“Without travel, I’d hate to think where I’d be right now.”
That little nugget of wisdom was said by me. Not exactly earth-shattering (especially with the news that Brangelina broke up – according to some that is earth-shattering!!), but possibly the single most identifiable statement about myself I’ve made in a very long time. Travel helps me get over the monotony of my day job, and also allows me to search for that elusive spec on the landscape that I might one day call “HOME”.
When I left Canada just over nine years ago to go and work in Saudi Arabia, I did so thinking I would see out my 2-year contract, soak up some experiences, and then head back to family and friends with a few stories to tell. I also knew that I would get in at least one safari somewhere in Africa, as that was always a dream of mine. It took me about nine months before I did that—a 24 day trip taking in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. I spent an extra four days in Cape Town at the end of the trip. I met some great people, saw some wonderful sights, and fuelled a passion for Africa that has not abated; even after going back another five times. Yeah, you read that right.
When I left, I also told my family and friends to not expect to see me for a couple of years. I was moving half way around the world, which in my mind (however perverse or odd that mind may be), that meant that another half of the world became accessible for me to visit, to see, to explore. And I did just that. Within my first year I had stamps from 12 different countries in my passport. Shortly after my second year in Saudi, I needed to get a new passport. I’m currently half way through my third new passport since I’ve been in the Middle East. Granted, you get stamps every time you leave and enter the airports here, but I’m still making the best of it.
I have been back to visit family only four times. I’ve only been to see my relatives in the UK, a much closer destination, three times. With those locations, I know what I’m going to get. Now don’t take this the wrong way. I do love my family and friends to pieces, but I don’t learn anything when I go home. I don’t learn anything about myself, about the world, about where I fit into it. At 45 I shouldn’t really be worrying about where I fit into the world, but I do. I’m told some people search their whole life for that, and hopefully that isn’t me. I’m far too lazy to keep searching for that long.
At 45 I should have some roots. I should have some place I could easily settle. But I don’t. Despite spending most of my life in Canada, I never attained citizenship. If I wanted to return there to live, I would have to take part in some bureaucratic form filling out and application process. That could take years. It could take weeks but I highly doubt that. I have a UK passport, as I was born over there, but I have no “home” there either. I currently live in a country where I could spend the rest of my life in but I’d never be granted citizenship. So I am a man with no real home. And as much as that is sort of scary, I don’t see it as badly as I used to.
I use this sense of wonderment to fuel my wanderings. I’m certain that on one of my journeys, my adventures into new cultures and histories, I will find a place that pulls at me so much I will not want to leave. Or if I do leave, I will return immediately having secured a job, a place to live, and the closest store to get cat food for my two girls. My two girls are cats, by the way. I wouldn’t knowingly feed cat food to a child. I might think I’d make a lousy father, but hopefully not that lousy.
I do find it sort of funny how I feel like I haven’t found home yet. You would think my life growing up would have been terrible. It wasn’t. Far from it really. I have great family, wonderful friends. I played sports, had an active social life, and a first rate education. But something always felt missing. I can’t explain it any other way than that. That’s just it. I felt incomplete somehow. It was like 95% of me was living the dream. I suppose that should be good enough. Happy, healthy, surrounded by people you love: that should be enough for anybody (and much better than a lot of people have). But it wasn’t. My nomadic spirit (or restless perhaps), saw an opportunity to get away, to travel when not working, and I took it. For better or worse, this is the life I have chosen.
Where I end up is anyone’s guess. The smart money is on Europe. Not my money though. I’m not smart. A Goddamn quiz genius, but not smart. Home is out there. Somewhere. I’ll just have to keep collecting stamps while I continued to browse the market looking for that special place to call my own. Without that over these past 9 years and beyond, I’d be writing on walls with crayons right now. I’m sure of it.