Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. – Matsuo Basho
I’ve done a lot of moving in my life in attempt to discover where I belong. I’ve moved from Portland, Oregon, down to Chico, California, then further still to Oceanside, California. And when we were fed up with the West Coast, we decided to give Alabama, my then-boyfriend’s home state, a try. After that, it was Thailand.
Since the past year was filled with upheaval and stress, I’ve been mostly focused on only the negative aspects of moving. But that’s about to change.
In its simplest definition, home is a place, but in this modern age, home can be a fickle thing. We are digital nomads, refugees, and homeless people. We are folks who are one or two paychecks away from homelessness. We’re working more than our forefathers and foremothers.
Home is a fragile thing.
But what I’ve come to appreciate are the positive aspects of moving. I think I’ve done enough “searching for the silver lining” in the mist of stormy weather. I’ve eked out the importance of resistance and hardship in shaping character and identity. So, I think it’s about time that I stopped fighting the lifestyle that I’ve chosen (and not chosen), and appreciate why it works (at least for me).
I used to be gobsmacked by expats who have lived in the same place for many years. I was envious of their locked-in low rent and stability. It has taken me years to stop looking at their lives with longing and understand that what I’ve done has its merits, too.
For one, instead of having one home, I now have many. I could land in Durango, Colorado, or Siem Reap, Cambodia and feel a sense of belonging that comes from having spent years in a place. I suppose frequent travel can give you that feeling as well. But there’s something about walking through your old neighborhood, time traveling back, and capturing a longer period of your life.
If you’ve moved a lot, then you can easily mark the time by where you’ve been. When you live in the same place, those years can slide by in a blur. Routine can create monotony, not unlike when you can’t remember the last 20 minutes of your drive home. My years in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for example, can be divided by the five different places I’ve lived.
Celebrate those beginnings and endings
I’ve gotten good at goodbyes. I suppose that sounds sad to some, but it’s really not. I’ve been blessed enough to meet amazing people from all over the world. I’ve come to appreciate that people who you think you might not see again, end up exactly where you are, or vice versa. I don’t know. Sometimes at the end, I look at my friend and say, “We’ll see each other again.”
Life is crazy beautiful that way. I promise. I can give you many examples. You probably have them, too.
There’s also something about knowing a new chapter in your life is starting or ending. In the past, we were a society that celebrated rites of passages. We marked time with particular life events that no longer hold true for everybody. Moving has given me those spiritual markers.
Here’s a definition of rites of passage:
Ceremonies that mark important transitional periods in a person’s life, such as birth, puberty, marriage, having children, and death. Rites of passage usually involve ritual activities and teachings designed to strip individuals of their original roles and prepare them for new roles.
Celebrate what’s good for your brain
Sometimes, moving involves learning a new language. Moving almost always involves having to create a new routine, learning a new job, becoming familiar with a new environment, making new friends, and making mistakes.
It can also be incredibly stressful depending on your luck and support system. Yet, you are given a new set of lenses in which to look out on the world. And there’s plenty of evidence that shows how good this is for your mental and physical health. They say complacency is the enemy of happiness.
Some definitions of the verb move are: to make progress, to develop in a particular direction or manner, to change or to cause change, to take action, to influence or prompt (someone) to do something, and to empty one’s bowels.
When you’re a beginner, you’re forced to ask questions, to ask for help, and you also become a little more sensitive. Of course, this might seem like a bad thing, but different roles during different times in your life can make you a more compassionate person.
For instance, I remember all too well what it’s like to be the new kid on the job. Heck, that’s exactly where I’m at now! So, when I’ve been the veteran, I make an extra effort to be nice to new colleagues. Those ‘hellos’ and ‘how are you doing’ and ‘do you need any help’ are so important.
I remember when I started teaching in Siem Reap and received the cold shoulder from a particular clique. But instead of feeling hurt, I saw them as a psychological experiment. When we’ve “found our tribe” we can quickly sink into limiting behavior and thinking. Experience has reminded me to keep doors open.
We live in a rapidly changing world and my lifestyle has allowed me not only greater freedom, but a deeper understanding of how important it is to adapt.
When I read things like, many American cities make the top lists of homeless places around the world. – or – “The growing number of young adults living at home has steadily grown for decades echoing the increasing problem of earning a livable wage that allows people to meet their basic needs.” I think we have to be flexible in mind and body to cope with the world’s problems. We can’t get entrenched in “this is the way we do things” thinking. We have to constantly challenge ourselves, in order to learn, and to grow.
I never set out to live as a nomad. In fact, one of the reasons why I’ve never looked at the positive side of such a lifestyle is because of how I’m perceived by family. “You’re moving AGAIN?” was not said with excitement or enthusiasm. More like, “when is this girl going to get her life together?”
It’s also not normal. This is not what most people want for their lives. Traveling around the world sounds glamorous, but that’s not what I’m doing. I feel more like I’m being kicked around, but then again, I always have a choice and I know that I’ve made these choices even when it hasn’t felt that way.
As the climate change, economies, and conflict create displacement, “going with the flow” can very well turn out to be an overlooked strength. Time will tell, or not. It doesn’t matter. I’m making my peace with the life I live.
In any case, we can all move in our small and grand ways. Celebrate through play, wonder, and the power of just dancing in your own home when no one else is looking.