A Traveler’s Home is Everywhere
by Tatiana Luna
Christopher had a month and a half vacation from January to February, and we spent the majority of that time traveling. Shanghai, Nanping, Wuyi Shan, Xiamen, and Gulangyu. Traveling always reminds me why I love to travel: my mind moves, following the wave of action, forced to be flexible, aware, ready, I am more alive, free, and exhausted. Since I began to feel the grip of the Chinese middle class lifestyle here, which is uncannily similar to the American middle class lifestyle I was hoping to leave behind, I’ve had the recurring vision of becoming a nomad, tents, sheep, and all. As it is, Christopher and I have both been concerned with becoming lighter and lighter as we travel or transition from home to home. At first this was an unintuitive feat for me with a child in tow, but each successive journey we have succeeded in lightening our load (as the child magically gets heavier this begins to feel like a matter of survival). The essentials have become clearer to me: camera, notepad and pen (or my new google nexus one which will soon be replacing this), one bag as small as possible for anything else, good walking shoes, and clothes with pockets. The question I ask myself over and over is this: why are these essentials reserved for the traveling lifestyle, while my everyday, “normal” lifestyle is filled with stuff that makes me more comfortable, but weighs me down and creates a space, “home,” that I feel tied to?
Since our time in Shanghai, when I felt I was beginning to understand what a city can be, my eyes and ears have been more open in Fuzhou, and I have remembered to put Fuzhou in the context of China and the world, and as one place I have lived among many. And this is what will always distinguish Fuzhou in my mind: it is the first foreign city in which I have made a home, and I have learned more about ‘home’ here than I might have in an American city. Even a place that begins to feel boring to you gives you experiences and impressions that you carry with you to new places to use as a basis of comparison, and places we live leave the biggest impressions, whether we like it or not. Periodically here I have felt flashes of nostalgia for all the places I have lived in the past. Do we feel nostalgia mostly for comfort and familiarity? Will I feel this one day for my time in Fuzhou? Why do we reserve excitement, courage, and discomfort for travel? As a traveler I had not guessed that a foreign city could become boring to me, and so it became clear that perhaps there is a connection between ‘boring’ and ‘home’, and we carry the ‘boring’ with us as we move our ‘home’. I have never yet taken full advantage of a place I have lived, unlike places in which I have only been a traveler. This is the skill traveling has been teaching me: I can discern so much that I dislike here in Fuzhou, but still find kernels of excitement and beauty when I remember how to find them. Even that which I find boring, ugly, or hateful has painted a story in my mind that I will carry with me.
I want a Traveler’s Home. I want Home to be comfortable in some ways and uncomfortable in others. I want a space that feels my own in the midst of a place that is not my own. Since nowhere is my own, Home has little to do with place. I want Home to be more portable and less to do with stuff. It is where I sleep and cook. I want Home to be safe from the harm others might commit, but otherwise, it should not be so cushy and warm that it makes me lethargic and lazy. It is a place for my own danger to take place. The most important thing is that home is not a place to hide or hoard, although it may be a place of sanctuary sometimes. It is a place to leave and come back to when I need to rest or recharge, and it is a place for family and friends to gather.