“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.” ― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel
I recently saw this quote and I’ve been reflecting on it for the several days (weeks). Why do I keep returning to it? Short answer is the author eloquently explains what I’ve been trying to understand about myself this past year.
On March 13, 2021, it will be one year since Spain hit full-stop due to the global pandemic. During those initial weeks, the kids and I existed solely within the walls of the house and the confines of our yard’s barriers. It was an unusual feeling to be “stuck at home” with no end in sight.
My home which is usually a haven for family, relaxing, and preparing for our next adventure began to feel like a weight. The year forced me to get comfortable with the house, being home, and with having no plans on the horizon (cause plans inevitably meant canceling them at a later date so it was less disappointing to just not plan). But there was a nagging feeling – that I was unable to pinpoint – that just felt off. Did I need to get rid of extra clutter in the house? Did I need more plants? Did we just need to move to a new house?
The thing with my home is it is full of travel memorabilia. Things such as a tea pot from my years in Japan, our framed Compostela certificates from the Camino de Santiago, a painting purchased in the medina of Fes, and more. Each item invokes a memory, a friendship, an experience. This was the reason I love my home – you walk into any room and you get a visual of my family’s combined life experience.
I miss traveling. I miss seeing my children exploring the world around them. I miss finding an adorable coffee shop or sampling a delicious treat that I didn’t know existed until a few moments prior. I miss conversations with my husband on a park bench after we hunted down the coolest playgrounds we could find for the kids. In essence, I miss the general growth we experienced as a family during our travels.
There was a level of stagnation and inertness within myself by being home; the items around me only seem to promote that. These trinkets from my travels and life experiences contain great memories, but also seem to be a version of myself suspended in time. They remained at that exact moment in time while I continued to grow. The feeling I was missing was that of forward movement and growth – the feeling I felt when out in the world.
So maybe this author understood me – and others like me – before I understood myself. Traveling takes me a deeper part of myself where I get to shed the traditional roles of my life as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and coworker. It allows me and my family to just be explorers looking to learn from the world and gain a greater understanding of ourselves and each other.
While there is no firm end in sight to when we can move about freely again, I can now look at my home through the lens that they are a beautiful timeline of memories; one where I can appreciate looking back as I also look forward to the future of being able to again experience the world and its many cultures around me.