I think a person’s need to roam is something that is inherent. Ever since I was young I have felt the need to travel, to explore different and faraway places. I think it came from looking at National Geographic magazine when I was little. Although I could not read the articles, I was mesmerized by the pictures, especially the ones of Africa. I was obsessed with all things animal so seeing all those magnificent creatures and the people who lived with them made me want to see what else was out there that was not in my little neighborhood in Santa Barbara.
The dwelling in which I grew up never really felt like a home, it was too dysfunctional. So on top of an already nomadic spirit, I wanted to move out as soon as I could. When I graduated high school my parents gave me a choice: go to college or get a job. Not knowing what I “wanted to be when I grew up” I opted for getting a job. It was boring and didn’t pay very well but it enabled me to move into my own (shared) place. However, it did nothing to quell my desire to get away!
So I decided to join the Army. As all new recruits surely do, I had lofty ideas of being stationed in Europe or Hawaii or Egypt – someplace interesting. And, as all new recruits soon learn, that is a serious pipe dream! I was sent on my first plane ride from the Los Angeles recruiting station to Fort Jackson, South Carolina where I spent a couple of months enduring basic training – in the summer. There were gigantic palmetto bugs and sandy pine forests, but it clearly was not as far as I felt I needed to be.
When I graduated, I next sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana where I studied to be a legal clerk. This was considerably more interesting as I go to experience snow for the first time. However, that joy was soon extinguished when we spent a January weekend bivouacking in wholly inadequate tents. Still there was hope that my first duty station would be overseas.
So where did my see-the-world adventure take me? Fort Knox, Kentucky! Yea, seriously! I spent 15 months there trying to make like I enjoyed it, but looked forward to the day when I would get orders for a new duty station. As for settling in and feeling like home, looking back now that never really happened. I never even hung up or framed a family picture. To me it was a pit stop.
Then my orders came. Camp Casey, South Korea. While it was overseas, it was not exactly what I was hoping for. In fact, I was pretty disappointed at first. However, I soon warmed up to the idea. When I arrived, I was bunked with three other women in a tiny room. I remember my first sergeant telling me that I would be with the “party animals.” He wasn’t kidding. I had never really hung out with cool people before; I was always nerdy and odd in school, so it was a blast hanging out with them. We partied… a lot, but I never really felt like it was a home, more lie a train platform waiting for a connection.
My only experience with the South Korean culture was in the night clubs and I would hardly measure that experience as immersing myself in the culture. Exploration was pretty limited too. The only time I ever ventured somewhere that didn’t involve a club was when a friend and I went joy riding in the office vehicle. I am not sure how far we drove, but the impetus to turn around came when we saw a bunch of explosives wired to the underside of a train trestle.
After Korea I joined the reserves and settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I lived for 15 years. I married, had a child and divorced. It too never felt like home. In fact, I felt more like a stranger in a strange land when I lived there, like an outsider. People in Philly are pretty close-knit and, despite going off to college, seemed to always return and remain in their groups. In fact, some never even left Philly except to go to the shore for the weekend or vacation. For someone like me who had by then lived in a number of different places it seemed odd to encounter people who had seemingly no interest in the world outside their neighborhoods.
On the other hand, every couple of years, I would get this strong urge to move. Nowhere in particular, just move. Pick up and start again. However, when you own a house in a depressed market and neighborhood it is easier said than done. It wasn’t until the company I worked for went belly up and their national counsel relocated me to Illinois that I finally got out of Philly. I swore then that I would never buy a house again, that I would keep it small and simple, thus being more mobile.
That did not last but three years. I remarried and we bought a house right before the market crashed and now find ourselves rooted in Illinois until the market turns around. We have big dreams for moving again as soon as we are in a position to sell it. Somewhere west, where there are mountains, trees, snow, and breathtaking scenery. I still have that nomadic spirit and the urge to relocate and long for more fluidity of my existence. Where I am feels more like home than any place I have lived before, but I still long to roam and explore. So what makes a place home? For me it is where I happen to land, until I move to the next place.