The home-travel conundrum.

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.



6 thoughts on “The home-travel conundrum.

  1. “No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in one small part of it.” Says Mr. Berry. (Quoted by the girl currently transplanted into Africa, haha.)

    1. I LOVE Wendell Berry; reading his ‘The Unsettling of America’ last year definitely changed my life. It’s almost as if he has something insightful to say about everything that’s important to me…

  2. Hey Lauren–
    This post particularly spoke to my self 7 years ago when I was facing a similar conundrum. I ended up choosing travel, met a foreigner and migrated to his hometown — Minneapolis! I have been on my own quest to ‘plant’ my feet a little ever since and create my own sense of community on the South Side. However, it has never felt quite right, and now we are looking to travel/relocate/migrate again. I guess life and its decisions are in constant flux and you never know what will come your way. In the meantime, it seems you are enjoying your journey — and that is what is important. Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming wedding.

  3. When thinking about going back to school next year, it is hard to imagine giving up the life of jet-setting I’ve grown accustomed to in the last two or so years. Grad school is sort of the next step toward being set in a way, settled down, what have you, but the traveling is not complete. There are a lot of great things about not traveling long-term: you don’t have to throw out your entire kitchen every year for example, but one thing I’ve come to realize is that our country is so immensely spacious, with so many different people living in it, that home travel in the US has a lot of parallels with traveling abroad, at least as a cultural experience.

    Book recommendation: Rick Steves if you haven’t read him. I know, he’s about as SWM as they get, but his book Travel as a Political Act has some intriguing ideas about travel you might find interesting. He usually goes abroad, but I’m convinced home travel can be just as effective.

    1. I do agree that US travel can be quite the cultural experience; two of my friends from high school went on a road trip across the South a couple of summers ago and came back with loads of wonderful stories and particularly poignant cultural experiences (and many instances of heavy drinking, but that’s beside the point). What kinds of domestic trips are you hoping to make if/when you’re back in the States?

      Rick Steves’ travel books are a favorite of my mother’s (and in fact his suggestions were the framework for our France trip last April), but Travel as a Political Act definitely sounds like something I could get into. After my non-SWM year of reading is up I will certainly pick that up.

      1. Well, I’m applying to graduate school in the deepest of the Deep South, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, so I may be living there. I’m also pondering the possibility of biking out to whichever grad school I do get into, which I think would be fun and enlightening, especially if I get into a school out east, biking through the rust belt. D and I are also looking for places to transplant into if we don’t get into grad school, maybe Portland? Who knows, I have to get myself out of finish living in Europe first!

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