiful way. Maybe I’m just remembering it different now that I’m away, but it’s something I’m very excited to hear when she comes out this August to visit me. We would take girl’s trips when I lived with them in CA and every single one of them is filled with memories that make me grin cheek-to-cheek. I am so lucky to have the relationship with my parents that I do. Strong as a bull and gentle as a lamb, my mother embodies so much of who I want to be.

5. Driving down Highway 1

Europe is full of beautiful countrysides and back roads, buildings that have been standing for over 400 years, streets that were paved long before the generations that now walk them. But California’s Highway 1 is in the running for the most beautiful road I’ve ever driven. Straight out of a painting, I don’t know what’s better than driving down the highway with the windows down on a warm summer night, watching the sunset on the ocean and staring at the winding road ahead. I may sound cheesy, but it’s worth the experience and then you’ll see what I mean.

It goes without saying for me that I miss my siblings and our time together. But we’ve been seeing each other sporadically for years now, not just since I left, and although I wish I could have seen them more before this journey began, I look forward to the future and how we’ll all grow.

It’s so important to me that I talk about how much I love home as much as I discuss the problems that I see with it. This life has presented me with such amazing opportunities that I believe I have earned, although not by myself. I owe so much to the people who have helped get me where I am, whether financially, mentally, physically, or even just emotionally. They say “it takes a village” and I sure feel like I was raised by one.