LOST AND FOUND
My beau and best friend departs Monday to travel around the world for six months, beginning in Sydney, Australia.
Who understands wanderlust better than a travel writer? On the other hand, I'm not accustomed to being the one left home, which can chafe.
I found fuel for my discontent in the The Orchid Thief, a book ostensibly about exotic flowers in Florida, but truly about the passions that connect and separate us from the herd. In it, Author Susan Orlean interviews Lee Moore the Adventurer. The one-time smuggler of plants and Pre-Columbian pottery tells her:
"Oh, I'm not brave. I'm just sure of myself. I just remember when I was a kid, I once was going on a canoe trip in the Everglades and some of my friends decided not to go because it was going to be too much discomfort and hardship. But they did come to watch the rest of us head off on the trip, and I remember looking up as we pushed off and seeing the forlorn faces of the people left behind looking on. That's what started my life of adventure. I knew I never wanted to be the one left on the shore."
I'm on the bank ... and, well, quite surprisingly, the water looks fine.
Often our exterior and interior journeys coincide, feeding off each other symbiotically. As Pico Iyer summed it up in a Salon article: "We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves."
I know this truth. I lived it. Since my marriage withered in August 2003, I've ranged to:
Oxford, England (2)
Phoenix, Arizona (5)
Panama City, Florida
New York, New York (3)
Bristol, Connecticut (3)
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (2)
The Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Rome and Lazio, Italy
Crested Butte, Colorado
Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan
Hong Kong, a SAR of China
The Cumberland Plateau, Kentucky
London, Oxford and Seaham, England
Dublin and southeastern Ireland
Arizona's wine country (who knew?)
I left a broken home to find myself. Two years later, I was ready to find a home again.
Slowly piano, piano a real life emerged from my boxes and battered suitcases. Old friends arrived with art, armloads of homemade pottery and excitingly antiquated appliances (including the faux wood-paneled microwave that shoots lightening bolts at butter; I can't believe it's not Armageddon!).
I learned the postman's name (Tony) and how many limbs it takes to restart the heater's pilot light (three, plus some intermediate yoga contortions). I stopped a bike theft in the alley and watched a Hummer driver urinate on my hedge (seething silently in the passive-aggressive tradition of my city, Seattle).
I discovered that my neighbors are not breeding ferrets for meat on their apartment's balcony, as I breathlessly speculated for months. Nope, those are in fact, all-singing, all-dancing black bear hamsters.
Last night, I came over all house-proud, as the Inappropriate Beau and I canoodled on my new sofa futon. He sunk my battleship without effort.
"After a year and a half, you finally bought furniture. The great travel writer is becoming a domesticated hack," he teased (I.B. likes to do that. A lot. It's pretty much his default mode).
Damn. Was I just another Fight Club cliché? "Like everyone else, I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct," Jack announces, before morphing into a sexy, psycho Brad Pitt. "I would flip through catalogs and wonder, 'What kind of dining set defines me as a person?'."
Except I crave both: the expedition the dive into self and situation then the retreat to home comforts. Catch and release. Or is that just a Catch-22?
"You should write about this," advised Inappropriate Beau with all the easy assurance of a non-author. (Or maybe he just hopes a rant against Swedish flatpack furniture will transform me into a sexy, sane Angelina Jolie).
Thus Road Remedies, the blog, was born a meditation on home and away.
Because not all who wander are lost. Not all on left on shore are forlorn. And not all "assembly required" furniture is spindly and soul-destroying...