It has been just over one year since I decided I’d had enough of Washington, DC and set off on this adventure. Since then I have been to seven countries and countless cities. I have traveled by plane, train, subway, boat, motor scooter, bike, car, bus, and on foot. I’ve lounged poolside, hiked up volcanoes, visited art galleries and markets, met wonderful people and eaten more than my fair share of various local delicacies.
I swam in the Mediterranean, Ligurian, and Bali seas, and the Pacific Ocean. Slept in hotel beds, and strange apartments, on couches, hammocks and in the comfort of home. Which brings me to a question that has recently been on my mind:
Where is home?
As I write this, I am in Portland where my family is. It feels distinctly homey here with the low hum of the washing machine churning away in the basement, the full pot of coffee on the go in the well-stocked kitchen, the abundance of comfortable beds and the continuous offers of my favorite foods.
This is not the house I grew up in – my parents only moved to Oregon from California a few years ago, but somehow they managed to transport all of the comfort and familiarity with them across state lines.
San Francisco, where I spent a lot of my youth and where many of my friends still live, feels a lot like home. With the familiar shapes of the buildings and smell of the trees, and the concentration of people I love, it doesn’t take long after arriving at the airport there to feel that I belong.
Ramallah is where the Englishman is, and I’ve spent enough of the last year there, that things about life in the West Bank feel homelike. Waking up together each morning and going about our tasks: him making tea, and me coffee, hanging our laundry on the line in the sun, sitting down at the kitchen table to play a hand of cards. There are feelings of love and comfort and domesticity there too.
And, of course, Nice. This is the place that I feel kind of belongs to me. This is where my stuff is for one thing, my clothes hanging on the rack, my creams in the bathroom drawer. It’s where the woman at the bakery notices when I’ve been gone, and where I have a frequent shopper’s card at the grocery store.
It’s becoming confusing though to identify which of these places is home. Sometimes it feels like the in between parts are the constant. The clacking of my suitcase wheels on cement, the security of knowing where everything is in my carryon. Passport? Check. Wallet? Check. Lip balm, book, extra socks, check, check, check.
After all these months, I don’t feel much closer to deciding where I want to be. If anything, my desire to see new places has grown.
The more of the world I see, the more I feel that there is just too much out there to stay in one place. I have a chronic condition of always wanting to be where I am not, and it is only getting worse.
Sometimes I can step back and look at this year as a way of getting it out of my system. I have had a fun and frivolous 12 months, flitting from one place to the next, taking in the experiences and learning about new places. But sooner or later I am going to have to get back to reality.
Then something else takes over and I start to think that maybe this could be reality. Why not, I mean some people travel for a living right? Wanting to see the world is a virtuous endeavor too – isn’t it?
But soon the constant traveling will have to come to a halt. The ambitious itineraries with two-day stays and weekly flights will be coming to an end. Through a self-imposed tethering, I will be rooted in one place – for a few months at least.
I think I have finally wrestled the French Consulate into submission, and I should have a student visa in my hot little hands in a few weeks time, which will mean that for six months I will be back in Nice. Getting back to the original plan of immersing myself in the language and the lifestyle of the south of France.
Not only that, but I will be a student again! My course is at the local University in Nice, Where (fingers crossed) I might actually meet some people who live there.
But before I hunker back down for fall and winter in Provence, I still have some time left to soak up summer in the US. I am back in Portland for a few weeks, hanging out with my parents and my sister. The Rose city is a stunner in the August heat. In retrospect, this time of year would have been a better introduction to the place than January was for the Englishman, but there will be more opportunities for visits.
Things grow so well here, every day there seems to be another pound of ripe tomatoes on my parent’s vines, along with the yellow squash, kale and broccoli sprouting in their garden boxes and apples growing on the tree.
The truth is: I have no idea where I want to be, or maybe more accurately, I want to be everywhere, all the time. But there is no use overanalyzing things, the future is up in the air, and I am just going to accept that. I am letting go of control a bit, and seeing where that leads. Maybe my time in Bali rubbed off on me more than I expected it to.
The next leg of the adventure involves: me – the word’s worst driver, my mom – a woman doesn’t like to spend more than 20 minutes in the car at one time, my dad – a man who has racked up more speeding tickets than he would care to remember, my mom’s 16 year old RAV 4 compete with one very old cassette deck and 12-plus hours on the open road. At the very least, it will be…. interesting.