Every few months David and I have a stupid argument. Well, we have a lot of stupid arguments, but every few months we have one particular stupid argument. It usually starts in one of two ways: either I’m sulking around, generally homesick and looking to pick a fight, or, David’s annoyed that I haven’t done the dishes in a while.
In the second case, here’s how it goes.
David: Do you mind doing the dishes? (In a particular tone to which I take offense).
Sarah: Yeah, I do. You left the sponge all full of gross water again.
David: Well, I’ve done the dishes the last few times and I don’t feel like doing them again.
Sarah: (Commence one-upping) Well, I always get Spencer dressed and brush his teeth in the mornings. And you know I hate doing dishes when we have a tiny sink. I hate this kitchen. I’m sick of living like this.
In the first case:
Sarah: I’m tired of moving around. I want to go back home.
David: That’s like me saying I’m tired of you writing. When you say that to me, it’s like you’re attacking my dream.
Sarah: Well, I’ve done this for a year now and I’m sick of it. WHY CAN’T I HAVE A CAT?!
Poor David. At the end of the argument, David asks me what exactly I’m unhappy about. When I list the reasons that I’m homesick, they sound ridiculous but they’re important to me. When I’m homesick, it usually comes down to four things:
- Not having a pet. Since I’ve been an adult, I haven’t been able to keep a pet for longer than a year or two at most. I feel very angry about this. I grew up with pets as a part of our family, pets who slept at the foot of the bed and kept you company when you were sick. Now, I watch cute cat porn to remember what it feels like when a cat turns her head into your hand, presents her cheek for scratching, who purrs into your ear.
- Cooking. On the road, our kitchens usually aren’t big enough to cook in comfortably. It’s also not practical to lug a spice cabinet around the world. When we lived in South Africa, I was in cooking heaven. I had a deep freezer that allowed me to buy in bulk. I had three ponderous tomes full of delicious recipes. I had the satisfaction of using up extra ingredients, of saving money, and of making nutritious meals for my family. I also loved it when I made a meal David really liked. Since we’ve been traveling, I feel unhealthy. I feel like I don’t have control over my own diet. About half the meals I eat are bland, and for sustenance only.
- Having a comfortable bed. I really miss soft sheets, a great mattress, a fluffy comforter. More often than not, our beds on the road are stiff and have cheap linens. It’s not having only five outfits that makes me feel deprived. Sleeping in a shitty bed makes me feel deprived.
- The Pacific Northwest. The land from whose soil I was molded. I miss the rich loamy smell. I miss the cloud formations in early fall. The wild violent rivers and forests of evergreen trees. The knowledge of who I am when I’m running along a dirt trail that winds along a river, and it’s raining, and there’s not another soul around for miles.
Only one of these things is actually about missing a specific place. I can’t really cite my family as one of the reasons for being homesick, because I’m incredibly lucky to be able to see them twice a year or more, if they come visit me. These things are about having a home, period.
We’ve been away from the U.S. for four and a half years, but it’s only been a year since we’ve had a home and it’s only now that I’m starting to notice this cat-sitting-on-a-comforter-shaped hole in my heart.
I’m curious about how other nomads feel about this inability to have a home. How many of you ever feel homesick? How many nomads have at least one home base to which they return for part of the year–a place where they keep spice cabinets and nice comforters?
David is that breed of nomad whose wanderlust is insatiable. His feet are constantly itchy. I tease him about how much time he spends looking forward to our next destination vs. how much he lives in the moment and enjoys where we are. So, as in all marriages, we’ve come to a place where compromise and empathy are necessary once again, just as it was when we agreed to try this crazy experiment. Until David told me he felt like I was attacking his dream, I didn’t realize that my whining sounded like a personal attack to him. Until I reminded him that he got me a kitten for Valentines Day in 2014 and asked me to find it a new home in 2015, it hadn’t occurred to him how much of a dick move that was.
So, we’re at the point of looking for a home base. Since our savings constitute the money that David uses to trade every day, buying property isn’t an option. We’re considering applying for temporary residence in Mexico and leasing a comfortable home for a year. Now we know that when we look at houses and apartments, good beds and roomy kitchens are requisite. David reminded me that I was completely happy in Zagreb, because our apartment was awesome and I cooked regularly. We might have to spend a little more to get a house we really like, but we can make it work.
If we solve these two things, that’s half my homesick list taken care of. Unfortunately, I can’t just go live in a cabin in Washington, but I can always hold out for retirement. In the meantime, I enjoy my visits home as much as I looked forward to Christmas as a kid, and it’s pretty hard to maintain that feeling of magic and wonder as an adult. I also can’t get a cat, but I can look into local shelters and see if fostering or volunteering is an option.
If you’re a frequent traveler, what are the things that leave holes in your heart if left unattended? What are the compromises about travel, and housing, that you’ve reached as a family? Are you more like David, content to wander forever, or like me, occasionally missing a sense of stability?