Traveling was the only running I’ve ever been able to do because in high school, I was hit by a car the first day I rode my new bike to school. I was mostly fine except for some pretty serious knee damage and a severely bruised ego. My doctor said my knee would get better over the years and would be greatly helped through low impact exercise like riding a bike or swimming a few laps in the pool. Well the universe doesn’t want me riding bikes, obviously, and I’m scared of water, so naturally I did what any other injured and lazy person would do: nothing. Needless to say, I was never a runner, before or after the accident. Ironically, running was my biggest dream and my most seemingly unachievable goal way back in my childhood. Running in the metaphorical sense, of course. Hence the traveling. Sloppy solutions deserve sloppy introductions.
Over my “adult” years, I’ve traveled as much as I could in any capacity that was available to me and I fell in love with getting on a plane or hopping in a car and going somewhere new where life felt different and I felt the same. I wasn’t running from myself, just the surroundings that tried to dictate who I would become.
When I went somewhere new, there wasn’t time for people or places or systems to tell me who to be or what to do, etc etc. Feeling like an outsider became comfortable. Making a home wherever I landed was easy and safe. Over and over again, I ran towards a feeling of home and belonging I couldn’t cultivate in my every day. At least not without an immense amount of work.
That’s what life felt like. Work. When I was in school, I had to work at that. Then I moved on to having jobs where you work all day for a few hours of respite at night and a couple of days off at the end of the week. There wasn’t much room to make my life exciting in the work week, but when I was far away from the troubles of all that, I found rest. Even in the tourism and the meeting people and the general restlessness that is normal to travel, I found rest. My soul was rested and found its home in a peace I couldn’t replicate outside of not being where I was always supposed to be.
And then I fell in love and all that changed.
Now I’m accountable to another human in a way I wasn’t before. My everyday is shaped around another person and over the course of each of those days, I become more and more aware of how different it all is. My work week and my days off don’t feel like they used to. I don’t ache for home the way I used to when I was running towards finding it anywhere I could. I have a home that I love and that I cherish, but sometimes I still ache for the exact feeling I used to get when running was all I wanted to do.
There was a recent period of time where I couldn’t travel. The time just wasn’t there even though the desire always nagged at me. My soul ached for the rush of going somewhere new. But after that season was over came a season where my partner and I prioritized my desire to see the world, all thanks to a few airline sales and companion passes. But each trip left me even more tired than the last and I thought my spark of home had finally left me. I couldn’t regain the feeling I once had on these journeys through places I didn’t know and I felt hollow.
It felt like I had traded one feeling of home for another when really I wanted to keep both. Maybe it’s selfish to have a home but still want to crave the feeling of home, but I couldn’t help it. That feeling felt like it was mine and it felt like something that kept my individual sense of purpose alive. What my partner and I have built is beautiful and filling, but it’s ours. I wanted what used to be mine.
After the second to last trip, I felt like calling the last one off. Who needs to deal with airports and airplanes when the feeling you’re looking for was nowhere to be found, but obviously I went anyway. IThe money was already spent and someone was waiting for us on the other side of that terminal.
The trip started off the same. We went through the same security line at LAX and got on a plane that was exactly like the others and flew through a sky that I didn’t even bother to look at because it was going to look the same. The lights beneath us weren’t so bright anymore, they just were. I didn’t care about the cities beneath us and how small they looked and I didn’t think about the atom sized people down there or wondered what they dreamt about while we were way above their heads, sailing through the clouds. I finished the sudoku puzzles in the flight magazine instead.while sitting in that seat with my back aching like it usually does and it all made me instantly exhausted. A whole weekend seemed impossible to get through, but I was already in the air with a ride waiting to come get me when the time came.
As soon as I stepped out into the fresh Portland air and the reality of seeing one of my oldest friends for a whole weekend hit me, I felt that twinge of home again. Nothing prompted the feeling, we were just standing there waiting for her to drive up in a car that was just like mine, but there it was. Home. Home. Home.
Over the weekend and the few days that I’ve been back from that whirlwind trip I’ve been trying to figure out why it felt so different. Why did that spark come back during that last trip? Where was it during all the others? What did I do right and what had I done wrong?
I realized my mistake had been comparing it to the trips I had taken this year and not the ones I had taken alone in years past, before I was in love and before I started blending finances with someone else.
Back then I was BROKE. Much more than I am now. I traveled to places with very little money in my pocket and even less plans in my head as a result. Those trips were put together with rubber bands and bubble gum and there were plenty of people who thought I was crazy just for traveling as much as I did on my own, as a young fragile female. When they asked how much money I had in the bank, some people begged me not to go. But that feeling always called me back to risk it all.
Portland wasn’t like that, though. We had money. I didn’t really have to think about paying for food or souvenirs or the destination themed t-shirt I buy my dad no matter how little money I have wherever I go. We may not be rich, but my partner isn’t as crazy as I tend to be. He plans his finances according to his plans, bless his soul. Home was never about how much money I did or didn’t have, it was more abstract than that.
While visiting my friend — the one who had lived one street over from me for most of my life, the one who I spent multiple summers with hanging out at her family’s home and the one who I had gone through those awkward middle school and high school years with — we had decided to take her and her boyfriend up on their offer of staying with them at their apartment with their amazingly cute pup. That was the difference. The difference that made home for me the way I had always worked towards was that simple. I had stayed at my friends’ apartment.
On the other trips I had gone to this year, we had stayed in hotels, Airbnbs, or with people I didn’t know all that well. On all the past trips I idolize in my head, I had stayed with people that I loved. To take it a step further, I had stepped into their lives for a while.
Because I was broke, most of my trips were to visit people I loved. Alabama, New York, Ireland, Maryland, Texas, blah blah blah. All this time I didn’t realize that it wasn’t really the travelling that my soul craved, it was the people and I feel stupid for not realizing that because my whole life, I had always felt at home with people.
My friend, the one I plan on keeping for the rest of my life, had invited me to her home. That trip wasn’t about seeing Portland, it was about spending time with people who I loved and who loved me and seeing the life they had built and loving them in that world as much as I loved them in mine. This whole time I should have realized that it wasn’t the newness that I craved (even though I still love it for what it is and plan on chasing that, too), it was the familiarity mixed with the expanding. It was loving the people I love even more.
It helps that I found home—a home I can hold on to forever—and a partner who will hold my hand during the scary in flight turbulence, but it’s also sweet to know that I have so many other homes in the world. Maybe I’ve always known that, but now I know for sure and now I know where to point my feet.