I love to write, but I struggle to accept that I’m a writer. Or that I’m anything. I want to be more than a writer. Or not just a writer. I love to travel. So I guess I’m also a traveler. Sometimes I’ve been other things too, I suppose. Movement and transition is a form of stability for me. I want to live everywhere and try everything I can. I want to live out a whole lifetime in every country or at least many countries. There are so many things I want to do and to try. But I can’t do everything in one lifetime.
I’ve been given this lifetime to explore. I’m blessed with two kindred souls who travel with me (John and Lydian); these restless people who want to sample everything that exists along with me. But even with all we’ve seen and all we’ve done already, still we look at each other across the room and say, “What’s next?”
We’ve been “grounded” since last November when our apartment complex began construction here in Mexico. None of us expected the project to take this long. We’ve tried to make the most of being stuck in one place, but restlessness has defined the overall experience. When will it get done? We don’t know just yet. But there’s a glimmer of hope that it will reach completion soon. And as the building takes shape, we all know what that means…
But not yet…or at least only small trips for now to practice and build our endurance.
Our living conditions have challenged us to say the least, especially over the past 2 months. We’ve squeezed ourselves into tiny living quarters with construction above and all around us. All the while reminding ourselves that, “as soon as this is finished we can go.” It’s a strange mantra. I suppose I should hang pictures on the wall first. I should fret about the presence and location of every little thing in my living quarters. I should ready it for guests, ready it for a stationary existence that clings desperate and but ambivalent to a daily routine. I should arrange and then rearrange the furnishings at least four times before we leave.
Today, I watched the clouds outside the window and how just as I could see a face emerge or the clear image of a duck or a bear it would change shape into something else. As I lay there on the couch, the shadows in the room moved and the light changed from gray to gold and all of the movement and change reminded me that it’s okay for me to move and change too. I remembered that it may be as unnatural for me to stay grounded in one location as it is for me to travel out into the world without any intention of return. When we first bought this property, it was because we knew we all needed a Home Base. That it’s unnatural and uncomfortable to travel in perpetuity. But that it’s also unnatural to stay in one place forever. We built apartments for other people who travel…for guests who’ll add interest to our time here in Guanajuato—the most interesting city on the planet (to us). And we made our living spaces small so that our lives can be bigger.
But even the clouds don’t move fast all the time. Sometimes they churn and scoot across the sky quickly with bolts of lightning striking down at the mountains that surround us. But today, the clouds parry and hang quietly, making small, subtle movements in the sky that are barely noticeable unless I watch closely.
I don’t know where to go or what to see. I have a sense of what interests me. And now, I have a little more Spanish under my belt. But I’ve seen a lot of things already. The travel guidebooks bore me/us. The typical travel categories (restaurants/food, nightlife, tourist destinations, hotels) have become obsolete to me (and to us). Maybe I should be bummed about that. Or worried. What do you do when you travel if you don’t go see the sights?
My guess: you wander until you figure it out.
Ahhhh….wandering. It’s not as easy as it seems. It seems timely, given Anthony Bourdain’s death, to note the real challenges involved in having No Reservations. When we traveled to Turkey, we made no advance reservations and let me just say that having reservations is much easier, though much more confined. You wander more when you have No Reservations, kind of. Your body wanders, but your mind is always tethered to the idea that you have no place to sleep for the night. You’re less likely to get lost or have a major spat with your spouse if you know where you’ll be sleeping in a foreign country where locals may be hostile or where hotels are scarce. I’d never recommend for American newlyweds to head off into the great unknown without reservations because it could lead to the end of a marriage in short order. As a parent, you’ll feel more responsible and less frazzled if you make reservations in advance. The concept of not having reservations or a pre-made plan is idyllic because it implies that you’re on a spiritual quest and that the adventure will find you; that you’re being led by something more than just a guidebook and there is truth to that idea. The problem is, this truth about spirituality and wandering isn’t the only truth inherent in No Reservations. The other truth is that you could end up in a hotel room in a rural, backwoods community in Turkey above a fishery where you find bloody sheets in the closet and the toilet clogs up in the middle of the night (and there are storks nesting on Dorian pillars outside the window).
I’ve been planning a trip along the PanAmerican Highway for the past few weeks. Originally, we thought we’d drive, but now all of us have decided that a bus might be “better”. What I mean by “better” is that it would be “less comfortable” and therefore more challenging and more fertile in terms of unexpected experiences that would make the trip worth doing. And today, I was trying to find some “cool experiences” online that we could have on the way. But alas, nothing “cool” is advertised online. And I know it. Finding cool things is about heading out into the fray and taking some risks. And being bored. It’s about not knowing where you’re going or how you’re going to get there. It’s about meeting people you never intended to meet and following your intuition…the breadcrumb trail. But I think it might be acceptable to go ahead and book a few reservations along the breadcrumb trail so that I can look out the window of the bus without worrying that we’ll be sleeping under a bridge in Nicaragua for the night.
I’ve spent the last year doing things I never thought I’d do in part because I’ve tied myself close to the ground. We’ve stayed put. And when we go again, it won’t be a small or insignificant “going”. We’ve gotten smaller so I hope we can fly higher once the tethers are loosed. But for now, we’re doing small trips and our wandering will be kept pretty close to home so as to make sure our building project doesn’t go off-the-rails. It may seem ideal to travel aimlessly without a home to worry about, but without a home to worry about, one worries about not having a home. So we’re trying to strike a new balance in our lives. While we’re content to follow the breadcrumb trail through the forest and not know exactly where we’re going or what we’re looking for, we’ll still be making some reservations in order to avoid the proverbial Witch’s House and a real-life Hansel and Gretel experience.