Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We're All Missing Out on Something

When I was in Ecuador in 2008, my friend Kat and I found ourselves with a few hours to ourselves one evening. We were in Banos, this gorgeous, mystical town up in the Andes sometimes referred to as a "cloud forest" because on account of the high altitude, the clouds sometimes walk down the street with you.

Anyway, Kat and I were wandering downtown and found a cute little cafe and were very excited at the prospect of non-fish-and-rice related food. We got some beer and some crepes, yes we did.

That's when we met this woman. She was old. White hair, knobby knees, walked with a cane. I don't remember her name. (I'm not trying to set her up as some metaphorical ghost so later you are all "was she real or wasn't she?" I just honestly don't remember her name. Yes she was real. omg now I'm like, was she real? Shit.)

Anyway, she was white, and had an American accent. We asked her where she was from and she said "Banos," and then she told us she had been traveling for the past 19 years. A nomad.

We found it very romantic and courageous, of course. It was, I suppose. I also found it sad, in a "this song has a lovely sad melody" sort of way, not a "someone just died" sort of way. I figured she probably had family somewhere that was missing her. That's how I was in college - I thought everyone's life looked, more or less, like mine. (Maybe one of the most difficult rites of passage in life is the discovery that this isn't true. Doesn't that cut like a knife?)

Since I met that lady, and even before, I have decided many times to become a nomad. It started out small - in fourth grade I was going to be a storm chaser, a-la Helen Hunt but without the bangs.  But then I decided I'd get a trusty backpack and get lost forever. Naturally I'd have a very robust writing career that lent itself to my wanderings... A group of people "back home" living vicariously through me and wishing so hard they were me, with my leather-soled shoes and hemp sweater and dreadlocks. (Did I just become someone at a Dave Matthew Concert? I think I'm mixing up my stereotypes.)

So far, anyway, that has not happened. Aar and I obviously made a big move across the country after college and that has been fun and scary and not fun and fun and an adventure and something I'm proud of. We've been able to travel a bit too, going to Ireland last summer and Utah a few summers ago and taking a couple of beach vacations in between. But we work steady jobs, we have a dog, I have a night stand with hand lotion on it. Not very nomadic of me.

Here's the thing, though - I don't think I'm cut out to be a nomad. (Everyone in my family is cackling right now. And yelling a very sarcastic "YOU THINK?!?!" Well, SHUT UP family. I am coming to terms with this on my own time.) I value being comfortable. I like watching TV. I like feeling connected to people. I like feeling understood in my own context. I want a sock drawer. (It's worth noting that two weeks into my Ecuador trip I was crying on the phone begging Dad to fly me home. I felt off-kilter. Thankfully I didn't fly home early, which I'm now grateful for, but still. The discomfort and fear were very real.)

It's hard to realize I may want a sock drawer more than I want to see the world, but that might be true and that might be OK. Because the sock drawer also means being there for my family, and maybe having babies, and making enough money to support those babies.

Being one thing in life means you can't be a million other things you might also want to be. That is hard. But I love what I'm being, and I want to feel like I decided it, not that it 'happened' to me. So I did decide it. I am deciding it. Here.

And happy trails to those who were called to go it solo. You are courageous and probably having the time of your life - but you are missing out, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment