For as far back as I can remember, I’ve felt a pull to be “away.” When I was a kid it didn’t matter if I was around the corner at a friend’s house or gone at a summer camp, I just felt a consistent urge to be someplace else. That feeling has never subsided, and it’s propelled me along my life’s path.
Almost immediately out of high school I joined an emergency response team through Americorps and found myself on a two-year long road trip rambling around the country, darting from one natural disaster to the next, and I truly thought nothing could be better. I was among a small group of good people, doing good work, who never stayed in the same place for very long. What’s not to love?
From Americorps I transitioned into a career in wildland firefighting, upping the ante on my nomadic ways and joining a community of people who seemed just as transient as I was. For many, many, years the bulk of my worldly possessions could fit into my vehicle. By living light, I could easily move from one duty station to the next and live on the road between fire seasons. From the beginning through to the end of each fire season I essentially ping-ponged around the country responding to the endless string of wildfires that our crew had been requested for.
Within 6-8 months (the average length of fire season) I would work as many hours as most people work in a year. I earned my time off, and I enjoyed every minute of it by traveling around the country to hike, camp, and visit family and friends. I also employed my passport and took regular trips out of country to explore the world at large.
While my pull to be away is intrinsic, so too is the feeling of being where I’m at. One of the things I most enjoy about being away, is that I am much more present in mind and thought when I’m occupying spaces outside of my normal habitat.
The years of nomadacy continued to add up and some stretches of time seemed to be more transient than others. At the end of one long stretch in particular I sat down to do the math and discovered that if I patched all the random days together, in a year’s time I had only been home for 2 months total. It’s no wonder that for most of my life phone conversations with my mom have gone just like this:
Me: Hey, woman.
Mom: Hey kid. Where are you?
This was the way I lived life, and it suited me perfectly, but. There’s always a but, right?
I birthed a child and things changed. Things didn’t change that much, mind you… our daughter’s first road trip happened when she was two months old, and her first camping trip took place when she was four months old. At age seven she’s already been to thirty-two states, and four countries. She’s experienced three cross-country moves, and has lived in four different states. Surely, there would have been more countries to add to the list, if not for a global pandemic altering life for us all over the past few years. Nonetheless, even with all that being true, things had in fact, shifted.
I say that, but now here I sit, fresh off of yet another cross-country move. So fresh, that our trailer of goods hasn’t even arrived yet, leaving us operating off of minimal provisions. Times like these give me a minute to reflect on life.
On more than one occasion I’ve moved to a town that I’ve never even laid eyes on until I drove in with a carload of stuff looking for a place to live. I’ve lived with many roommates, some I thoroughly enjoyed, and some I didn’t.
I have learned the pace of life, and the culture of many places throughout the U.S. and beyond, which I believe has made me a much more understanding person on the whole, because it’s always of benefit to know where someone is coming from… literally.
Over the years I have accumulated a lot more “stuff.” Which means that moving isn’t as easy as it once was. But yet, here I sit in a folding chair waiting for a trailer of stuff knowing that 90% of what is most important to me can still fit in my car.
At times it feels odd to simultaneously belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I wish that I could take aspects from every place I’ve lived and traveled in order to create the perfect utopia. Stained glass windows, hardwood floors, Spanish tile, open floor plan, kitchen pantry, wood beams, fruit trees, walkable neighborhood, outdoor shower, built in cabinets and bookshelves, handwoven rugs, hardwood trees, Lake Michigan, mountain views, desert sunsets, sandy beaches, the warm nature of good people the world over, quirky cultural norms, the food and drink of a thousand places, and on, and on it goes.
Getting back to the but. While I find it important for my daughter to experience new people and places, I also want consistency for her as she goes through this stage of life. It’s time for the rolling stone to gather some moss. Oddly, that concept sounds okay to me. Creating a long-term home base while she’s in school, a space we enjoy and want to come back to, it feels like a natural progression.
And while I won’t be giving up my passport or abandoning the call to be away, I’m interested to see about life when roots are given the opportunity to gain some depth.
Here’s to here, here’s to now, here’s to being right here, right now.