I have been hankering to travel lately.
This is not an infrequent phenomenon. I grew up a nomad, bouncing back and forth from coast to coast – California to Maine to New Mexico to Florida to Washington State to Virginia and back up to Maine – before ultimately landing somewhere in the middle.
The constant exposure to new places and the need to constantly assimilate into new environments has influenced me in a number of ways.
- I am closer to my family than I might have been otherwise. For most of my childhood, my brother was often the only friend close to my age that I had (and certainly the only one I could depend on to still be around the next year). Also, Robert and I spent probably 300 hours in the backseat together during all of our cross-country drives; while there were frequent spats, it was in our best interest to get along.
- I am much more outgoing than I would have been otherwise. Funny how having to make a whole new set of friends every year from the time you’re 5 turns you from someone who hides behind your mother’s leg to someone who craves new social experiences.
- I rely less on the approval of others than I might have otherwise. Now, my parents certainly did their best to cultivate my independent streak, and I have always been one to Know What I Want. However, I credit my perennial misfit status (I was never the cool new kid – just the new kid) for my ability to dress how I want and do what I want without fear of what people might think – even if that means knitting by myself in a bar. That said, I’m a human being, so I do still care what you think of me. LIKE ME! PLEASE LIKE ME!
Heck, all that moving has even affected the way that I speak!
I loved my nomad lifestyle (despite all of the last-picked-for-every-team pain it caused along the way), and embraced it even more in college. A new living space every year? Friends from big cities whose couches I could crash on? Opportunities to learn new languages and hone them during months abroad? I was in my element.
College was four years spent exploring new places and spaces, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that at the end of it, I opted for one more new experience – remaining in St. Louis while most of my friends moved away.
Instead of being the one who went, this time I was the one who stayed behind.
Now, this is all old news, and while the summer after graduation was a conflicted one, I am happy with the decision I made.
A year and a half later, however, my nomad instincts are rising again. Despite the fact that I love the city I have chosen and all it has to offer, despite the fact that my apartment is beautiful and my boyfriend more so, despite the fact that I am well employed and enjoy an active social life with people who challenge and support me, I am feeling a pull to…elsewhere. I can’t stop the sneaking fear from creeping up on me that I am becoming Stuck in One Place. (Did I mention that a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence is the last thing I have ever dreamed for?)
When this tide of vague discontent starts lapping at my toes and threatening to sweep me back to the East Coast, to Europe, to Anywhere But Here!, I try to think back to words happened upon in The Chronicle: Wherever I go, there I am.
It’s true. We’ve heard so many times – human beings are incredibly adaptable creatures, and the New rapidly (d)evolves into the Familiar:
“If we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything we could see in the same aspect as the things of Earth.”
If I moved to back to Boston or Bologna (or even to Bogotá!), they too would eventually begin to pale. The curse of the New is that it cannot remain so long.
So, for now at least, I’ll content myself to experiencing the New in novels and non-fiction, art exhibitions and friends of friends, restaurants and weekend trips.
But I’ll also keep sighing over the Italian Instagrams that clutter up my feed.