There are countless blogs and publications about travel and over the years it has become increasingly popular and possible. Returning home, I see how so many people everywhere are burning with an itching desire to “Get out” and go travel.
The world sees travel as adventure, challenge, excitement and scintillating experiences. But what about home? A wise friend once said to me that you must go home after travelling, for that is when the memories have a chance to settle deeply and mingle with your roots.
I left South African shores with the intent to “see it all” in 10 months but I stayed away for 4 years. The best laid plans of mice and men! Coming home, those I speak to who have gone travelling and have returned generally do so with a deep appreciation for our magnificent land, or at least for the indescribable comfort of having a secure base and family nearby. Some of those who have not yet gone feel the burning urge I once felt to go; I can tell it a mile away.
People write about how exciting travel is, the beauty and depravity, the challenges and the joy, the love and the loss, the resourcefulness and the indulgence. No one writes about returning home, or staying home when everyone goes. Why is that seen to be more boring? The heart and soul goes into those decisions and in my case, the choice to go home weighed so much more spiritually than the choice to leave home. If you can scrounge together the money for the ticket, it’s easy to buy one and go. But to stay? Another story.
The allure, mysterious magic, the crisp simplicity, the “dig deep” requirement and the lifetime investment of travel are magnificent. Why is travel seen by so many to be more appealing, more attractive than staying home? Why does a blog or stories from the world seem more exciting to most than a simple humble story from home?
On the road, I used to say to myself “we find the pieces of home we need wherever we are in the world”. I think I convinced myself of that for the first 2 years away. There is absolutely no value in pretending that travel satisfies our home needs, and sometimes home doesn’t satisfy our travel needs. However, on the latter half of that sentence: I think that some people think a round-the-world ticket is what you need to fix your life, or a dreamy trip to Venice to ride in a gondola and eat pasta while the sun sets. Travel is a mindset. Since I have returned home, I have retained aspects of traveler traits that have become so strong:
– I remain open to connect with people and leave space for serendipitous interactions. Magic happens here, and great ___ships can be struck up
– I remain resourceful. Though I am easing up on ONLY having 1 of something until it disintegrates before me or runs out completely and having a “one in, one out” policy, I think resourcefulness is one of the most attractive, sexy, useful, practical, invaluable and necessary traits. Doing what you can with what you have: Wonderful lives are built on this concept.
– I am SO THANKFUL for a safe, warm bed every night, food in my belly, water to quench my thirst and clothes (only if required!) to protect from the elements.
– I look up lots, I look down lots and I look for the old in the new, the new in the old and for how things are connected. I see the same in the different, the different in the same and regularly laugh at how we reflect nature which reflects us because everything is so deeply connected.
I raise these because, in my point above, travel didn’t end when I got home. I feel like a local here in Cape Town, and it is magnificent. But I also feel like I do not know my city so much anymore, and have been pawing over maps, have filled many pages with scribbled directions to parties, coffee shops, forests, friends’ houses and “that little place we used to go”‘s. I still feel like a traveler. There is so much to explore in our own back yard! And I am more excited about exploring Cape Town right now than I would be about exploring Amsterdam. That will change in time, but that is ok.
Looking back, I can see that I could not have learned what I have on the road at home. I needed to head out into the world with just my bag of worldly possessions and my internal resources (which proved far more valuable than my bag). And yet, all that time away, all those experiences, the joy, pain, challenges, darkness, light, indescribable beauty, incredible people, relationships, mistakes, victories, they all showed me that what I needed was right where I started. At home. I just happened to need to go around the world to see that. It all comes around full circle.
Having returned home, tired of travel, I wouldn’t have gone off again if someone had offered me the chance. Whatever we are doing, we need to be fully there to experience it, especially with travel – otherwise, someone else deserves our seat on the plane. I see the challenges in this phase of my life are to be learned at home – returning to roots, family and friend dynamics, re-discovering my city, re-aligning with my mountain, establishing a new, slower pace and rhythm of life, being less “on the run”, investing in stability and seeking light and peace above all things. On the road, one can make decisions in the moment that retrospectively are disrespectful to oneself, having to “make do” with what one is given rather than intentionally choosing. This can be exciting and fun but can also wear us thin. There are also many simple but profound joys to being home – having a network, having a doctor who knows your family history, being able to go to “that little place” to get that specific thing you can get nowhere else, knowing the lingo and the slang, being able to identify with the joys and struggles of one’s homeland and being a part of the fabric. A large part of me makes sense here that will make sense absolutely nowhere else. It is this part of me that I feel sinking deeply into the earth and bringing me the grounded stability and peace, the lightness of spirit and the heightened equanimity that seemed temporarily more illusive further away. The time to go does return – and we don’t need a ticket or a destination to feel that way.
For too long my heart was yearning for home but my mind and body fought, at great cost to me. The cost of a thing is that which we must give up in order to attain, retain or maintain it. I wouldn’t trade my travel memories, all those experiences of new tastessightssoundsfeelingssmellsthoughts, music, culture and spice of life for anything in the world, but nor would I trade my heritage, my roots, my home and family, my city and all that comes with it. It takes a certain kind of person to travel for their entire lives. I am not one such person. I need the balance of both, and the stability of a home base.
For those who say “home is where the heart is”, I reckon it is best for one’s mind and body to be there too, until they’re all somewhere else together.