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I remembered the feeling so distinctly that I almost felt it within myself as I saw it through their eyes.
On my iPhone screen: a family I follow on Instagram, on the last day of their February beach vacation, soaking it all up and wishing their last moments to pass slower.
There was the Last Sunset and the Last Sunrise, dutifully and beautifully documented; smiles captured in the tide; sunglasses that couldn’t quite hide the wistful eyes.
Then images of the road, and already nostalgic faces in rear-view mirrors.
From my perch at an open-air bar in Corozal, where I had come to cool off between video shoots, I looked out at my present nook in the world; my home for the last month.
Beyond the dusty street in front of me lay a children’s park abutting the Caribbean ocean. Turquoise waves rolled in under full sun. Birds chirped. Great palm leaves rustled.
I stopped for a minute and watched it all.
In that moment, I realized that I have, somewhat permanently, what this family I followed was longing to remain in: Warmth and nature. Spontaneity. Change.
But the flip side was this: In returning homeward, they, in a way had what *I* most often long for in this wild new nomadic life of mine: Stasis. Routine. Family.
As this family was leaving their paradise to return home, I was reflecting on that day a month earlier, when I was leaving home to return to paradise. (Well, sort of .)
The formula, I suddenly understood, had been reversed.
“Adventure” had become my reality. And leaving it was now the true vacation.
Of course, if you’ve followed my journey at all you know that I cherish this fresh existence — already, I don’t know who I would be without this life chapter that is changing the very makeup of who I am in many ways.
But it’s hard, too, and it’s real. It’s a grind.
Returning to the States to see family and friends, dipping my toes back into the old life I was once eager to escape; that’s what now feels easy and relaxed. And that wistful feeling of soaking up what is fleeting, what is far from reality — that goes along with it.
I have salient memories of last days and hours spent in Hawaii, in Cuba, in Tokyo, in Paris. Saying goodbye to friends at the Bangkok airport. A last walk on the beach in Puerto Rico. Rolling out of town on a Cambodian bus. Moments when my heart actually ached with longing.
I still experience that human phenomenon, sharply.
But the elements have switched places.
Sure, I still experience the pain of leaving individual places I grow to love while traveling now. I surely will cry (OK let’s be honest I’m going to be sobbing) when I leave Corozal, a town I consider truly special.
But that’s mostly because I found a rare microcosm of home here — the stasis, community, family and routine I am always seeking. Really, it furthers my understanding of the flip.
The greatest ache is reserved not for going home but for leaving it.
That early cab ride in January, down snow-covered streets to return to the airport and then coastal tropics and perpetually sunny, 80-degree days? Believe it or not, that hurt.
It’s been one of my greatest lessons yet in realizing that most of us need both tugs in our life, no matter the percentage; and that dramatic swings one way or the other — having too much adventure in our lives or too much stasis — make us crave a balancing of the pendulum.
Of all the things I have learned on this journey — my smallness, my strength, my privilege, the capacity of strangers — perhaps one of the most poignant is understanding just how much routine and community and mutual support grounds me.
So here I am: a nomad who dreams of stillness; an adventurer who craves the return; a soul who now appreciates the balance of those complex perspectives so much more than ever before.
This journey is far from over and I’ll happily soak up every minute.
But here and there, in my quiet moments, I’ll think of home.