My brother and his wife are world travelers. They went to Thailand on their honeymoon, have been to Istanbul and Mexico and South America and all over Europe, and Carrie even spent a month in Africa. The two of them, they love to travel, and they have beautiful photos to show when they come back. When I flip through them it’s almost enough to make me wish that I loved to travel too.
In theory, I love to travel. In theory, I would like to see the world. I want to meet people and do things and have adventures and taste foods and marvel at the beauty and the wonder that there is to experience on this big spinning globe we all travel on together through space etc. etc. But I only want to do it if I can stay home. If there were some way to make a day trip to Morocco I’d do it. If I could spend an afternoon in Paris, I’d spend every afternoon in Paris. If I could drop by Tokyo, it would be my favorite lunch-time destination.
It’s not the traveling—I don’t mind the traveling. It is possible I even like the traveling part. I like airports, because I always feel like they’re an excuse to not think about how much things cost because otherwise you’ll have an aneurism and here is twelve dollars for that packet of peanuts. I like planes. There is something very contained and peaceful about a plane ride. There’s something about a plane ride that makes it very easy to focus—on writing or work or reading, and then you order a couple of tiny bottles of wine and a little snack box and you feel like you’ve just splurged and you have because now you can no longer afford to send your imaginary children to college.
I like to land and then go look at things and Experience Life and eat delicious things and enjoy the strangeness of it all, but then I am done. Then I want to go home. Foreign Place is not home. Foreign Place is too far away from home. Foreign Place is not safe. Foreign Place does not have an adequate supply of Diet Pepsi or a change of shoes or my fluffy pillows.
Foreign Place feels like a mistake I can’t fix—it’s too late now. I am stuck. I think it’s that feeling of having no recourse, of having set off without an easy way back, of having to follow through whether or not you want to. There’s no inexpensive, simple way to say “Sorry! Not really feeling very ‘Marrakesh-y’ today. I’ll try again tomorrow!” You are there and you are staying there unless you can afford to pay a steep Stupid Tax to change your tickets and flee.
I definitely don’t like being told I have no other choice. I panic like a little rabbit, and my little rabbit heart thumps to bursting and then it does.
But I’ll move anywhere. I don’t want to visit London—I want to live in London. I don’t want to sightsee in Tuscany, I want to own a villa. I am not interested in vacationing on the beach in Mexico—I want a little cottage by the ocean, with satellite Internet and a hot tub. In my imagination I have settled all over the world—most of the coastal Americas, much of Canada, the majority of Europe, and select places in Asia because I am a little chicken. I would settle down in Istanbul and make a life in Prague and live in three square feet in Tokyo and own a mountain goat in Peru.
There are spots for me all over the world, and I like to think that someday I’ll claim them, but that is unlikely. It’s also unlikely that I’ll ever become a world traveler like my brother and his wife, not while I’m crazy—a state that is also unlikely to change. I don’t like it when my dreams are unlikely.