In traditional cultures, where you live is a big part of who you are. Many Americans, on the other hand, tend to view our communities as way stations to somewhere else. Most of us leave home at an early age and don’t return to raise our kids in the communities where we grew up. As we age, many of us move again for economic reasons or to be with the grandchildren our children are raising somewhere else.
In America, we are who we are wherever we go and our communities are more like friends — some are soul mates and some are only convenient in the context of the time.
For most of my life, I have lived in communities where kids ride bikes to school, trees shade quiet streets, and your neighbors bring you plates of cookies. My communities provided me and my family with great comfort and safety.
But I didn’t want them to define me.
I wanted to feel connected to the whole world.
A few years ago, I put this want to the test. I stored everything I owned except what I could cram into a 22 inch suitcase. I rented out the house where I raised my son, ended a 33 year career, and left my San Francisco Bay Area home to travel the world.
Since then, I have visited places as different as Japan, Sweden, Jordan, Kenya and Egypt. I have trekked the Mongolian steppes on a horse, prepared dinner for elephants in Thailand and visited many of the world’s most amazing museums. I spent a life-changing 6 months working with refugees in Greece and I wrote a book.
I have met so many remarkable people who have taught me a little about how to face challenges with gratitude, how to find joy in small things and how to be a creative presence in the world. I have learned that people can — and do– love each other no matter how different their lives have been. These experiences are among my life’s greatest gifts.
Of course, my nomadic life comes at a price. I miss my friends and family. I miss that wall hanging that was in my dining room and real books made out of paper and making dinners for friends. I often don’t know where I will be from month to month and I have lost the rhythm of living in my own wonderful California community.
But every time I think I will settle down again, I start researching places I have never been and hit the button for another airline ticket. For now at least, the world is my home.