This is the first personal post for Inspiring Travellers, with more to come as we lead up to our own long-term travels commencing at the end of the year. We'll be continuing the traveller interviews, but also want to write about our own adventures on this blog so stay tuned for more from 'Our Travel Tales'...
Travel is, perhaps, the non-fiction literary genre with the most possibilities. A travel writer can tell stories of places, people, food, thoughts, feelings, politics, news, events, how to get there, when to go, what sights to see, how to pack, how to budget, how to write about it…the list goes on. This is because the outcomes of travel are so vast and varied. Once you pack that bag and set out the door anything can happen to you. So it goes with life in general, you might say. But being in your official place of residence is certainly more predictable than when you're on the road. Living in one spot inherently builds limitations, whether we realise it or not. And I’m starting to think that this is why I am such a nomad.
My fiancé, John and I have about six months until we can leave on our next trip overseas and I am going stir crazy. I have become this way with every place I have lived since I left the city in which I grew up. It makes no difference what this “hometown” is. I only call it that because it is such a common term for the place where a person was born and raised. But what if this place is, for you, somewhere no one close to you lives anymore? A place where you spent 17 years of your life and then went off to university one day and never returned. I have entered the third decade of my life and am beginning to think that my lack of a place to “go home to” has shaped me more than any other one influence in my life. It was not replaced because my parents went their separate ways. My father travelled internationally for work for many years and then moved back to his hometown, a place where I have many relatives but have never lived myself. My mother moved around a bit and then passed away several years ago. I went on to live in seven more cities, the last of which is where I am sitting right now.
Ancestry and inherited traits might have something to do with it. I’m from a mixed European background. My father emigrated from Italy to the United States with his parents and sisters when he was four. They settled in one place and stayed put. Except for my father. His career has taken him around the world many times and, though he has had permanent residence in a few places, I pretty much consider him a long-term traveller. Just the other day he was telling me how he has itchy feet again and is thinking of moving somewhere new with his wife, who is also somewhat international. On my mother’s side, my grandfather fought in World War II for the Allies. He tells stories about his family being separated or lost in concentration camps and how he jumped out of planes and walked the length of France’s coastline before eventually living in the UK. He has siblings who have still not found each other. Eventually he moved to the US and married my grandmother, who has her own stories about her parents and grandparents and their migration struggles from Europe. While her brothers and sisters and their children remain in one local area, my grandmother and grandfather lived in five different states with my mother in the course of their lives. My close family gets around.
Despite my own moving around, I haven’t met too many people with as extensive a nomadic experience as I’ve had. It all seems to come back to that lack of a place where at least two immediate family members live. It was only when I met John that I started to feel a little more normal. The contrast is that John does have a true hometown. His parents are European migrants as well but they, and an enormous extended family, all live in the same city, most of them within a twenty-minute drive of each other. His sister, after completing her own wanderings in her twenties and thirties, settled there too. However John still wants to travel extensively. It seems that despite his people all being in one spot, he thrives on adventure and new things as well. To meet someone who has what I don’t and still shares my attitudes and belief about where we should be in the world certainly made me feel like less of an oddball.
In writing this, I want to note that I am not sad about my status as a hometown-less person. My new home is wherever John is. But I am aware that it has shaped me. Life looks somewhat easier when your family is established somewhere, though that would be another discussion. Aside from my time in New York City, where I think anyone can feel like they belong, I have not yet lived in a place that I felt was my “home.” I am ambivalent about this, torn between two sets of limitations that I think a person could struggle with: those imposed by living in one place, whether by choice or because he is stuck there, and those things you miss out on by not putting down roots and building a life in one place.
We’re getting ready to take off again, feeling like we gave our current city a chance, but despite some of the great people we’ve met here, this is not where we feel we were meant to be in the long term. And we really don’t know where we will try to settle again. For now we are just excited for a long break after working hard for five years. I’m sure we’re not the only people on the planet with this situation – and I would love to hear from others who struggle with it. Are some people just meant to be nomads?