It’s been awhile since I posted anything here, and for anything this is interested, for that I deeply apologize. I haven’t honestly been really into showing my feelings about travel for a while now and for a very good reason (or twenty). Aside from the fact that I have been incredibly busy with my day-job and have been doing a lot of baking, I have been in a real mental hard place for me, hence the topic of this post.
Why do you travel? Really, why do you do it? Do you enjoy seeing the sites or trying all of the different and unique foods that you find? Do you collect things, like clothes or books or antiques? Do you just love to have (collect?) new experiences and capture new memories that only you and you alone will ever fully appreciate?
I used to think that I travelled more for the sake of it than anything else, and I think that, some part of me feels that way. I travel as often as I can; as much as time and money will allow. I used to think that, if I could, I would travel all the time, just collecting those experiences that no one else will ever have. Like getting lost in Helsinki and walking into a suburb and on the way home, accidentally finding their amazing amusement park and riding on the Ferris wheel. Or being the first white woman to set foot on a small island in the South Pacific and learn what it’s like to really be the odd one out, in every sense of the word.
As I get older, though, I realize more and more that those really aren’t the reasons that I travel. Here’s the real reason, truly shown to me as I started to cry (in public) reading a passage in a book from a woman much like me, who was in search of the same thing:
I travel because I am looking for my home. My real home. Not that I don’t like the place that I live. I love my little condo. It’s a perfect size and a real haven for me (when the dog downstairs isn’t barking, that is). I live very near to my parents, with whom I am very close, and I really treasure that. But more and more, I realize that I am not meant to live here; that this isn’t my real home. I think that that explains, more than anything else, why I haven’t dated anyone since I moved back to the US from Europe the last time. I just don’t get American guys. Or most Americans, for that matter. Why? I don’t fully know, but I just feel like the odd one out and as an outsider here. I want to sit at a sidewalk cafe in the evenings with friends, and people here don’t really do that. I want to go out and drink for the conversations with companions that happens, and Americans haven’t learned how to do that yet. I don’t understand baseball caps, tennis shows, shouting at waiters or the need to photograph, tweet and post to facebook every single aspect of one’s life.
I don’t know why people don’t go out, but rather, stay at home, binge-watching shows on Netflix or On Demand. I get lonely, because no one but my parents wants to go to the museums and then to a cafe and discuss what was on display. No one wants to just take a leisurely time at a meal. Talking. Eating. Enjoying the atmosphere. That doesn’t happen here. Buildings are too new. People have to drive everywhere. People, especially where I live, aren’t interested in meeting people and making new friends. Not after high school or possibly college. They will be nice to you, but never will that really translate into an invitation to join them for a meal or a trip to a movie or anything like that.
And more than that, there is something singularly intangible that I cannot even put into words, but that makes me cry in the US and smile broadly in Europe. Call it atmosphere, call it whatever you will, but whenever I am in Europe I just become lighter. Almost another person. I stop more. And I mean that in the sense that I don’t feel the incessant need to always be *doing* something. No. Instead, I stop. I have a coffee at a cafe or a glass of wine somewhere and just watch the world. Or I talk to people. And there, they not only talk back, they start conversations, invite me to their homes or out with their friends or even into the backs of their restaurants to teach me to make real dumplings, in the case of my time in Shanghai, China.
I travel because I want to find the place where I really belong. The place where I just naturally feel comfortable. Peaceful. Content. Where people want to be my friends as much I want to be theirs. The place where I would be happy to just ‘be.’
I have come very close on a number of occasions. Germany was the first, when I visited my brother while he we stationed there. Austria was even closer. I spent a few days in Vienna, and on accident I had a last-minute issue that prevented me from going back to Hungary, so instead went back to Vienna and never regretted it. Ireland was close, but somehow, not as much as Norway. There was just a sense of total ease that I felt in these places. Even Paris, not speaking any French or even really knowing the true Parisian culture, I felt it closely, though I knew all along that it wasn’t *quite* the place for me. Close, but just not quite.
In about a week, I am taking another trip. I have chosen to keep it a secret to everyone bu my parents and two trusted friends, so forgive me for not mentioning it here. I will say this, though. I feel as though I am getting messages from the universe that this might be “it.” The one. I don’t want to jinx it, and I don’t really want to get my hopes up, at least any more than they already are. But at night, and when I am having a rough day at work, I let myself say “maybe” a few times, and I dream. Maybe I will meet a friend that I can stay in contact with. Maybe I will meet someone “special” as my mother and grandmother would say.
Maybe I will, this time, not use my return ticket. Maybe I will, but immediately file for a visa. Or maybe this isn’t it, and I will check it off my list and start trying to find time and money to make another trip somewhere else to try it again; getting ever closer each time until I finally find it; sigh to myself, and make that call to my parents letting them know that I won’t be needing them to come and fetch me from the airport.
For anyone out there reading this – especially those that might feel the same way – wish me good luck. And I wish all of you out there in the same position the same good luck. I hope that we all manage to find our respective homes, wherever they may be.