I like to stay in. I like to cook. I don’t like to be separated from my family. How on earth did I end up as a travel writer?
For the past week, I’ve been at my childhood home in Pennsylvania. Thanks to a lucky convergence of schedules, all my siblings are here too. Even though I’m not exactly on vacation – I’ve been working constantly – it’s been a delight to wake up to a full house every morning. Having coffee with my sisters in the backyard, floating in the pool with my baby niece, going to the gym with my brother. Just hanging out at night. It’s like old times, but better.
Reveling in the domestic bliss, I suddenly find myself dreading my upcoming travel schedule. And I ask myself, ‘why am I constantly sending myself to places so far from home?’ (The concept of ‘home,’ of course, being fluid: these days, home is Argentina as much as it is the US.) And at the same time, I know I have a dream job. I turned 29 this week and I thought, ‘I bet I’ve had more fun in my twenties than anyone I know.’
Considering the bittersweetness of it all, I can’t help but look to my own mother for an explanation. She’s the one who made the family what it is, and she’s the one who defined what our ‘home’ is – wherever it may be. She’s great, so she raised her kids to be great, and – shoot! – it’s clearly her fault that I cry my eyes out every time we say goodbye. But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that while my mom was raising me to value my own family, she was also whispering in my ear, ‘you have to travel the world.’ That’s what she did – in her twenties she took off on a solo adventure, traveling overland by bus, boat and banana truck from Washington DC all the way to Sucre, Bolivia, where she ended up living and working as a nurse at an orphanage for a year.
‘Travel the world,’ she said, ‘do it while you can. Then you’ll be happier when it’s your turn to settle down and have your own children.’
She should know: she went pretty quickly from this life (that’s her then-boyfriend and his brothers) to this life:
Anyway, I took her words to heart. When I announced I was moving to Prague and I was going on a one-way ticket, she was thrilled and a little heartbroken. When I’m offered an assignment in some far-flung place, she’s more excited than anyone. But then you hear her say under her breath, while grinding the coffee beans or putting away the dishes, ‘I just don’t know why everyone has to be so far away all the time….’
I guess I still haven’t figured out how to marry that lust for travel with that strong pull to be with family. I’m pretty sure that my freespirited days of traveling on a whim are numbered, so I’m trying to enjoy the adventures while I can (my mom says her memories of travel got her through some of the domestic drudgery and challenging moments later when she had four kids all under the age of seven.) Someday I’ll have a house and I’ll own things like an espresso machine and stemless wine glasses – I hope, I really hope, that there’s plenty of time for all of it.
And in the meantime, my best solution is to convince my family to come on the road whenever possible. A few of the greatest hits so far –
Taking a sister to Brazil while researching for Lonely Planet – taking my mom to Patagonia for another LP assignment – taking the boyfriend to Mexico for a Mr & Mrs Smith review.