I pulled the heavily-laded SUV to the end of the driveway and paused momentarily, looking through the rearview mirror at the ranch-style house sitting behind me. I sighed, as my eyes welled up, and a flood of memories came to mind. In that house was (probably) where I was conceived, played my first game of Duck Hunt, received my first spanking, got picked up for my first date, beat my father for the first time in basketball, got my first concussion (from playing indoor basketball that resulted in two staples in my head), watched every episode of Seinfeld, and took my prom photos. Yet on this day, just days after Christmas, I was saying goodbye, both to my mother who had just weeks prior passed away, and to the home I spent 18 years in. A house full of memories and possessions was now packed into a couple large boxes consisting of a handful of books, ski goggles, my first wallet, a couple photo albums, and a piece of artwork. I took a deep breath, pulled my sunglasses over my eyes, and pulled out of the driveway for the last time.
Home. What does this word even mean? I’ve sought to answer this question over the last couple years (in posts like this one and this one), although there are few themes in life that have seemed to evolve like this idea of home. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that in the last 10 years, I’ve yet to live somewhere for more than 20 months. Totes cray cray, I know. My idea of home is skewed, since the last three years has seen me travel long-term twice (once for nine months and again for three months) and live in two different states. Saying goodbye to my childhood home recently only compounded those feelings. Yet I think the answer to this question isn’t an objective one.
One of my favorite writers, Pico Iyer, recently gave a Ted Talk that comes closest to communicating my feelings about home more than any other article or talk has ever done. In this talk, Iyer discusses how subjective the idea of home is, a concept that has evolved drastically in the last century because of the accessibility of travel. Even a century ago, a person rarely had more than one place that could be called home, while now, the definition of home has different meanings for different people, as a person may find themselves in a different city, state, country, and continent over the course of their life. Home to one person, may be where they grew up, while to another person where they pay taxes, and yet to another person, the place where their passions and purposes gravitate toward.
Last year on this very day I wrote that home is synonymous with one’s identity and element. It’s something of one’s past and present, going beyond just a person’s possessions. That home for me was San Francisco. Yet in a year’s time, my definition of home has once again evolved (obviously, since I only stayed in San Francisco a couple months afterward), as I think one’s home is much more than this.
The last three years has seen me go from South Carolina, to traveling for nine months (which included multiple months living in Central America), to San Francisco, to traveling for another three months (in Europe), back to San Francisco, but only to pack up and move to Seattle. It’s hard for anyone to build any sense of familiarity and home life with such persistent movement. I wholeheartedly believe in the intrinsic value of a life of travel that shatters paradigms, softens hearts, alters perspectives, and changes lives. But what is the value of those things, if there’s not a home to bring that softened heart, altered perspective, and changed life back to. As Pico Iyer says in his talk, “Movement is only as good as the stillness that puts it in perspective….It is only by stopping movement, that you can see where to go.”
When I said goodbye to my home in Graham, North Carolina, I felt so deeply moved, not because I had to give away so many keepsakes and memories from my childhood, nor because I’d never again visit the place that I had spent so many years in, but more because of what that moment stood for. That home was a string of tangible and intangible items and memories that each day over the course of a couple decades, had made me who I was, yet had come to an abrupt stop. When a place leaves such an effect on you, that effect doesn’t have to disappear into non-existence, but can rather be replaced by somewhere new. In that way, home isn’t just one’s past and present, but one’s past, present, and future.
Iyer ends his Ted Talk by stating that “home is not just a place where you sleep. Home is a place where you stand.” In that way, home is also my future. It’s where my life yesterday was, today is, and where tomorrow will be. While I’ve given different cities a shot the last couple years by establishing some sense of community, leisure, and work life, what was often missing was establishing a future, where my passions, purpose, and skills could intersect both today and tomorrow. Somewhere that isn’t just a place to lay my head, but a place to stand.
A few weeks ago, I packed up my car and hit the road, zooming through the state of Washington, winding down the backroads and coastline of Oregon, until I reached California, at which point immediately upon entering the state, I took a big breath and simultaneously started crying and laughing, out of sheer joy and gratitude, knowing deep down that I was now home. The next day I had dinner with my best friend Matt in Northern California and then continued on down to Southern California, where I’ve been ever since (except for a week-long trip), one that’s been marked by exceptional new creative and work opportunities and spending time with people who I love and have missed.
And so it is, I’m home, back again in California, but this time in Los Angeles. I gave Seattle a shot, yet found myself traveling (often unnecessarily) because I couldn’t come to terms with calling it home and building a life there. Yet I don’t regret one bit of it. The last seven months has been the most formidable season of my life, seeing what I really believe has been the best work I’ve ever done, followed by taking on some of my biggest physical and mental challenges, many of which are a result of the 30 at 30 List. There is one person in particular, who is the reason I ended up in Seattle; someone who was first a colleague, but has now become a close friend and mentor because of how much they’ve believed in me, given me a shot, and continued to challenge me daily. That reason alone, made Seattle, an important stop on this life’s journey, and one that was necessary to continue on.
So what’s next? And what changes? Well, on Saturday, I’m going to a sports bar in West Hollywood with friends for the first day of College GameDay, followed by my NFL fantasy football league draft. Apart from that, I want to build a more cohesive, collaborative travel community in L.A. I want to become a better surfer or take up another water sport. I’m working in video more, with the first episode of a web video series publishing soon. I’ll actually be posting more frequently here. I’m considering a website redesign (fill out this short survey about what you’d like to see). I’ve got 23 more weeks of the 30 at 30 List. And I’ll continue to be an advocate for Expedia. The fact is, I want to be still. Yes, I’ll still travel, but I want to do so while being a local, and continuing to build a life here in California that I started a couple years ago. I’m falling in love with the journey. And this part of the journey involves falling in love with a place to call home.
What has traveling taught you about the idea of “home”?