Home is where your heart is.
Home is where your story begins.
Home is where you are enslaved to your cat, poopy diapers, and lawn mowing.
Home is a lot of things. Even the ones that don’t exactly fall under the “awesome” category are missed when you aren’t home.
I’m leaving my home in a few days. Next Tuesday I’ll be in Nairobi, Kenya. I’ll be sure to continue the “$10 for Tuesday Project” there. I expect I’ll find some very interesting and worthy causes and people to support during the following 6 weeks, which will lead me from Kenya to Ethiopia, Uganda, and Ireland.
I’m giving my $10 this Tuesday to Muncie Habitat for Humanity because they physically build homes for folks to house all of their emotional treasures. I hope you’ll consider supporting your local Habitat for Humanity too.
Way back in 2003 when my home was just outside Raleigh, North Carolina, I wrote an essay about home. Here it is…
What do I miss most when I travel?
Sneakers, blue jeans, and basketball shorts. Come to think of it any item of clothing I don’t have to smell before I put it on. Doggy kisses. Phoned in sports updates from my father, fresh off of ESPN, free of charge. Pizza King. A regular schedule. Kicking my feet up in my own space, in my own recliner at the end of the day. Control of the TV remote. Having a phone. Sitting across a warm bowl of chips and a fresh cup of salsa at El Meson with a certain brown-eyed girl. Having someone to bitch to. Not being stared at. Brownies. The stack of books beside my bed. Fed-EXed cookies from Mom. Kitty stares. My truck and the ability to go where I want, when I want. Brotherly rants via witty e-mails, which are actually not that witty. Charmin toilet paper. My CD’s. DVD’s. NPR on FM. Knowing where I am. Not having to convert all currencies to dollars before making a purchase. Houseplants. My computer. Are you actually still reading this list? Flip-flops. Tick-tocks. Bling-bling. The library. Being alone. Not being alone. The smell of Home.
In order to travel you have to leave familiar people, things, building, smells, and sounds. You have to leave Home. Home is something different to everyone. Even a homeless man has a familiar way of life.
Why do I leave? To meet new people, experience new cultures, smell new smells, taste new tastes, and hear new sounds. Ever been on a trip and seen the sign: “If you lived here you’d be home.”? The imagination longingly turns. If I lived here that man would be my neighbor. This would be my favorite restaurant. In my free time I would go here and do this. When you leave your Home you’re exploring someone else’s.
Visiting a friend who is a fine wine and cheese kind of guy, he asks me, “What’s your favorite cheese to eat with red wine?”
I turn the question over in my head searching for the perfect cheese or at least one that sounds like it: American, Swiss, French (is there French cheese or only dressing?), Colby, cheddar, smoked cheddar with bacon, Velveeta. “I don’t know? I’m just a simple small town Ohioan. I actually include Velveeta on my mental list of fine cheeses.”
“Oh now, don’t give me that. You’re well-traveled; surely you have a favorite cheese with red wine.”
He was right. I have spent a lot of time away from Home, but that doesn’t make me some kind of find food and wine connoisseur. Maybe I am well traveled, but I traveled poorly missing certain lessons along the way, too wrapped up in thoughts of Home to attain certain wisdoms.
When I travel I don’t attain some greater wisdom or some inner knowledge of who I am and what I want to be. I did not leave Switzerland with an aristocratic appreciation of cheese. An extensive vocabulary partitioned by —Types of cheese—- and what they go best with. To me it’s all Swiss cheese. It just so happens that some Swiss cheeses taste better than others. Between us, some are repulsive.
I am happy with being able to place names, faces, and experiences with certain places. Kosovo and Bosnia were always dark “No Man’s” lands dominated by the violence of warfare, until I played PlayStation with a 22 year old Kosovar, and before I discussed the siege of Sarajevo with a Bosniak over dinner. Hawaii would just be a tropical paradise if I hadn’t neared hypothermia at the summit of Mauna Loa. I would not follow the civil war in Nepal if I wasn’t able to remember the kind, smiling faces of individual Buddhist monks, the young street beggar girl who attacked me with a stick, and the smell and buttery warmth of salt tea.
If I have gained anything from my travels it’s not a well-traveled savviness, envied by others, but an increased caring. I care more about other nations and their people, having visited them. I listen to the news not for entertainment, but with concern. I care for them because I appreciate their differences, and most of all I recognize our similarities. It’s their Home I visit and realize how not so different it is from my own.
Before boarding the plane on my first trip with no definite return time, I was excited and nervous. A one-way ticket “outta here” is a thing to be excited and nervous about. Where will I be in a month? What will I be eating? Where will I sleep? What the hell am I doing? Who knows?
On the other end of things, stepping onto the last plane- the one Home- is always the best. Home, for me, never changes. Sure, buildings, faces, smells, and dogs, may come and go, but Home never changes. After all it’s where the heart is, no matter how far away.
Running through the sprinkler. The back porch. Reading the newspaper. Samurai Jack. Thick chocolate milk shakes. Everyone knows my name. Comfortable silences. Garfield. The alarm clock, much better than a watch’s. Memories and photographs. My basketball. Customer service…