And the Road Goes Ever On and On…
A little clarification…
True: I will be VERY sad (and scared) leaving Central America.
False: I dread going home.
And the difference between these two statements? Worlds.
I have NO “dread” of going home. I feel immense sadness for what I’m leaving.
“Home” doesn’t change much. But that is exactly what makes it so beautiful. How MUCH I miss my mother’s cooking! And my drives though the country with my father, and my sister and brothers…and the smiles of my beautiful new nieces and nephews, some of which I have NEVER seen. How I miss my histories with my best friends from high school and the weddings and reunions of my college roommates, and all the other life-altering events that occurred in their lives during this past year. I love home. And I will love to return home…just for the people that make it that — “home”.
My definition of “home” includes the descriptive terms: comfort, stability, warmth, peace, safety and love. Oh. Those are nice words aren’t they? So different from my last twelve months where I have traveled through six different unstable countries, held five different uncomfortable jobs, four different Spanish teachers, four different salsa instructors, lived with five different families and slept in hundreds of different beds — many of them cold and some of them unsafe. Yes, “home”, where I know and love the tastes, smells and feelings — will be very much welcomed.
More difficult to explain is why I am so sad to leave. And what exactly am I leaving? Best friends that I’ll probably, truthfully, never see again (seeing as they are also travelers from all parts of the world); intimacy with places and people that I have watched constantly change…and know will go on changing after I leave; tastes of foods that I can’t find in any restaurant or kitchen outside of Guatemala; sounds and smells that just don’t exist in the United States; the faces of the dozens of small children who continue their struggle in the city dump whilst I am warm, clean, fed and snug at home. I am leaving memories that really only exist in THIS Guatemalan reality. And this reality is SO very different from anything I have ever known. So how should I expect anyone to understand when they have not experienced it? How can I explain the smell of a tortillera? Or the taste of unripe mango with salt, lime & chili? Or describe the high in getting lost in the dips, turns and spins of salsa? Or describe the pain in my heart in response to the expression of my favorite child in the project when I told him that I was leaving…and didn’t know if I’d ever be back? I can’t. I can’t explain it. And therefore I can’t explain why I miss it. These memories and these experiences are my own. And while I love to own them all to myself, I do fear that non-understanding seriously. For two reasons. First, because I won’t be able to explain my sadness to those questioning. After all, outside of this blog, “home” knows nothing of these things, places and people…and so I can not expect my sadness to be understood. And second, because memories fade outside of their realities, and I fear losing touch with this Guatemalan reality.
Anyone remember my three months in Utila? Three months of intense island life? Of diving and barefootedness and partying and sharks and stingrays and table dancing and fish eating and non-blogging? Three months that now seem only like one long daydream. One long daydream that is already impossible for me to relate even to my friends here in Antigua. When asked about my time there, after a long sigh, I can only stutter out, “You just had to be there.”
“You just had to be there.”
It’s a lonely answer. And it’s an even lonelier feeling. And if there is anything to “dread”, it is only that feeling. I’m afraid this entire adventure will turn into one big dream, uncomprehesible to others, any maybe even uncomprehesible to myself. And we all know how dreams are! So difficult to explain! Foggy in understanding upon recall. So impossible to re-tell when your listener is bored stiff with details that mean nothing to them. Unripe mango with lemon, salt and chili? *Yawn.* Home doesn’t change much. But I have. And returning with so little physical evidence to grasp onto will be difficult. I already feel the pressure to re-conform to different (but not better or worse) standards of life and happiness. I already feel “pushed” to move on and be comfortable. So while I won’t ask for “understanding”, I will ask for patience. My adjustment will not be easy, and I will be sad. I can’t help those things. But they are not to be taken personally.
And in response to the question, “So if you are so sad, why are you leaving?”? For very good, but mostly intuitive, reasons. It’s just time. I love this place, but I know this place…and I have a kind of “personal legend” awaiting me…yet to fulfill. If I stayed in a place only because I was “happy” or “sad to leave”, I would have never left Oregon to move to Santa Clara, or from Santa Clara to San Diego, or from San Diego to here. Each place I left in tears. But my comfort comes in the reassurance that I can ALWAYS go back…but I CAN’T always go forward.
“The road goes ever on and on…until it reaches some greater way.”
“Addiction” is the word that describes best my desire for constant change and my NEED for the highs I get from a never-ending flux of new stimuli and the exploration of unknowns. I willingly admit my ongoing romance with the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow holds or what bus I will chose to jump on in the next five minutes. This is my high. And it is an addiction I refuse to jump the wagon on yet. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I slightly fear what consequences this addiction has for my future…. but that is an entirely different essay. My point is only that I can love “home” without being “home”. And that my absence does not, in any way, indicate less love or appreciation thereof.
Of course, none of this, and none of me, would have been possible without my family. It is only because my parents provided such a stable, safe and warm “home” — where all my needs were met, and where I never had to seek WITHIN it — that allowed me the liberty of seeking OUTSIDE of it. My parents who have updated me continually on the smile-status of my new nieces and nephews and who have made great haste to the banks, stores and post offices to send me bills, digital cameras or quickly correct errors with my bank account that otherwise would have left me stranded and penniless in more than one desperate scenario. My siblings and best friends who have only sent me the most wonderful words of encouragement throughout all my travels. My family who has *hopefully* forgiven me for my lack of attention to birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. And my family that happily receives me in the midst of my confusion and adjustment. These freedoms of heart and conscious are invaluable, and without them, I could not travel in the carefree manner that I am allowed.
And ENDLESS thanks to all those who actually read this site and/or send me letters. Because IT is the only physical thing I have to grasp on to. How I could EVER give any inch of accurate representation of my year abroad “over coffee” is inconcieveable. “You just had to be there” will have to suffice many inquisitions….but for those of you who WERE there, WITH me, my mind can smile and sigh in relief. I’m not so alone after all. And for that ease, I have you to thank.
*reads above essay*
Wow…sounds a lot like an ending, eh? But hardly. Of all the wonderful things that “travel” gives, one of the best, is NEW perspective and appreciation of OLD things and places. Every journey becomes an adventure, whether it be to Spain, the beach or to your old-highschool-best-friend’s house. (All three of which lay in my near future.) And thus, I can’t quite decide which I have more to smile about — my journeys behind or my adventures ahead.