Moving around is easy. Staying still is hard.
I used to think it was just the opposite. Because ( full disclosure ) I’ve never been on a trip that didn’t seem like a mistake at the beginning.
I mean, every trip I have been on – and I’ve traveled a lot – has seemed like a bad idea in the first hours. It’s because travel is exhausting, and logistically demanding. You have to work so hard to get where you’re going. And when you get there, and you’re jet-lagged, and you just want to brush your teeth, and you’re possibly not understanding the language people are speaking, you say to yourself, ‘why did I think this was a good idea? It would have been easier to just stay home.’
It would seem that traveling is hard, and staying home is easy.
But I’ve been living everywhere – or nowhere, depending on how you look at it – for more than a year now. I’m not homeless exactly. I’ve rented apartments in Prague, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santiago, Buenos Aires and Las Vegas. But technically I have no home. And here’s what the reality actually feels like.
If you don’t live anywhere, you never have to ask yourself why you’re drinking your morning coffee out of a generic white mug that says ‘coffee’ in blue block letters across the side. Of course you’d be drinking coffee out of that mug. Because you don’t have any of your own stuff – that beautiful earthenware cup you bought inside the workshop of a 90-year-old ceramicist in a little town outside of Rome? It’s in storage somewhere.
When one of those home makeover shows is on, you watch it, and you think, ‘oh, that’s cool how they refinished those cabinets,’ or ‘it’s clever how they knocked down that partition,’ but it’s just entertainment. You don’t spend one minute worrying about what you should do to improve your own living space. Because you don’t have an apartment. The pressure is officially off. The same goes when you’re at a wedding, or a bridal shower, and everyone is giving and receiving gifts. You say ‘congratulations!’ but inside you think, ‘this is ridiculous. Who needs all this stuff.’ You think, ‘I’ll buy my own espresso machine and flatware myself when I need it, thank you very much.’ You’re like, ‘I’m more than fine with the fact that I usually attend these things alone.’
To quote a few lines from Rushmore, one of my favorite films of all time:
Dr. Peter Flynn: We went to Harvard together.
Max Fischer: Oh, that’s great. I wrote a hit play and directed it, so I’m not sweating it, either.
If you don’t live anywhere, everyone wants to talk to you. You get to be the most exciting person at the party: they all want to hear your stories: the volcano you climbed, and how you threw up from altitude sickness, and the sharks you swam with in the Galapagos, hitching a ride in Bolivia or Nicaragua, the scary hotels you’ve stayed in, and the way the ice sounds when it breaks off the glacier and crashes into the water, the trekking guide who made you pisco sours at a wooden table inside the horse stables, the people you met, the sudden companions you made, the people you fell for, the people you hurt, and the ones who hurt you.
If you’re moving, and then moving again, you don’t have to take responsibility for the fact that you never have the right clothes, and that you’re not aware of what’s cool, what’s the best new place to go for dinner or drinks. Because you don’t live there. No one expects you to know everything.
And if you don’t live anywhere, you’re not that surprised when your phone rarely rings. Because no one knows your number, or they can’t keep track of all the different numbers you’ve given them, or how to dial the country codes, or they just assume you’re out of town, because, let’s face it – you often are.
Moving around means freedom and solitude, anonymity and loneliness. Staying still involves commitment – to people, to places.
I ask myself which is harder as I lay awake in temporary beds or sit behind the wheel of a rental car in bumper-to-bumper traffic, as the brides-to-be unwrap their gifts, as the plane takes off. Catch me at the right moment and I’ll tell you I live everywhere. Catch me at a different moment and I’ll say ‘I’m tired. I think this trip may have been a mistake.’