where i feel most at home

is when I am away from ‘home.’  In fact, for me, it’s hard to say where home really is.  I have fallen in love with too many places throughout my travels and have made an ever so growing list of locations I could see myself living for at least a time.  Nothing makes me feel more at home than being out on the open road, exploring some new part of America or another country, taking detours and exits through unexplored towns and cities.

It makes sense why the nomadic lifestyle has so much appeal.  With Jack Kerouac and Alexander Supertramp as convincing guides, a secure future really is the most dangerous thing to the adventurous spirit.  I try to remind myself of this every time I think about the future and it actually encourages me to know that if I had a totally secure set-in-stone future, how miserable and unfulfilled that would be.  What is life without some kind of epic story of struggle, discovery, love, loss, defeat, triumph, redemption?

Sometimes I wish I could just settle on a place though, but even that is kind of impossible.  There are places that get me more than others, but who wants a solid location in one spot forever anyway?  From the curse California put on me the first time I set foot on its beaches to the enchanting mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina and the wild wilderness of Montana, my cozy shore house in Wildwood, New Jersey, the amazing San Francisco harbor and D.C.’s National Mall in spring or summertime at night with bare feet in the fountains of the World War II memorial… the thrill, risk and escapade of Nairobi, Kenya

There’s just so many beaches and cities and towns and states and countries and places I’ve been that I have just loved so so much.  I miss spending my birthdays in Nashville and the way the lights shine on the Ohio River in Cincinnati and Louisville in Autumn.  I miss so easily navigating London’s Underground and just not being in the United States.  Spain is one of the most breathtaking countries I have ever been to, from its cities, countryside and coasts, it’s amorous.  And their coffee is by far the greatest!  (Cafe con leche!)

Though, nothing thrills me more than a roadtrip.  I had always dreamed of driving from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and then, randomly, with less than 24 hour notice, it happened last December when in three days my friend Jason and I drove our friend Nina from Philly to Los Angeles.  The journey was monumental and the mother of all road trips.  Now, America doesn’t stand a chance against me.  In fact, it’s smaller than it seems.

Road trips were the norm before that anyway, since I went to college in Kentucky and would make the (now merely) 11 hour drive back and forth during breaks.  Not to mention leaving campus most weekends to neighboring cities or states.  It was going away to college that really was one of the greatest decisions I could have ever made.. for so many reasons.  I know I’ve written about this all before and people get so annoyed when I continually tell them to GO AWAY SOMEWHERE for college and not stick around the only place they’ve ever known.  Who would have thought that within hours of being in a new state, in a new place, without knowing anyone, I would end up meeting my lifelong best friends that are the most genuine loyal group of people I could have ever imagined knowing, with unchanging characters and steadfast spirits and personalities.  I could never express how blessed I am to have them, truly innovative, purpose driven, creative, talented, hysterical people.

And so, even though we live hundreds of miles apart, from Pennsylvania/New Jersey to Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee, we somehow manage to see each other every couple of…. weeks.  How, I don’t know, but we go about a month and a half at most without being somehow reunited, either at random where we happen to be in the same city at the same time or strategically planned, usually the later.  I doubt there are any groups of friends that went to our college that are quite like ours and how incredibly often we see each other.  It’s as if those hundreds of miles don’t exist and when we reunite we talk for hours and laugh and pick up exactly where we left off as if we were never apart.  (And we did happen to hijack our college that one time…. be sure to look out for a future blog post that will reveal all of that in great detail, it will be something you surely won’t want to miss! 😉

Just last week, my friends and I gathered in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, one of our favorite unique places nestled in the Smokey Mountains. We rented an insanely awesome and gihugic cabin that was built into a cliff overlooking the mountains and spent the week hardly sleeping and having “spring break” all over again, even though we’re all graduated.  We were always known for our epic spring break trips.  While others went home or to stereotypical Florida, we went places like London and Paris.. (though, granted, we did have some financial help from those more wealthy among us)  Nevertheless, our college experience was nothing short of epic, and certainly far from “typical.”

Something that I find most frustrating and will never understand is people who stay planted in one spot and never experience anything else.  Somehow, they’re content with their extremely limited world in which they know nothing else.  This rare breed of human is starting to die out, especially with my generation’s instant access to the world, how in just the last few years, communication has  spread unlike anything ever before experienced in all of civilization.  There are so many ways and opportunities to crisscross the globe and the country, all it takes is the first step outside of that dreadful and deadly comfort zone that so many love but don’t realize how enabling it is.  There’s a world out there with people to be met, stories to hear, share and be a part of, connections to be made, networks to build.  Blessed are the people who truly see this and genuinely live it.

Sylvia Plath said it best: “I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want.  I can never train myself in all the skills I want.  And why do I want?  I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.  And I am horribly limited.”

Although “home” to me is in the car on an open stretch of road or buckling my seat-belt before take-off on an airplane, I still know there are some places that will resonate.  Philly will always be ‘home’ where my roots are and where I came from, but Washington, D.C. will always be one of my favorite places.  I caught Beltway fever my last year of college when I spent it there kicking off my journalism career.  The city is so beautiful and unique, a place I know so well and could tell countless stories about.  It’s more than just the Capitol, it’s literally two cities in one, always full of world changing action and never ever void of only the best drama.  Pierre Charles L’Efant knew what he was doing modeling it off of Paris too, because it really is beautiful and incredibly romantic at night… I always wished I had someone to share that with. I know D.C. is in my future, one way or another.

I had an epiphany the first time I visited Los Angeles and I know that is where I’ll end up too.  When my Infinity takes off, I eventually envision duel living: D.C. and L.A.  The District for journalism and news, being generally close to family and friends, my beloved Jersey shore, and then the city of Angels for screen-writing and creativity, leisure, fiction-writing and surfing 🙂

I also envision Africa, the place that so radically changed my life.  In just a few short weeks I’ll be back there, my life to be so necessarily shaken once again and my spirit reminded that there exist real human relationships that aren’t so American self-absorbed but compassionately sacrificial.  Isn’t it so strange to think of having to go to the lowliest place on the planet to find your one and only hope for humanity?

Everyone knows I am the most unsettled person there is, and in more ways than just one.  It’s only natural that ‘home’ can’t be an actual place for me but exists only in moments and instances.  I must constantly remind myself not to long for that secure future or doubt my dreams.  Instead, I’ll take chances and live scarily, making plans of perfection that will be turned into reality.

4 comments on “where i feel most at home”

  1. Mark says:

    It really absolutely crazy that I am still friends several people I met freshmen year at a college in a town I never lived in before and at a college I was only at for a year before I transferred to another one 2 hours away.

    I’m the same way as you, i could NEVER picture myself living in one place forever…or setting my future in stone. Even though I hate change, for some reason, I want my know my future will always be changing.

    Also, PLEASE let me do a guest blog post while you are in Africa! Please! It will not include recipes or stories about my feet.

    And finally, “gihugic” a real word?

  2. Josh says:

    Yes you can do a guest blog as long as you emphasize the fact that it is you, Mark Walz, who is writing it and not me.

    Gihugic is a word, I invented it.

  3. Brenda says:

    One of my favorites 🙂

  4. Tony says:

    I really enjoyed reading this …. Also philly is my “home”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *