For those of you accustomed to following my journeys across the country and abroad, perhaps these last couple weeks have felt a little, well, boring.
After the better part of a year in Central America and a rapid-fire run through seven American cities, I’ve been holed up for almost two weeks in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. My Instagram — usually home to a blitz of cultures and experiences — has gone mostly quiet save for some work promotion, photos of my avocado toast, images of onions caramelizing in a pan. I’ve entered exactly one restaurant. I’ve barely left the house (of my dear friend that lives out here); to be honest, even if I did, there would be little to do.
And for someone with very little “normal” left in their life, I can’t really explain how meaningful it is.
I make big pots of coffee and work long hours, uninterrupted save for the sound of rain breeching open windows. I load the dishwasher. I cook dinner. I read the newspaper that lands at the front door.
If it sounds silly, perhaps you’ve never tried to remove those things from your life.
Don’t get me wrong, I chose this new existence of mine because I love it. The spirit of adventure has roots in my very soul. Moving through the world this way is a dream come true.
But whereas some nomads might be disinterested in routine, for me lacking it is the greatest sacrifice. The part of me that is a nomad loves the constant change and new potential. The part of me that is not a nomad loves putting clean mugs in the cupboard, pushing a grocery cart, emptying the trash. I miss lingering in my pajamas on a weekend. Cobbling together lunch from aged leftovers in the fridge. I miss weeding a garden. Sweeping the kitchen floor. Chopping garlic until I cry.
Why is it that I crave those things so much now, appreciate them far more than I ever did before?
I think because considering how much my existence has changed, they’re not so much chores as symbols: Of ownership. Of continuity. Of reliability. Of familiarity. Of comfort. Of safety. Things I now rarely experience in my normal life.
It’s probably not so much the processes I miss as the feelings I gave up — to do what I am.
And I know, for the foreseeable future, those feelings won’t last.
Lately, when I wake in the mornings, listening to the birds, recognizing all the smells, knowing the news and coffee with coconut milk awaits, I touch the linens on the pillows and remember how fleeting it is. How soon, I’ll be in an unfamiliar bed, with unfamiliar smells, seeking my coffee wherever I can find it. Crashing through life, something new every day. When I come here, I’m playing house. It’s no longer my dishwasher, my newspaper, my smells. It’s no longer normal, but the antithesis of it.
It sure feels like routine, though, and that’s enough.
Just as a person with too much normal plans a vacation to shake things up, I need this retreat to recharge, to fill the parts of me I made a choice to forfeit, for now.
Tonight, I’ll pick up a bottle of wine. I’ll make reuben sandwiches on the stove. I’ll share a table with someone I know and love.
I’ll delight in the ordinary — now so very rare to me.
And next week, I’ll be a nomad again.