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The other night at dinner while I was telling someone I had just met what I do for a living, I received a response I’ve grown quite accustomed to: “Oh, you freelance? Then you could live anywhere! Have you ever thought about traveling and working remote? That’s what I would do.”
“Yeah,” I told this person I had just met. “I’ve thought about that. Maybe I will one day. I tend to get bogged down in the logistics and the money, but I should just try it.”
I was trying to move the conversation along. The truth is, what he said made me feel defensive and uneasy. The same way I’ve felt other times this has come up. Why don’t you travel more? Why don’t you live overseas again and work from there? If I could do that, I would.
Every time I hear this, I feel ashamed, as if somehow I am not living my best life considering the freedom I have. I feel like I’m not adventurous enough. That I really do get too bogged down in the logistics and I begin to wish I were more spontaneous, that I worried less. But the other night, after talking to this guy, I realized, it’s not the logistics or fears or worries that are keeping me from this vagabond lifestyle.
About two and a half years ago, on an island off the Alaskan coast, I sat in a rustic cabin-like room with my roommate and new friend Devi. We were there for a writing workshop and had been divinely paired as roommates. One night Devi asked where I would move if I could live anywhere. For the first time in years, I was really honest with myself.
“I would move home,” I told her. Of all the places I could go—back to Oxford, to the west coast to the east coast, to some other coast far—home was where I wanted to go most. This verbal admission would be the first step in moving from Nashville, Tennessee, back to Texas, which I did only four months later.
People who are tethered to one certain place by their corporate careers, their kids or their spouses like to tell people like me—see the world! Go! Do what you want while you can!
But what if what I want is to settle? What if I don’t want to spread far, but instead, root deep? What if I have been other places and now where I want to be is here? Yes, I can go, but if what I want is to stay? Is that OK? Is that enough?
For someone like me it’s just as adventurous to get to know the few people nearby as it is to brush the shoulders of many en route. It requires more vulnerability, a willingness to connect that isn’t needed if I’m hopping around. We have developed an ideal of adventure as getting on a jet that will take you far away, but adventure is also having hard conversations. Staying friends even when you’ve been hurt. Sitting around the table and letting others see who you really are. Knocking on your new neighbor’s door to introduce yourself. These can be hard things. Harder, actually, than flying to Bali or working remote from Paris for a season.
Setting down roots is not for the faint of heart and maybe it’s time we stop idealizing going and start appreciating the hard beauty of staying.
The next time someone questions my decision to live in one place for an extended period of time this is what I will tell them: I am having an adventure here. I am attempting to root down even in the moments when all I want is to run far. I am trying to let others see me even when all I want is to be anonymous. I am sticking around in my friendships long enough for them to get messy. I am staying at a church, in a house and in a neighborhood long enough that others might notice if I go. I am here. I am staying. I am hoping to settle. And that, my friend, is enough of an adventure for me.