The distance around Earth is 24,901 miles (40,075 km). Between June 1, 2014 and June 10, 2015, we traveled 61,657 miles (99.227 km) – we circled the earth once moving east, then again moving west, and covered enough ground to nearly circle the earth one more time. And now….we’ve stopped.
Life after travel is not the same. You no longer look at anything as if that’s simply the way they are, because you’ve seen that they can be different. For better or worse, you understand that everything is simply one approach, and that there are so many other ways things could be. While traveling for extended periods, especially if you’re really traveling and moving about and not settling for months at a time in any one place, it begins wear on you. We went to 88 cities in a year, and though we might stay in a country for a month, we would rarely be in one city for more than four or five days.
And having a new and temporary home can be exhausting in itself. When you’re home, you get used to things being a certain way or in a certain place. The hardness of your bed, the size of your pillow, the shape of your shower and the water pressure coming through the pipes; the height and dimensions of your toilette; the locations of things in your refrigerator, cabinets, and drawers. There are little details that you’re constantly learning or adapting to as you travel. So many cities have public transportation, and though things like where you buy tickets, how long they’re good for, and where and how you punch or scan in your trip may not seem like a big deal, we often take for granted the amount of mental energy we conserve when in a routine and surrounded by familiarity.
Each day is full of things you absorb and process. Each place offers a unique perspective of the human experience. Different cultures are the varying approaches to foods, customs, language, and just about everything else, each offering a different color or shade with which to paint on the canvas of life.
As we approached a year of hopping from place to place, we were getting tired and ready to “nest.” The universe conspired and we now find ourselves in a village with a population of just over 340. This village dating back to 1817 is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, back home in the United States.
It was somewhat of a shock at first – going from constantly changing stimulation, people, faces, and places to sitting in one place, rocking in our chairs chairs on the porch, overlooking a bonfire as clouds roll from the west over Skyline. Unlike the cities we’ve lived in the past, you don’t hear the sounds of cars and traffic and people bustling about; the sounds of nature shift throughout the day – the chirping of morning birds; the buzzing of afternoon wasps, bees, and other flying insects at noon; the calling of birds as dusk approaches; the chorus of insects screeching and gnawing under the canopy of stars at night – each phase like a movement in a symphony.
Sperryville is a place where, depending on your view, the South lost or the South won. Many civil war battles took place here. It is a crossroads, not far from West Virginia, and very far removed from the life of the Nation’s Capital, Washington DC. The churches and schools beside us were segregated in the 1930’s. The roadside grill sells many items with the Rebel, Confederate, or White flag, depending on how you see it. Slaves once lived here.
We’ve come to realize that the world is a place we will never fully see. Even if we manage to hit every country in the world, there is little possibility we will see every city. How different Göteborg is from Stockholm; Bangkok from Koh Tao; New York City from Austin, Texas; Munich from Berlin; Paris from the rest of France; Washington DC from Sperryville. And even if we could visit every city, each would be a very different city at the time when we saw it than five, ten, twenty years before or into the future. We have been to islands that in just five years look completely different – indigenous ways of life lost to tourism or modernization or prosperity.
Now we sit and watch the fireflies in the canopy against the backdrop of the Shenandoah, just as we once did dragonflies hovering over rice fields in Bali. The sounds of owls and coyotes in the distance replacing the call of monkeys in Thailand. We get to define our space, develop new habits, or take on the old ones, and apply our broader view to this new corner of the human experience. To meditate in the grass; to make fires in the yard; to grill and garden and pickle onions and eggs.
Before leaving for travel, I had no plan, idea, or notion that I would find myself occupied in such things. To crank the chainsaw and bring down trees destroyed by a previous storm; to be growing pumpkins, squash, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, peppers, and herbs in a garden; to be building a chicken coup and getting ready to raise goats; to catch myself saying “y’all,” and nodding at the driver of every car that rolls down Main Street.
We are still travelers – but like any bird that flies, it too much create a nest from time to time. This is how this bohemian couple is doing it.