We all have innumerable paths our lives could have followed, futures that never came to be because we made particular decisions (or sometimes failed to choose, so a path was chosen by our apathy). Sometimes these forked or many-tined paths differ only slightly, minor variations on an otherwise cohesive existence. In other instances the possibilities may be polar opposites, and it seems as though an alternate universe must exist in order to accommodate the other ‘you’ that could be living and breathing if you had moved in a different life direction.
I have been lucky or wise enough (more likely the former) to have lived a life fundamentally without regrets. No decision has been catastrophic, and I do not look back on my meager quarter century (almost) on this earth wishing things were different. Even the small things. I often engage in mind vacations to other selves, astounded at the bits and pieces and decisions and opportunities that have coalesced to form my life at present. However, there is one particular major fork that has always existed in the future tense, sometimes becoming a more relevant decision of the present, other times a wispy far-flung possibility: owning a home and building community, or traveling and exploring the vast expanses of the planet.
These are not mutually exclusive possibilities necessarily. Committing to community and the roots of establishing a home does not entirely discount the possibility of travel. But it limits the extent of that travel, especially in the possible length of stay. One cannot expect to buy a house and build a home community while spending months abroad- so much of community is in being physically present with the people and places that are part of it. And I believe one cannot truly know a new place without spending a substantial amount of time there. Visiting France for a week and half this past April was lovely, but I felt like a tourist entirely.
My conundrum often results in contemplative musings rather than stress, more mind vacations where I imagine ‘how things would be if I…’ I plan trips (biking the Mississippi River, hiking the Appalachian Trail, going back to India with my friend Abby, finding some way to get to Africa and Australia to hit all the major continents by the time I’m 30) and sometimes buy related books, but actual commitment to any of these adventures has yet to happen. Because I’ve realized that while I am intrigued by travel and exotic locales and change and the constant new, I am committed to improving the world through sustainable, caring community. Travel can be amazing, but for the most part it is selfish; most travelers do not substantially improve the world in their journeys (Peace Corps and other volunteer programs nonwithstanding) and while the impact I make on the world at large by building community here in Minneapolis may seem to be limited, it will be direct. It will be relationship based, a place of compassion for others and the earth, a place to make and do and discuss and imagine. And hopefully the community I help to build will be able to reach out to build other communities, to share resources, to encourage and support and coordinate.
I still plan to travel. The world is too big and too glorious to not try to see at least part of it. But in the Twin Cities I have found a place I am excited to call home, and in the next decades hope to make that home as compassionate, abundant, sustainable and beautiful as it can be.