“Wherever you go, there you are.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
By now it is probably obvious that I love to travel. But what you might not realize is that I also love coming home. It wasn’t always that way. Years ago I was constantly scheming up ways to get out of town. Naturally, the more exotic the location the better—but I really wasn’t that picky. Above all, I longed to escape to the open road and the infinite possibility that it held. When I finally had to come home it was more like a punishment, or at least the penalty that must be paid until the next adventure came along. Then somewhere along the line my thinking started changing—until now I am as happy returning home as I am packing my bags to go. So what’s different? Ultimately, I’ve come to believe that coming home after any length of time provides a huge mirror into a person’s life. What we think is important, what we feel we have to be and do, and even who we think we are, are all reflected in the thoughts and images of what we must return to after we’ve been away.
I suppose that a big part of the problem when I was younger was that I was convinced that the life I was living was just a prelude to what I hoped would eventually happen. I worked at jobs I thought I had to take, compromised the locations where I lived, and hung out with people that had an agenda contrary to my own. I constantly told myself, “I’ll be happy when that happens, or when such-and-such occurs.” So when I traveled anywhere and explored new unchartered territory, I was either trying to escape or on the lookout for solutions to make my life back home live up to my dreams. Unfortunately, when I returned, it was pretty much the same as when I left.
I can’t say it’s the same for every person, but I’m fairly certain that whatever we think about our lives and how we fit into it, that image somehow reflects into the picture we have when we think of going home. Do you love your life? Hate it? Do you feel trapped and wish you could escape? Are you living your dreams? Do you love your work? Hate it? What about the people there—family and friends? Are you living a life you want to live, or merely what others tell you that you should do? What about debt? Not only do many of us work at jobs we dislike because we think we have to—we often do it if we have heavy debt that needs constant maintenance.
It can change. I know that whatever it is that makes a homecoming less than happy can change because I have gone through it myself. For many years even though Thom and I were working at jobs that we ourselves created, we continued to take on jobs that were unfulfilling or worked with people who were difficult. Those jobs or those people always faced us the minute we returned home. And while never overly extravagant, we bought stuff and worked steadily to maintain a lifestyle that included what we thought we were supposed to want and have—a big house, numerous cars, a swimming pool and plenty of grown-up toys. And because travel was important to me, we took trips and sometimes had to face paying for those on return—all which added up to a sort of resignation and dread upon our homecoming.
Five things are now so very different in my life.
- Both Thom and my work is more targeted to our particular talents and to the people that we are compatible with, so that we love our work and can do much of it no matter where we are in the world. When I’m gone too long I actually miss the creativity and purpose it provides so much that I now look forward to getting back in the mix.
- Our debt free lifestyle (including zero-mortgage) provides us with ample resources so that our trips are paid for before we even leave home, and we have practically no bills when we return. Living below our means gives us the tremendous peace of mind and freedom to follow our hearts—not our obligations.
- After years of looking for adventure outside of myself, I’ve discovered that one of the most fascinating adventures possible is the journey within myself. Learning to know, like and finally, love yourself, is the trip of a lifetime—and you don’t have to go anywhere to do it.
- Thom and I carefully choose a community that we love living in as much as we do visiting other places. If you don’t love where you live, that could be a big part of the reason you don’t want to go home.
- My awareness has grown to the extent that I am now much more certain about what it is that I find important, meaningful and satisfying—and I carry those things with me no matter where I go or what I do.
What it comes down to is that my holidays are no longer escapes to take me away from my life—instead they are just alternate journeys of discovery and adventure. And even though as I’ve said in previous posts, we can learn a lot about the world and ourselves when we travel—if we’re paying attention we can learn just as much when we come home. Thankfully, with these five ways of looking at life and the world, I know that no matter where my home is, no matter what is going on there, whenever I return I feel welcome and glad to be home.
Deborah Gordon says
Nice article fellow traveller!
Gary Lange says
Another reminder of that “mirror” of who and what we are!
Kathy Gottberg says
Thanks Gary! And yes, it’s always there (the mirror) if we take the time to look 🙂