19 November 2006

Urban Camping in Reverse

I thought there should be some pomp and circumstance to mark the end of 55 nomadic weeks, but the road home was a relatively uneventful one.

As my friend, Karen, drove me from my last house-sitting assignment, she mentioned that she had thought about simplicity on her recent travels.

We began a nice discussion about how refreshingly uncomplicated decisions can be during the times when our lives are lived out of one bag.

Then the moment came to step back into my house.

I could feel the presence of elapsed time, but simultaneously, I seemed to be arriving the day after I left, as if nothing had happened.

I was HAPPY to be back. I love my house. I ordered pizza and got my books out of their boxes.

I started settling in. I unpacked, put cozy sheets on the bed and thought about how there was no date set for when I had to move out.

I was UNHAPPY to be back. I was stuck in my house. I could feel identity creep happening again. The energy I had kept close to me was sprawling out to the edges of my home.

I spent time on stupid tasks like buying toilet paper, sweeping floors, changing lightbulbs, activities that added up to nothing.

But I took things one day at a time and wondered what would happen next.

I emailed my friend, David, who had quit his job to embark on a 4-month sailing course in South Africa.

I told him I was jealous that his journey was just starting while mine was just ending and I told him that I thought he should write down his thoughts.

In my head, I was replaying footage from the road. Still resonating with me were the prioritized characteristics of the ways I wanted to engage with life.

I felt certain that these moments of clarity would have gotten lost if I had not written them down.

I had always viewed this living area as an art project. I came back to see the "undesigned spaces" of my house with new eyes.

I imagined building it up during the coming year, a hammock on the balcony, a Japanese bathtub in the shower, an internet kiosk in the living room.

And after a busy school year, I was getting much needed rest. But being HOME six days a week was driving me mad.

I got a computer with internet access so I could keep connected with friends and family. I got Skype.

I started having friends over for dinner and when we discussed the nomadic experience, I listened to them repeatedly say, "I just couldn't do that."

But suddenly, "the people who could do that" started showing up.

I had reversed my profile on the CouchSurfing Project site, saying that after a year on the road, I was opening up my home to weary travelers who needed an oasis on their way.

Now it's a bit like living in a hostel but, happily, the urban camping continues.

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