Chasing the Wind

If the wind had a melody, I imagine it would sound something like this.

This song that sounds like the wind is from the soundtrack to Monsoon Wedding, which my mother gave me before I left home in 2003.  I was sixteen and spending the summer in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a research internship with NASA.  It was the first time I spent a significant stretch away from home, and like most first-time experiences in our teen years, it felt life-changing.

It was in Albuquerque that I learned to wear sunscreen on my face every day, where first ate real Mexican food, where I discovered Fourier Transforms and MATLAB, and where I had my first kiss (in a library, incidentally).  I made friends, felt the first quickened heartbeats of puppy love, and I saw the desert for the first time.  My eyes were opened and my heart was stretched, and I wanted to keep running west, south, farther away.

I listened to this wind song on the plane ride home at the end of my eight weeks in New Mexico, and cried audibly.  I remember staring out the window and consciously converting the sounds in my ears into a promise to myself.  Whatever this sensation was, it was a calling to go somewhere.  Anywhere.  Leave.  And I would heed it.

I heard the wind many times in the following years, usually at inconvenient times.  It pulled me out of places, relationships, and jobs.  It broke my heart and others’.  And although it laid dormant for while, it has returned.

***

“So, now that you’ve spent a year traveling, did you get it all out of your system?  You ready to settle down now?”

Should I be ready to settle down now?  I’ve fielded some version of this question a thousand times since I returned home in September, as if the desire to leave is finite and curable.  Like a stomach virus that can be purged, a temporary deviation from a normal state of being.  “Nope, but I think one more trip to Mexico should do the trick!  Montezuma’s Revenge will knock it right out of me for good!”

There is plenty to keep me happy here:  well-paying jobs, my loving family, reliable indoor plumbing, The Colbert Report, pumpkin pie, Pandora, my car.  And I suppose there are adventures to be had in the United States.  New York City and Philadelphia are in my backyard.  In the past week, I’ve eaten Thai noodles, Colombian bandeja paisa, and imported Greek olives.  The variety is infinite and the service impeccable.

And let’s be real, the freedom and capability to pick up and leave is a luxury known only to a few.  Sure, my grandparents up and left rural Ireland fifty years ago, but not to backpack and Instagram; for them, it was a matter of survival.  I can’t expect them to understand why I am willingly leaving “the best country in the world.”  It’s almost a slap in the face.

Little me, my grandfather, his brother, and my dad in Glenbeigh, Ireland, 1989.

Little me, my grandfather, his brother, and my dad in Glenbeigh, Ireland, 1989.

Leaving isn’t necessarily a solution to any problem.  It’s not a better, happier, or easier life.  It’s simply taking a different sort of risk than the risk of staying home.  Maybe it’s the risk of over-doing rather than the risk of under-doing.  I’ll opt for the former.

I am leaving, loves.  This time it’s for work rather than for play.  I can’t wait to share the details with you, but first I’ll be enjoying the holidays at home.  And that melody, the wind, will be humming in my ears and tugging on my hair endlessly, through hot cocoas and Christmas carols and lots of hugs goodbye.

38 comments

  1. Eeeeh! Oh my gosh, I’m sure I’ll discover what the next step is as I read on but I’m so excited to find out.

    “So, now that you’ve spent a year traveling, did you get it all out of your system? You ready to settle down now?”

    THIS is what I’m dreading when I return this summer. I KNOW it’s exactly what people will ask me because they’ve been sending it in emails ever since I left. Can’t wait to see their faces when I tell them my return home’s only temporary.

  2. Pingback: Nudges from Greece – Soulshine Traveler

  3. You’re baaaaaaaack! *does a little dance*

    I promise not to spill the beans on your exciting news, but I’m doing a little dance for them too. And one for the extra delirium right now. I am proud of you, twincita.

  4. You can still get Colbert and Pandora abroad with a VPN 🙂 I totally know what you mean about wanting to stay abroad (obviously) and can’t wait to see where you go next! Also, love that photo from Ireland.

    • OK Edna you might need to give me the deets on this VPN business before I go, haha. Can’t wait to share more details! And thanks, I stumbled upon a whole treasure trove of old photos the other day while cleaning/organizing my stuff and just had to post one of them!

    • Indeed! And I’m glad you started following, although I feel like I should apologize for how boring and sparse it’s been the past few months. Luckily you probably had a good amount of back story to catch up on. 🙂

  5. I so enjoy your blogs! And I’m glad you’re going to keep them going while you keep going! I, too, was awakened to the thrill of “going somewhere else” during a college junior year in France (back in the ’50s). I never had a moment’s homesickness during that year, and the joy of travel took root in my heart. I did stay home for several years (a few decades, actually – marriage and family and all that stuff, you know). But I managed a sabbatical year in Switzerland during my academic career when children were older. After retirement, I spent three years overseas (teaching on military bases), and have finally come home to roost, I think. So even if you don’t manage to do all the traveling you want right now, there’s still time after you retire. Just imagine! Or maybe you could join the foreign service!!
    My travel blog (not nearly as articulate or literary as yours) is different from the WordPress blog, at: http://solowomenathomeandabroad.blogspot.com/

    • Joanne, hearing your story is inspiring and reassuring! I know that travel and living abroad are going to be a big part of my lifestyle, so I will take your advice and keep an open mind for the future too. 🙂 And I’m looking forward to reading your blog!

  6. Mike

    We all knew this was coming, but it was glad to have you back home for a while Meg! Maybe I’ll find some way to visit you in my work travels…lol…oh, and if you have me for Secret Santa, you better make it good!!!

  7. I know the voice. I’ve heard it often. Hopefully, I’m not done answering it yet, although I’ve had to postpone it for a time. I also know the struggle of making people understand that it’s not personal, that once the other side of you has been awakened, it’s hard (if not impossible) to put it back to sleep. That it isn’t better, only broader. So, encouragement from a total stranger who has walked several miles in your shoes, and who can’t wait to put them on again. Keep heeding the call!

    • I’ve found that I can ignore it for a while, but it’s only a matter of time before it becomes too loud to ignore. You described the new stretched-out way of being it perfectly: “it isn’t better, only broader.” And thank you for the support. Regardless of it being from a ‘total stranger,’ it’s very much appreciated!

  8. I recently started following your blog. I have that same need to travel and wander and I agree with you that this need will never be satisfied. I actually have settled down-ish and have felt the itch (your metaphor of the wind is much lovelier) many times since. My husband (we met in Ecuador, lived in Colombia, I’m from the US, him Nigeria) recently said to me (finally!), “When do you think we can afford to go to Israel?”

    I started reading because of your posts about Cartagena, actually. I lived there too. My experience, I think, wasn’t nearly as romanticized as your own. It is still a magical city and we’ll be heading back there after we recover financially from Israel. 🙂

    Anyway, lovely post. Excited to hear of your upcoming plans and live vicariously for now.

    • This is so great to hear, Rachel! I hope you both enjoy Israel. And yes, you’re right, my experience in Colombia was very much romanticized (blame on my falling in love with a Cartagenero). There is no single story of Cartagena, whether you’re visiting or living there. There’s as much tragedy there as there is romance.

      Thanks for following, and I hope you’ll be blogging about your adventures too!

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