Home on the road

Home when traveling takes many shapes. Sometimes it’s the room booked for three nights. Nondescript beige walls trimmed with thin chocolate molding. Green leaves blowing and bowing outside the window. Wifi that comes in and out. Air conditioning that can barely keep up with the heat pressing in from all around. A place to lay our heads, that’s all, yet one that becomes quickly familiar.

And then there’s the routes that we walk. The bakery that makes the good banana bread that we stop for every day. The dinner spot that’s cheap and decent, so why not come back every night? Quickly worn paths transforming the new into known. Routines amidst the changing scenery and faces.

Home also materializes between people. The new ones we meet along the way. Simple contact growing into connection growing into relationship. Delicate webs strengthened through conversations, laughter, shared experiences. And just like that – I feel supported by new bonds that lift me up and make me lighter. That extend around the world as new friends travel on to next destinations or back to where they came from, a place they maybe call home. It’s these people who are the real lifesavers and home-makers. They make us forget about being lonely or being tired or being bored and allow us to unfold into the space between the day’s destination and the beer to cap it all off at the end of the night.

Home also aches in its more traditional forms. The home where I was born. The home where my family still resides. The home that feels so poignantly far away on holidays. When everyone is gathered together for good food and the predictable conversations that are repeated – to an eye-rolling degree – every year. The one I wish I could transport to when I’m trying to manage a simple digitized hello over a terrible internet connection. This type of home is the one that breathes in sepia tones and specializes in that subtle mix of guilt and security. A safety cushion that I know will always be there when I fall. One that not everyone gets to have.

Home, as many people like to point out now, can also be a more big-picture affair. It can be the world, if you let it.

It will sink in sometimes when I’m in transit : when I’m sitting on the top of a small ship bobbing its way through the waves towards our next destination. I find myself sitting there, listening to the wind and the sea and the incessant drum of the engine, thinking of nothing. Just looking. At the water. At the passing islands. Thinking how most of the world is water. How most of the world I will never know, even if I travel non-stop until I’m 92. How it’s all so vast and all so small. Feeling cliche for thinking that thought. Sitting there, letting it sink in. The same way it will sink in when I find myself back in Europe at a cafe watching people pass by or back in America in a car powering along endless highway. Or when I find myself looking up at the countless pinpricks of light seeping through the fabric. The same way it can sink in for everyone, if they let it. A feeling, I guess, of being held.

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