Grounded by Necessity: Happy to Be Here

I used to travel a lot, mostly because my partner loves to travel. We always had pretty flexible jobs and so we traveled several times a year. Now we don’t travel at all. We’ve gone nowhere for almost a year and I’m perfectly content. I don’t miss traveling.

I miss my family. I would love to see my parents and my siblings and my nephews and nieces and my favorite aunt, but I don’t miss the act of going to new places. I don’t miss the adventure.

Adventure for me is chaos. It means recalibrating my internal conversation to include an entire cocktail party of foreign stimuli. I’m more comfortable at home where I know my oatmeal is stocked. I have shoes for any occasion. I can get to that book I want to look something up in.

Suleika Jaouad, in her memoir Between Two Kingdoms, shares a theory about travel. “When we travel,” she says, “we actually take three trips. There’s the first trip of preparation and anticipation, packing and daydreaming. There’s the trip you're actually on. And then, there’s the trip you remember.”

For me, the first part is enough. Just thinking about it, planning it is where I love to be. As long as I can stay in my head, focused there, imagining everything that will happen, my heart rate stays steady, my breath is calm and my worry meter is at neutral.

The actual travel is kind of torturous. I worry about the plane being on time, about missing connections. I worry about the hotel having our reservations. I worry about family dynamics. I worry about our house sitting empty while we are away. Though I play a good game and go along with it, the element of stress almost always outweighs the experience of joy for me when I travel.

Being grounded by COVID has given me the opportunity to travel in a fashion that suits me. I have found a way to enter the second phase of the trip without the worry. In the simplicity of my life now, spending the majority of my time at home, being unable to travel, I’ve found ways to go on amazing adventures without all of the stress that usually accompanies my trips.

In the last year, my travels have all happened without leaving my home base. I’ve planned many trips. I’ve plotted out the vacation, fantasized about where I want to go, what I want to do, what I want to see. And then I go on the trip — all from the confines of my safe and cozy home.

At the beginning of COVID, I became obsessed with this plague overtaking the world so I took a course in contact tracing, trying to understand how we’d ultimately contain the virus. I researched, studied, learned, and became invested in traveling more extensively into COVID country. That was my first adventure.

Once my curiosity was piqued, I planned my next trip — to become a contact tracer. The step in planning for this next adventure was to create a resume. After working for myself for the past twenty-five years, this in itself was a major undertaking, one that required lots of research and digging. After planning and preparing enough, I was able to go on the next trip, actually applying for and ultimately getting a job working as a contact tracer.

I’ve had other adventures too. I’m on the 85th day of jumping into the cold lake at the base of the hill my house sits on. I’m shooting for 100 days. I’ve taught myself how to make five different kinds of bread. I’ve ordered, installed, and learned how to maintain a hot tub in our backyard.

The energy that used to go towards adventures in another part of the world has been redirected. That energy of dreaming, planning, and going on the trip all happens at home.

The third part of Jaouad’s theory, remembering the trip, is different from other adventures I’ve taken. I don’t have photographs of the loaves of bread I’ve baked. There are no souvenirs from my job calling people every day to talk about their COVID-19 diagnosis. I don’t have to remember these things because they are in me. The trips are not time-limited. Rather, they are embedded into my being.

I have the knowledge about COVID that I sought to understand. I live the job that I wanted to get every day. I’ve memorized the recipes for those five kinds of bread and I can jump into the lake for 100 days or 1000. I can go into the hot tub anytime I want. It’s all here for me.

I know I’ll travel again. And I will be grateful to be able to move around the world more freely, even with the stress that I know comes with it. I’ll plan different kinds of adventures, go to different parts of the world, and create new memories.

For the time being, though, I am eternally grateful for this adventure-filled life that I have right here at home.

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