By now, I think we have learned that there are two kinds of people when it comes to staying at home. The first category of people say, “I am doing great, enjoying this time to relax and slow down. I am calling my friends on zoom and doing online yoga!”
The second category of people say “Oh yeah, well, I was kind of down yesterday but I am better today. Lots of people have it much worse than me. We’ll get through this, no problem.” If you are in the first category, please know that the people in the second category are actually thinking “I am going out of my mind.”
As a member of the second category, I have been trying to console myself by thinking of the negative aspects of my nomadic life. For too long, I have been able to travel to wherever sounds interesting, meet fascinating people, see the world’s best art and most beautiful landscapes, hear amazing music, learn about history and other cultures, walk through city streets until they feel like my own, learn to be not afraid, have spiritual experiences and occasionally find ways to be useful.
I guess I should have asked myself before now why I think this is such an ideal life.
And I did think of some reasons I might need a break from the freedom to travel.
When I travel, I miss my friends and family. Yes, I sure do miss them when I am thousands of miles away. Now I sure do miss them six or more feet away. No touching, no hanging out, no meals together. I visit my Gabe from his balcony. My arms hurt….
When I travel, I live in places that aren’t personal. For four years, I haven’t had my own house with my own things. A couple of weeks ago, I rented an adorable studio in Berkeley. In a random bag, I found a few things that have personalized my new place. A wall hanging I bought in Peru. A small rug I bought in Mexico. A little bowl I bought Morocco.They remind me that I want to go back to Vietnam to buy a scarf like the one I lost in Moscow.
When I travel, I can’t have a dog. I miss living with dogs sooooo much. I haven’t asked my new landlord (my friend Marianne) whether I could have a dog here because I can’t have a dog for as long as I have $1500 in airline credit. Here is a beautiful picture of Vic and Rosie, who Vic stole from me because, he said, I was traveling too much. You can see how much she misses me.
When I travel, I can’t wear leggings. I have a thing about women wearing leggings in public places in other countries. Since I am not in other countries or in public places, I can wear leggings now. Maybe I will buy some! Although that would expose me or someone else to germs for the sake of leggings. So, no.
When I travel, I get lonely sometimes. Solo travel in particular requires a little emotion management. I often keep my spirits up by listening to certain music. The same old music over and over again. So now I don’t have to listen to that stuff any more, especially this song that is part of my favorite travel video, which I have watched almost every day in the past three weeks. Years.
The celebrated travel writer, Paul Theroux, recently reported that “the freedom that most travelers feel is often a delusion.” At first, I was kind of shocked. He clarified, however, that he was referring to the kind of traveler who “self-isolates” in a destination hotel or resort, which I don’t do.
And then he said something that partly explains his genius. “The most enlightening trips I’ve taken have been the riskiest, the most crisis-ridden, in countries gripped by turmoil, enlarging my vision, offering glimpses of the future elsewhere. We are living in just such a moment of risk; and it is global. This crisis makes me want to light out for the territory ahead of the rest. It would be a great shame if it were not somehow witnessed.”
I suspect this is a teaser for Theroux’s next Big Book and I am insanely jealous that he will be a witness and he will write about it. I would probably drive off in Gabe’s car to be a witness and write about it if it weren’t for five of the best musicians who ever lived. It turns out my favorite travel song is also a great not-travel song because, whatever we are doing, it matters how we do it. We’re going to the end of the line.