There and Back Again, Part 1: Home
Two days in and this week has all the makings of home. Driving through neighborhoods, picking up this and that at Target, grabbing a Chai Tea Latte at local coffee shops, having drinks and meals with friends, and hitting balls at the local golf range. However, for every making of home, there are two things that don't have the making of home: checking in and out of hotels, studying maps, carrying around a backpack, and driving around in a rental car. No this isn't home yet.
"So where's home?" I get this question frequently. I'm not too sure how exactly to answer it. The most recent came this past Saturday at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show. "Well, I don't really have a home. I'm on the road most of the year traveling and writing about the places I visit." That short conversation has sparked a shower of questions and thoughts over the last few days that have made me ask myself: What is home?
When someone asks where my home is, I often respond with North Carolina. Why is that? Probably because I've lived 80% of my life there and it's where I still typically go back to since my mom lives there. In North Carolina is the house I lived in for the longest time, the school where I held my first job, and the high school and college I graduated from. It's also where I had my first kiss, went on my first date, took my first photos, and learned to play golf. However, is it the place or the experiences that make somewhere home?
A couple weeks ago I was enjoying my last sunset in Costa Rica. I was sitting on the beach and as no surprise, was deep in thought, pondering the last few months of travel and living. As I sat there on the beach, I took a big breath and said out loud: "I did it." What is it that I did? I don't really know. However, after several months of living and traveling across the U.S. and Central America, there was a feeling of satisfaction and completion. For years, I never understood why in movies there would be this climatic, conflicting moment when the protagonist often said aloud to a confidant or significant other: "This is something I just have to do." As cheesy and cliche as those moments often are, I felt like those very words described the last few months of travel for me. It was just something I had to do.
Last night on Facebook I made mention that this was the first time I had really considered "settling down". Amidst the nearly 30 comments I received in response, the first person asked: "What is your definition of settling down." Off the cuff I responded: "In this case, it means have a 'permanent address'. Having an apartment, a local pub, and coffee shop where everyone knows my name." In that statement, it's both the experiences and the places that make "home". At the root, it's about the experiences. I want the meetups, the beers with friends, and the golf outings. However, conversely, I also want the same bed to come back to, a regular coffee shop and pub, and a mailbox.
I absolutely can't tell you how travel over the last few months has changed me. The "me" of last year, I don't even know that person anymore. A few days back in the states and I feel rejuvenated and armed to be both a better traveler and citizen. While I've said it before, I now really believe the sentiment that long-term travel isn't for everyone. Full-time travel I know isn't for me. However, I'm not done traveling. I at the very least have a summer in Europe still to go, but I know a physical home, where I hang my hat isn't too far away. Does that mean I'll stop traveling after I "settle down"? Hell no! It'll just mean I travel differently. Where will it be that I call home? I have no idea. I'm a process of elimination kind of guy. I know it's not in the southeast and probably not even the east coast, and for all I know, might not even be in the U.S.. Recently I was asked when I'll stop this traveling lifestyle. I responded: "When I find the place or the person I never want to leave." As nice and romantic as that quote sounds, I'm not sure that will be the case when I end up settling down for awhile. But then again, ask me in a few months.
What is home to you? Is it more of the place or the experiences? For you long-term travelers, how do you deal with the longings for "home"?
I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” --Lillian Smith