"Someone asked me where you live and I didn't know what to tell them." It may have been a year ago when my father said these words to me. "Yea?" I laughed at him. "Well, yea. I mean. If I wanted to come visit you sometime, where would I go?" And because like you, I'm practical, I answered, "Well call me when you're on the road, and I'll tell you where to find me!" Duh!
It was fall of 2005 when I put most everything I own into storage. I'd started freelancing again, and apparently cutting myself loose from the guarantee of a regular paycheck a few months earlier hadn't added quite enough uncertainty to my life. You never know when you might want to up and go see Oregon. Or India. Or even move there! The factual reasons for why I did this are varied and rambly.
For today, I've decided the reasons have more to do with my DNA than anything external. I grew up hearing stories about my Uncle JT, Granddaddy's brother who had, last I heard, about 9 different wives before he stopped getting new ones during his self-titled "hobo" treks across the country. In these stories - family lore, really - he would periodically purchase old vans nobody else would think of driving around town in, and take them from the east coast to the west, then back again. Again and again he did this. Then there were the stories about his 2-year-long disappearance, after which he turned back up with tales about his stay in a Mexican prison...
I have yet to drive to the west coast, and am happy to report, too, that there have been no stints of incarceration, south or north of the border. The lure of sequential matrimonial turnover has yet to grab me, either. But sometimes when I'm driving back into town, or packing up after another house-sitting gig, or "visiting my things in storage," and get momentarily wistful for a more settled lifestyle, the idea of just picking a place and putting down roots kind of makes my stomach hurt.
My 90 year old Granddaddy has always recognized this kindred bent. Every time I see him, he says, "C'mon. Wanna' pack a suitcase and just get out of here?" God knows where the two of us would end up if I ever called his bluff. The glint in his eye tells me that like him, and his brother, and his daughter, and countless others in my family tree, the feeling of societally-accepted, settled patterns hold less appeal. And so I decide, with a fair amount of regularity, to just stay the course for now, packing and unpacking, packing and unpacking.
One of the fascinating discoveries in living this way - which most of you got out of your system in your mid-twenties - is how spectacularly my calendar falls into place. This pair of friends decide to travel to Egypt for a week or so and need somebody to cater to their kitties. Those friends are heading to New York for a stint and need a loving, familiar presence for their menagerie. (Now they tell me they're thinking of Greece in May, and do I yet know where I'll be?) Yet another takes a months-long teaching job in another state to cover a colleague's sabbatical... the list goes on, sequentially lining up in a way you couldn't plot it if you were writing it in your novel. In between these kinds of obligations, long-time friends call me up: "Could I please get on your list of people to visit? I never see you, and I miss you. I've got your bed waiting for you. We can work during the day and get out some guitars at night..." (Okay, fine. It's been a while since anybody offered singalongs with guitars, but I got wistful just now, and thought I'd throw it out there. Anybody? You'll get bumped to the top of the list, if you promise we can make our own live music!)
Which is how I came to be snowed in in the country while helping out a post-op friend. When I was 12, I had pins put in my hip, and so it's no stretch at all to imagine the kind of pain a partial knee replacement would be causing. I'm the perfect helper-chick to supplement the care of her husband when he's at work or otherwise occupied. So far, we've been lucky not to lose power during this "Blizzard of '10" and I've logged an insane amount of hours for my website clients. Only, instead of popping down to a local coffee shop to work, when I need a change of scenery, when I need to stretch my legs I just go let a dog in or another one out, and go trek around the property with my camera.
This past week, a woman I'd only met once before said to me, "And weren't you working out your housing situation?" which brought waves of laughter from others nearby. I was embarrassed by all this, and joked it off. I've been thinking of my reaction. Why is it, I wonder, that my atypical lifestyle makes me feel sometimes ashamed? The rapidly-shrinking population of people who refer to me as "young woman" surely has something to do with it. I mean, shouldn't I have grown out of this phase by now?
Actually I don't think that's quite it. If I had, in fact, stuck closer to my original plan to travel a lot - as opposed to occasionally - and were telling you here about my last great trip, instead of casually mentioning the travel fund that's slowly replenishing itself after a recent unexpected trip completely depleted the spare cash set aside for just such a purpose, I'm confident I wouldn't feel nearly so hesitant to mention the nomad choices that drive my rhythms. Take the Redpath family, for example. They sold everything, quit their jobs, and left LA to head to Europe for a year. Their website, From Here to Uncertainty, chronicles their semi-planned adventures in Serbia and Vienna and Poland and Scotland and Germany and who can really keep up anymore? To me their story couldn't be more compelling, and the thought of looking at a woman who says, "You're working out your housing situation, right?" and responding with, "Yea, after Paris, I'm thinking to spend a few days in London," as Bob and Brenna and Owen and Ella are about to do... well that just feels a lot more glamorous than my reality.
Life's not about glamour, though, is it? My reality is my reality. Peppered with regular bouts of complacency, my weeks often get filled up with the minutia of everyday living and I frequently forget there ever was A Master Plan in the first place. I put my things into storage so I could see the world. Or at least far more of it than I could see by hopping into my Toyota for an afternoon jaunt. I didn't save for a rainy day for half my life, like the Redpaths did, so I could take such a journey as theirs. And so my own life as "a wayfarin' vagabond," which is how my current rapidly-mending hostess refers to me, has its own charms. Charms which, while not peppered by the names of romantic European cities, still keep me from calling up a local guy I know who remodels old houses to rent, to see what he has available right now. Which I reconsider every month or two.
Instead, I keep working on that travel fund and check in with the Redpaths here and there, making sure I know where they're gonna' be this month or that. We have this idea that maybe I can meet them before they return to American soil. It's not completely out of the question that we will, either. The itch to really go somewhere further than my little car will carry me? It's stronger than ever before. (What's that you say? You've read that here before? Shut up.)
So for now? I'm gonna' open the blinds over there and look out over the acres of snow-covered fields that flank my friends' farmhouse, and fire up Photoshop to continue the magnificently-satisfying designs I worked on for most of the day yesterday. Because if I can focus for long enough stretches to design the numbers of websites I've lined up for myself, there just might be a plane ticket in my near future. To Scotland. Or Greece. Or Vancouver. Let's just wait and see, why don't we?
And for now, if you (Daddy, or others,) want to visit me? It'll be easier if you just call first...