When you travel without a home to go back to, I think it's called wandering, and wandering is an oft romanticized undertaking. I'm not here to tell you that it's actually not romantic. Being a nomad is drenched in romanticism, and when we were abroad, there were some days we'd wake up, take our coffee by the sea, and ask each other, "Where should we go next?"
As special as that was, every time we asked, there was a little twinge at the end of the question. "Where should we go next [because we don't have a home to go back to]?" There is nothing in life that doesn't come full circle. Our journey started with an A-frame, and our wrestling with the notion of home; so it makes sense that at every step, the very thing that drove us would be there, continuing to push.
Our lives are held in tension, and wherever we are, that point has a future and a past, both of which inform the journey. Sometimes, I felt the full freedom of loosing our material place and time in the names of wonder and discovery. Other times, I felt the full weight of trying to hold up a life without roots. It doesn't make our decision to go right or wrong. It was simply being suspended into life, in between the comings and the goings. It means there is a difference between going home and coming home.
While we were still flinging ourselves about the world, trying to exercise our freedom to its fullest, I thought a lot about going home. When I thought about going home, it was a calculated move, with sure steps and reasons, my suitcases a little heavier than when I'd left from the souvenirs and new bits of self-actualization I'd picked up along the way. When we were coming home, it felt like another decision made for us, because of outside circumstances, and the lack of rooting caused us to be swept up.
When I thought about going home, it was just for the holidays, before we jet off again. We'd see our family and partake of my favorite traditions, and it would be enough to satisfy those untethered parts of me, fill me up so I could wander again. When we were coming home, it turned out to be for good, except the home was a general location and not a specific place. We came back to where a home should be, but still didn't know where to grow the roots.
When I thought about going home, I imagined I'd bestow my wisdom to the world, share all that our adventures had taught me about life and ourselves. When we were coming home, it was the most confused I'd been about what I wanted out of life, let alone how to share it. To put feelings into words, you have to be able to identify those emotions and their points of origin. I could do neither.
Of course, just like traveling was an experience suspended between a past and a present, so was going home. Going home was a relief and a challenge all at once, depending on which lens you were using. Just like going home was suspended between, so was coming home. Sometimes it makes perfect sense; other times, I forget how we got here, how life changed so quickly again.
I miss Spanish goat cheese. I miss riding the train. I miss spending the afternoons by the sea, and that's funny because really I could take or leave the beach. I miss the bite of an Italian cappuccino, and I miss everything being new again, every couple of weeks.
When we moved to New York, I think it was mesmerizing for two weeks before my heart began to mourn everything we'd left in Colorado. I remember the shocking realization that all the things that had become so normal and boring were actual special in really important ways. And this is what they don't tell you about wanderlust--the call of adventure cannot be denied, but you're always letting go.
Except, isn't that life? In some way, whether through life-altering risk or simply switching out our toothpaste, we make steps in a forward direction. And every time we move forward, we leave where we were, placing us right in between the past and the future. Every day, we let go. Every day, we die little deaths. If not, we die ourselves, stunting growth. When we were traveling, a part of me always wanted to go home, to return to what was known and normal; and when we came back, a part of me still wanted to be gone.
This isn't regret. It's just letting go and moving on in one fell swoop. It's going home and coming home.