A Sense of Belonging. Travelers often don’t need that, preferring to be the observer, not getting too familiar or too comfortable.
Then again, perhaps we are simply looking for a place which makes us feel that way. Perhaps once we’ve scratched the surface of a place, and find it isn’t what we’d hoped or thought, we move on, hoping to find it on some far-flung shore. Some travelers need to be in constant motion, skipping over places, perhaps returning, but like a bee at a flower to move on again. And again. I’m nothing like the traveler that some friends or acquiantences are, but I am, and almost always have been, constantly restless, and curious about what’s over the horizon.
This is to say that I don’t know where I belong.
I don’t belong in that once brash and boastful, now pitiful and spent seaside town in which I was born.
I don’t not belong there because of what it is now become, but because I was never at home there, save perhaps in my very early years; spent romping in the long grass, climbing trees and having the sort of adventures only country kids with vivid imaginations (and the new-fangled invention of television to feed those imaginations) could have had. But even then I wasn’t wholly there. In my imagination I was riding horses in the Wild West, on trains in France or sailing oceans………the sailing part usually involved getting shipwrecked and living in tree houses like “Swiss Family Robinson.”
I’ve never considered this before, but I suppose that with puberty came let-down, grammar school, a school no longer at the end of my street, but two bus rides away, wasn’t exactly the “What Katy Did” that I’d imagined. It was big and scary, and at first lonely. Not an easy thing for an only child to admit to, because that’s something we’ve learned to cope with by the time we’re going on 12. Of course it got better. There were friends after a while, great friends, who are still great friends, after all these years, but reality set in too, and I didn’t much like it. Sitting on top the bus each afternoon on my way home, I looked down at grey heads, grey clothes, grey weather, and imagined myself worlds away. Instead of the Wild West I was on a California beach, instead of a train in France I was rattling across the Rockies, and I was no longer shipwrecked, but lounging on a South Sea island shore.
All this without crossing the seas or taking to the skies (which wasn’t all that common then anyway), except in my imagination. I remember being madly jealous of a school friend who spent her summers exploring France with her Francophile parents. But through school I did get my first taste of travel. A school exchange to Germany, and follow up visit with the penfriend I’d made via that trip. It was exciting to be “abroad” ….. first cross Channel ferry, first flight, first taste of Weiner Schnitzel and beer and pretzels, and my second foreign trip was also my first solo. But I knew that I didn’t belong in Germany, despite a brief holiday romance the second time. I liked Germany, but it wasn’t love.
Of the countries I’ve visited over the years since, I regularly fell in and out of love. In love at the beginning of a stay, generally at the “let’s just be good friends” stage by the end. Some places, I loved at first visit, and went to regularly, changed with the years into not-so-nice places – “Hello, Costa del Sol. Yep I’m talking about you!” Some places were always just, “Nice to meet you” – the majority. Some places grew on me over the years, getting to know them better. Hated Nice the first time I went, but love it now, same with the Outer Banks of NC. Some places I loved at first sight, and they are like lovers I return to, but could never have: New York, Rome, the Florida Keys, the Everglades too. Other places are familiar like family, places which feel comfortable, but also get somehow claustrophobic after a while: Granada, Barcelona, other parts of Florida, London, Scotland. I love all of these places, the way I love family, but the ties just don’t bind. Perhaps nowhere ever will.
I ended up on the shores not of a South Sea island but an Atlantic one. It was a good move. For years I was perfectly contented to be in Tenerife. It was a marvelous place to bring up a family, with more freedom than they would have had in the U.K., and I wasn’t married to someone who wanted to travel. It was in those days an easy place to “make the best of.”
This is the way I feel about Tenerife. I’ve been based here for a huge chunk of my life, around a third of it, in fact. I’ve moved to different places over the years, always in the sunny south, because, afterall, I was raised in the damp north west of England! It’s familiar and it’s comfortable, probably too comfortable. I am equally at home here, in fact more so, than I am in the north of England. But time has come to up stakes. Done it before, but those ties were kind of elastic. I bounced back. The island wasn’t done with me, or I with it. I don’t know which way around that works.
“The Beauty of being surrounded by the foreign is that it slaps you awake. You can’t take anything for granted.” Pico Iyer
I recently read Pico Iyer’s wonderful exploration of the phenomenon he calls “The Global Soul.” His experience is, of course, way more complex than mine, (not to mention that he is possibly the most erudite travel writer writing today!). Born to Indian parents, but not speaking any of the languages of that country because he was born and educated in England, his family then moved to the US, when he was in his teens. He is familiar with the social structure of English and American societies, by default has ties to India, and freely and happily admits to enjoying Japan because of its foreigness (see TED video where he talks about this). He is a compulsive traveler, who chooses to base himself in Japan at the time of writing. He is a true global soul, who seems totally at ease with his status, although it fascinates him on a intellectual level, and confuses others, including border guards. His exploration of the subject is curious rather than soul-searching.
“Travel for me is a little like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are on the setting marked ‘on.’ Suddenly, you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world.” Pico Iyer
I’m not sure if I’m looking for my idea of the perfect place – one which fulfills my ideas of beauty, positive energy, intellectural stimulus, and challenge, whilst providing also tranquility and harmony.
“Hah!” you retort, “No such place.”
“Perhaps not,” I reply, “But the fun is in the seeking.”
As yet I haven’t riden a horse across the Wild West, nor lounged on a South Sea island beach, nor watched surfers in California; I have taken a train across France (and also cars and buses), but I haven’t rattled across the Rockies (and that is SO near the top of my bucket list!); I think the being shipwrecked part I can live without (although the treehouse part would be fun!) but I ache to do the rest still!
Long term, “fast travel” is not for me, even if it weren’t for my old dog, Trixy, I don’t think I would want to do that permanently. I marvel at the speed with which some bloggers hurtle around the globe, and I understand that completely. Indeed to everything there is a season, but I need more time in a place, at least in places I take to. I’m still peeling back the layers of this island, and discovering new things. Yet there is a time when enough is, simply, enough.
So, soon I am beginning a slow journey, one which I hope will be full of new landscapes, people, customs and traditions. It won’t be so far at first, but it is a new beginning.
The fine details are firminng up, so more info to come soon, very soon.