When I first heard of the bookpacking program my senior year of high school, I knew I needed to be a part of it at some point in my college career. At the time, I only wanted to go because of the opportunity to read books and travel, but now I see that there’s more to bookpacking than just that. In our interview with Andrew for the Dornsife Instagram story, he described the experience we had embarked on as an “exercise in literature, laughter, and life.” He wasn’t wrong. As a group of 13, 12 students and one wise guide, we had meaningful conversations about the work we read in relation to the encounters we had with the people and places in Louisiana. Over the course of the month, we began to understand some of the history Louisiana endured: French ownership, slavery, economic regrowth, and natural disaster- and the positive and negative impacts this history has had on the lives of the people who lived there. But what Andrew didn’t advertise to social media was that while our month on the road was filled with laughter, it was also filled with tears.
In one of our first seminars, Andrew told us that by the time we landed in LAX on June 5th, 2019, there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the place. My skepticism immediately kicked in. How could one month with 12 other people result in a bond so strong we’d all want to cry when the experience was over? I had done a month-long summer course last year and while I was sad when the trip was over, I didn’t find myself crying about leaving the group. But when June 5th finally came, I couldn’t hold in the tears as the plane took off ground from the New Orleans Airport. I looked around at the 12 beautiful faces sitting around me and smiled, holding my classmate Wendy’s hand.
“Thank you for putting up with me these last 48 hours, Wendy.” I told her. Wendy smiled her caring smile and gave me a large hug in return.
“These last 48 hours have been eventful,” she agreed.
“I should call my reflection ‘The Last 48 Hours’.”
The Last 48 Hours. It’s been a while since I laughed, cried, and loved so much in the span of two days. I cried watching the Bachelorette with Tara, Maria, Alex, Annaliese, and Cameryn for the 4th and final time in Louisiana. I cried in bed with Wendy as we talked about the experiences we had these past 26 days. I cried when I finished my last paper on Monday because it was one of the last assignments I would do in this Maymester- then I laughed because I was being overly sentimental. I cried when the plane took off out of New Orleans. Then I cried when the plane touched ground in LAX.
I cried because this trip meant more to me than I could ever explain. In the first blog, I wrote about reaching my awakening of an open mindset and how I couldn’t reach it in just three short days in Grand Isle. Spending a good month in Louisiana has forced me out of my comfort-zone, tested my resilience, and allowed me to reflect on the way I think of myself and place value in my relationships. 12-year-old Kayla would be proud of the way I spent this past month, and I’m proud too.
Thank you to my 11 classmates and friends for being so welcoming and allowing me to open up with you all. I couldn’t have imagined what our month on the road would have looked like without the relationship we formed. Thank you, Andrew, for challenging us to form the kind of empathetic relationships that didn’t focus on the superficial and forces you to look deeper within a person. Bookpacking could have been about just the books and the travel, but you, Andrew, helped us make it about the connections. The connections between the history, people and the literature, and the connections between us all. I love you all so much.