Melissa and I have decided to go back to the United States in late October for a friend’s wedding, after which we’re going to look after her house in northern Virginia and her cats while she’s on her honeymoon. That October deadline means that we’re halfway through our European travels this year.
This seems like a good chance to take stock. What is different than I’d expected? What have I learned? Is this perpetural traveling as fun as I’d hoped? The answer to that last question is definitely yes. It feels like an amazing luxury to be able to live this way. As for the rest of the questions …
I’m a lot less homesick than I expected to be. I packed photos of family, friends, and cats to console myself with when I was missing home. But I haven’t really needed them. Seeing my parents for a few days in Italy in May, emailing with friends, and reading their blogs help me feel connected to the people I love. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the end of the year, but that doesn’t make me want to return earlier. And I sure don’t miss working, or hearing the constant barrage of U.S. election news, or having a house to take care of.
Being technically homeless and not having many possessions hasn’t bothered me either. If anything, when we’re dragging our backpacks and camera bag through train stations and town squares, it seems like we have too much stuff.
I haven’t discovered a natural facility for languages; they’re still a struggle for me to learn. But thanks to our intensive classes in Spain, the two months we’ve spent in Italy, and the bits of French that were drummed into me at school, I can now do basic things—reserve a room, buy a pastry, count to 100—in four languages. For an American, that feels pretty good.
Another thing I’ve learned is that I can feel at home almost anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a rental apartment, a hotel room, a youth hostel, or a guest bed in someone’s house. I don’t need my pictures on the walls, my books on the shelves, my dishes in the cupboard. All I need is Melissa, my clothes, and my little stuffed penguin. (Having a few basic comforts helps, such as warm water and a lack of bugs.)
I’m infinitely more conscious of money now than I was before. For instance, I always know exactly what it’s costing (or not costing) to put a roof over our heads on a given night—something I had only a vague idea of at home.
I had hoped that, in the course of traveling, I’d run across a place or an activity that I would want to devote myself to in the future. That hasn’t happened yet. I don’t feel as eager as I thought I would to try writing travel articles (writing for this website is hard enough, which is why I’m always behind). I haven’t explored teaching English yet, but I might try it in some informal way (giving one-on-one lessons in a coffee shop or park, maybe in exchange for meals or lodging). Working at a rural inn or park lodge or housesitting sound the most attractive to me, along with occasional freelance editing.
The “traveling” part of travel isn’t too much fun, especially when it involves schlepping around a heavy backpack and trying to find the right train or bus in a foreign language. But I love watching new scenery unfold out the window. And I still feel excited each morning that I know I’m going somewhere new. What will it look like? What new thing will I learn or experience? The thrills of that are still very strong.
I am nowhere near ready to settle down again in one place for years and years. Maybe I never will be.