planting travel flowers in my mind
There’s a pile of camping equipment in my living room. We didn’t put it away after our trip in February, and now it’s growing flowers in my mind. I close my eyes and see winding yellow lines stretched out in front of a car that unzips blue sky between the golden-flecked trees. The desk under my fingers becomes coffee-dark dirt, smelling of birch and piney woods.
The flowers of the camping gear bloom varieties of salt-water-spray and desert-sun-cracked-earth and mountain-splendor. In my mind, I’m almost there.
I want to go.
Not to anywhere in particular, just somewhere. I want to go. My mind wanders to the bag of hammocks on the living room floor and I’m suddenly living a whole improbable, impossible life inside my head, me and my wife and our hammocks just being adventurers.
I don’t know if I was born with the insatiable wanderlust—adventurelust, really—or if it found me between the pages of Boxcar Children and Alice in Wonderland and a Wrinkle in Time, and saw in me a kindred soul. As a child, I was obsessed with the idea of running away from home. I’d pack a denim 101 Damlatians backpack with all of the essentials—stuffed animals, a mirror to look around corners, and a block of cheese—and set off into the back yard, where I learned important life lessons such as: sand clods don’t taste like potatoes, no matter how tasty they look and umbrellas don’t work like parachutes, and won’t make you fly like Mary Poppins.
Now that I’m older, I realize that it’s different trappings, but the same pattern. My bag doesn’t have an embroidered cartoon character on it anymore, and its contents are more technical than toy, but even now, I just want to pack it and go, where I know I’ll learn different life lessons, such as: turn around on the trail before it gets dark and how to get out of a Russian police station. I may or may not still carry a block of cheese.
These days, it’s not me who goes, but we, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. A couple of weeks ago, LeAnn said to me, “what if we just bought a van and traveled everywhere?” I said to her, “what if we planned a thru-hike of the Appalachian trail?”
What if we did?
There’s a German word, fernweh, that literally means farsickness. It’s more than wanderlust, more than just a desire to go—it is nothing short of the ache to be in a different place. Homesickness for somewhere you’ve never been; a feeling that when you get there, you’ll be home. As much as I love my real home, sometimes it feels like a trap I can’t get out of. Both home and not home, just like away is now both not home and home.
Twenty years later, and I realize that I’m still obsessed with the idea of running away, but I’m not sure anymore if I’m running from home or running to it. Right now, I have an out-bound ticket to Boston set for June. I’ll book us return tickets eventually, but for today, I’ll indulge myself in the romantic fantasy of the one-way flight. I’ll read the stories of other travelers and let myself be enchanted as I live vicariously through them. LeAnn and I will lie in bed at night, whispering plans in the dark. All of the places we want to go, the things we want to see, mountains to climb and roads to travel.
It won’t be enough, but it will have to do for now. I’ll grow the travel flowers in my mind, and if I close my eyes, maybe—maybe—I can go.