A simple smile can hold home, in a tiny crook at the corner of your mouth.
Experiences were never meant to be collected. You should stumble upon fresh memories, risky situations, new lovers, as if by accident. Be a traveller, not a tourist. Take risks and rebel against inner fear, in order to create yourself anew.
And do it all without overthinking.
There are many reasons why traveling is difficult: language barriers, homesickness, cultural expectations, strange food. But perhaps the most difficult challenge of them all is to ignore the creeping feeling that you are doing it wrong. That others are doing it better than you. That somehow, the days will fly by and you will have missed out something unnameable.
Hordes of people buy into package deal tourism, where every imaginable need is taken care of: room, board, the day’s itinerary, traveling company from a similar socio-economical demographic. If you are one such person or considering such a route, then expert tour guides will rush to your aid and you can leave the country satisfied that you got the full whirlwind of a traditional touristic experience: you will have paid your due respects to historically noted sites, enjoyed the local cuisine at renowned eateries, and taken abundant photographs at the precise spot hundreds have stood before to take the exact same snapshot. Add the perfect filter, and the photographic result will elicit some appropriately glowing comments and sincere sighs of jealousy from your friends and family back home.
That is certainly one way of doing it.
Many other travelers chose the less kitsch route: scraping by with a stringent budget, hopping from hostel to hostel, and befriending tipsy locals at hole-in-the-wall bars tucked into hidden alleyways. Still others choose to volunteer through organizations like HelpX and WWOOF, literally working for a living alongside native speakers. Some travelers have to follow a strict agenda and their days are a maelstrom of activity: research there, projects here, and interviews yet again over there; they don’t seem to get much time to settle down and embed themselves within a place they can truly call home for a time. Every now and again, a traveler will fall in love with a local and then their weeklong getaway morphs into a lifetime in situ.
There are so many ways to travel, and you don’t have to pick any one mode. Sometimes you don’t get to pick.
Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to travel, to seek refuge from countries torn apart by wreckage and war: Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia. As travelers-by-choice continue to indulge their forays into the world, it is critical to appreciate the fact that any form of tourism is an undeniably pleasurable indulgence, reserved for those who possess resources and a safe country to return home to. Perhaps discovering sense of home in new places will encourage you to open up your home to those in need.
As a traveller, at times, it can be difficult to remember what home was like.
You learn how to adapt, and to adapt very quickly.
If you’ve just graduated from a liberal arts college, then you are in luck (notwithstanding those loans simmering on the back burner) because you have four years of training; you’ve learned how to be a proper satellite. You’ve become a nomad: one who has frequently crashed on friends’ couches after parties, who has sometimes been surprised to find yourself entangled in a lover’s bedsheets, or has settled your weary and heavy head on the desk during lecture, somehow mistaking it for an inviting pillow. In college, unless you were discriminated against and were made to feel unsafe, you learned that the whole campus was your home; your playpen.
For some college graduates, that feeling of simultaneously belonging and not-belonging does not fade until they have lived in a home for a good long while, growing more and more resilient against change, whose definition has shifted from freedom and freshness to that of turmoil and unrest.
You have probably been told many times by those with greying hair to “travel while you’re young”. But I think that is just symptomatic of old people giving up on life, that singularly difficult task-master.
They have chosen, instead, to settle for less than the life they always dreamed about. Various roadblocks fell into their way, stubbornly resisting to budge and after several heroic attempts to bypass these obstacles, these oldies decided to stay put and build a nice house on the side of the road. Older people will always give advice but it is vital to remember they are simply words from someone who has grown up following a certain path. Follow their guidance if you admire that path and seek it for yourself.
It is too easy to disregard those who hold years in abundance, for they move so slowly with great age.
Are the elderly merely memories, physical remnants, of their youth?
It is always startling to see a photograph of grandmother when she was young: I see myself in her. She was so freshly beautiful and vibrant but I never saw her as she was then. I have only known ever known her as wrinkly Talk-box Grandma, Moon-Gammie, Apple-Pie Grannie, the grandmother who always talked and talked. She taught me that diluted apple cider vinegar made for excellent mopping material on wooden floors. She taught me to be careful about the kind of frosting on the cupcakes I buy at the store (and that might be a euphemism). And she inscribed in me a long-lasting appreciation for the depth of family bonds that cannot be broken however many borders that may be crossed.
It is very likely I am wrong, and that in truth, those who are older are stronger than memories. Perhaps some elderly people are wise and ancient apple trees, who have invested energy downwards into expansive rhisomic networks of roots, that important community we call family.
A little brown newt perches on the windowsill and cocks its head at me. It continues to observe as I write, clacking my aching fingertips against the rubbery coating protecting these letters.
A simple smile can bring you back home.
It is a small smile, one that knows that you are you, no matter where you go. It is hard, but remember to let go of fear, the overwhelming fear that many unrooted people have of a big world that is no longer encased by daily rituals and familiar walls.
You can always carry a piece of home with you, in an invisible bubble constructed of your memories and warmth radiating miles away from loved ones back home.
Travel is limbo so ride the waves.