23 August 2012

traveling blues

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It's funny to me that although I've been learning to live on so little this year, I've nevertheless been able to take several trips across the country (thanks to a generous someone's frequent flier miles). As anyone who lives in New York knows, it's a treat to get out of the city, especially in the summertime — and I'm so grateful I've had the chance to rinse my eyes with new landscapes every few months or so. But constantly transitioning between travel and stasis has made me feel thoughtful, stretched out, and sad, too.

Are you the type of person who begins mourning a trip's end before you've even left? I know that's a silly way to behave, and while traveling I do my best to live in the moment. But, it's a fact: the more I travel, the more often I therefore experience post-trip depression, and I dread it each time.

I know it has much to do with parting from loved ones, best friends, and family, whom I won't see again for months or longer. I know it has to do with that lonely train ride back into the gray city, the renewed daily grind that makes recent adventures seem an exaggerated dream, the isolated independence I quietly swallow as my due since moving myself somewhere new, alone, to pursue a career.

But it also has to do with my propensity to connect with every land I visit — to fall in love too easily, too hard. It's no secret I become attached to each place I've lived (and I think I'll forever long for each one, no matter how happy I am in my current home). But now I'm becoming tied to places I merely linger, however briefly — and after I return it feels like my wandering heart's still wandering without me, roving over the map while my hollow body sits behind a desk.

This push-pull messes with my sense of belonging. I become used to New York, embrace its passions and oddities — but then I set out on a journey, welcoming new landscapes and faces and flavors into my bones. When I return to New York, it seems my sullied old stand-by...until I grudgingly come to love it again. Until my next trip resets the clock. That cycle makes it hard to know how I really feel about this place, if I consider it home. 

In the past, that gray train ride wouldn't matter — our clean, bright house was always welcome after a journey, no matter how wonderful the trip had been. There's nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed, right? So I have to wonder why that feeling doesn't wait for me here. Does that answer my question about whether New York feels like home? Or has something just changed within me?

Because truthfully I don't know if I could put down roots anywhere right now, when I'm wishing I could make every beautiful place my own, a dreamy impossibility.

One of travel's greatest gifts is its ability to expand our horizons, our understanding and our capacity for wonder. But is there a limit? Can one's horizons be stretched too far? Will I ever be content to settle down in one place, for good?

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